Analyze costs and cost-drivers first

Governor Douglas, Speaker Symington, and President pro tempore Shumlin: We commend you for recognizing the need to lend focus and structure to the whirlwind of activity surrounding the search for effective education funding and property tax reform. In addition, we applaud your commitment to bipartisanship and self-stated goal of creating \"meaningful legislation in 2007/2008.\" While there are no doubt a number of ideas worthy of exploration in your \"Douglas Symington Shumlin Framework for Containing Property Tax Increases\", we urge you in the strongest possible way to complete one particular item before committing to action on the others. Item 5 in the Framework is a commitment to \"understand the major costs and cost drivers in public schools and discuss ways the state can alleviate cost pressures or assist schools to address them effectively.\" We think this effort must be the first step, must be done thoroughly, and must be done quickly. It is clear from the dialog going on throughout the state that there are many different theories about what\'s driving costs, yet the theories are often conflicting and examination of available data often calls into question the claims. We have yet to see a comprehensive, objective analysis of costs and cost drivers at a level of detail necessary to support decision making. We believe strongly that until one is done, most efforts to \"fix\" things amount to a \"shot in the dark\" that may relieve some specific symptoms but will likely (a) not address root issues and (b) have unintended and undesirable consequences. Respectfully, Vermont School Board members

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This message was originally delivered as a letter signed by the full membership of the school boards of the Towns of Grafton and Athens as well as the full membership of the selectboard of the Town of Grafton.

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