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Managing Staff Attrition

October 17, 2017

Over the past twenty years, consistent with demographic trends across the North East and rural states generally, our student population has shrunk by more than 20 percent. Some districts now educate fewer than half the students they had some 20 years ago. Unless we bring staffing levels in line with our smaller numbers of students, we will be bearing very high education costs that are unlikely to contribute to better student outcomes.

A handful of systems are beginning to adjust. For example, Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, which contains the first two Act 46 mergers, has been managing attrition both to reduce overall staff and to shift where staff dollars are invested so that schools can address different educational priorities. However, our state level student-to-teacher and student-to-staff ratios are still declining.

In Vermont, we love small. But what we define as small and what is nationally defined as small are two different things. In Vermont, we have “micro systems,” where entire schools can be as small as 15 to 20 students. Some publicly funded general education independent schools serve even fewer students. In some cases, the entire student body could fit in a neighboring school seven minutes away on a paved road, without incurring additional cost, and we could still maintain student-to-teacher ratios that are less than half the national average.

The fiscal pressures ahead are daunting, but they cannot be allowed to erode quality. Moreover, given fiscal pressures at the state level, we need to be careful that our K-12 expenditures do not crowd out other critical state priorities, including economic development and post-secondary investment.

We will be entering the next budget cycle with an almost $50 million Education Fund budget gap, due in large part to use of one-time money to reduce the tax rate. We face uncertainty regarding what reductions in federal funds will occur, although some population driven appropriations are already declining. We know that the majority of Vermonters have not experienced growth in their real incomes over the past decade, and thus have constrained capacity to support investments in education. the full memo on Managing Staff Attrition

To help you evaluate your ratios, we have attached two Excel files, one that includes student-to teacher and student-to-staff ratios for all schools and systems, and one that includes student-to paraprofessional ratios. The files include notes on what is included in each ratio. Staffing data are from the Teacher/Staff Report and enrollments are K-12 counts as of October 1.

Related FY 2016 - 2017 documents: