By Kari Dolan and Dara Torre

As the Washington-2 House District Representatives, we support the most recently revised Harwood Unified Union School District budget, which is up for a vote on May 30. We acknowledge the important work of our schools and staff to teach, mentor, support and inspire our students, and appreciate the difficult decisions that the board had made in two separate voting rounds to arrive at this revised budget. The revised budget, containing specified reductions in school spending, will have real impacts on students, teachers, and learning, but it finds a path forward to reduce costs.





Vermont is facing unprecedented increases in education costs statewide, and we have been reporting on this subject in The Valley Reporter throughout the legislative session.  We described the spending crisis as a “perfect storm” of factors, including the loss of federal pandemic funds, reduction to a normalized amount of state sales tax revenues following the pandemic, higher staffing costs due to teacher shortages, rising health care costs (a nationwide problem), an update of per pupil weighting (in recognition that some students require more resources to educate), spiking real estate values, inflation, lack of technical guidance from the Agency of Education, and decades of deferred building maintenance. There are also state and federal level spending beyond the school boards’ responsibilities that are shifting responsibilities (and costs) onto schools – ostensibly becoming the institution of last resort -- to address, such as poverty, food insecurity, mental health, substance use disorder, and bullying.  Schools receive technical assistance, guidance, and data from the Agency of Education; the current crisis has certainly been exacerbated by not having had a Secretary of Education to offer leadership for over a year and during this difficult time. 

Vermont is not unique; many states with less complicated funding formulas than ours are also struggling with budgets this year for similar reasons, and school districts around the country are making difficult cuts and looking into consolidation options.

We have heard from many community members. The House Ways and Means and Education Committees also have taken extensive testimony. Overall, the Legislature has received a strong message that the education finance system is unaffordable, and the Legislature must take action.  In response, the Legislature included $25M of one-time funds from the General Fund for property tax relief in H.883, the FY25 budget bill, and added new revenues in this year’s Yield Bill, H.887 (the annual education funding bill). We also added to that bill a major initiative that will involve all interested parties to begin the work of transforming the education funding system into a right-sized, strong public education system to support all students and uses our statewide resources more sustainably and efficiently.

We support the challenging and responsible work of the Harwood Unified Union School District Board and hope that community members will join us in voting “yes” on the revised budget on May 30. The Harwood Budget information can be found on its webpage: Please reach out with any thoughts or questions: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Torre, D-Moretown, and Dolan, D- Waitsfield, serve in the Vermont House of Representatives