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Letter: Tuition and Independent Schools

To the Editor:

We wish to add important information to Tuesday’s article in the Close-Up section about S.91, a bill in the Vermont Legislature that would have a potentially negative impact on independent schools, most certainly on The Sharon Academy.

In brief, S.91 proposes that independent schools receiving public funds for more than a third of their students be required to provide significant additional services, but without any increased funding. The Sharon Academy does indeed receive public funding for the 85 percent of our students who come from sending towns without their own high school; however, we are not able to set tuition the same way that public schools do.

By statute, the tuition that most Vermont independent schools are allowed to receive from the state is limited to the “announced average tuition” — an artificial figure that is approximately $2,000 to $3,000 below the per-pupil tuition charged by public schools in our area, and even further below the true state average. The 2012 Picus Report, commissioned by the Vermont Legislature, determined that the actual average tuition across the state was $16,788 per pupil for 2011.

When viewed against this year’s announced average tuition of only $12,461, the per pupil amount that The Sharon Academy receives, it is clear that there is a significant discrepancy in funding that is tilted heavily in favor of public schools. Unless the funding formula is rewritten to be fair, equitable and to more accurately reflect the actual costs of educating our children in Vermont, independent schools cannot be reasonably asked to provide the same services as public schools.

Independent schools can choose to charge additional tuition to their families above and beyond the announced average tuition. However, The Sharon Academy has intentionally chosen to keep our tuition at the low announced average in order to keep our doors open and welcoming to all families in our sending towns, regardless of socioeconomic status. We hope to keep this commitment to those we proudly serve. If S.91 were put into effect as originally written, our school would fail to reflect or serve our local communities.

Brad Atwood

Board Chair

Michael Livingston

Head of School

The Sharon Academy

Related

Vermont Discusses New Requirements For Independent Schools

Friday, March 15, 2013

As school enrollment has declined throughout Vermont over the past decade, competition for students has become a fact of life for high schools. The state supports schools by sending a set amount of money per student, and falling enrollment means less money to pay for teachers, programs, transportation and other needs. Around Town Meeting time each year, school officials talk …