This past week has been spent mostly doing committee work. Our work on the floor has been limited as we approach closer and closer to adjournment. I have heard we are poised to adjourn on May 6th or May 13th. The only caveat is that we pass a budget to adjourn, and we are working toward that conclusion.
Last week we saw Governor Phil Scott’s coffee hour returned in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at the State House. These are great meetings where we can have good one-on-one conversations with the Governor and his administration. This week we learned some very concerning statistics facing our state in terms of workforce development and challenges with our education system.
The biggest concern with our education system is our state-wide education enrollment. Since 2004 we have seen our enrollment in our K-12 system decline by 21.3%. In 2004 our enrollment was 91,758 compared to only 72,181 students in 2021. Every time we lose students the cost to teach each student rises. We have been fortunate to see population growth in Franklin County, but across the state we have seen major declines. This has larger effects on not only our budget, but our workforce.
Our workforce faces a ton of challenges. One is that our population continues to get older and closer to retirement age. The population of Vermonters aged 65+ increased by 43,362 (55.9%) between 2000 and 2020. The population of Vermonters aged 20-34 has increased by only 7,478 (6.7%) since 2000. In 2020, Vermonters aged 55+ made up 34.7% of the state population versus 22.1% in 2000. Declining population trends make it harder for businesses to find employees and the possibilities of new businesses looking to flood our community.
In House Education we have begun to look at our miscellaneous ed bill which will look at a universal school calendar, PCB testing in schools, and other issues. Typically, the miscellaneous ed bills do not contain too many controversial issues and is a good bill for the entire committee to present on the House Floor. We have also taken up our school mascot bill and will probably be voting it out this week.
Governor Phil Scott has signed the new apportionment map into law last week. In this bill there is officially the change in our legislative districts. The new Franklin-8 district will consist of wards 4 and 5 of St. Albans City and include the southern portion of St. Albans Town. This is a bittersweet moment for me as I appreciate working on a bipartisan effort to work for the people of Franklin 3-1. I am sad to lose half of the current legislative district. I grew up in St. Albans City on Savage Street where my parents still live. I spent my high school mowing Taylor Park and cleaning City Hall. Although it does sadden me to lose constituents, I look forward to the next ten years and these new legislative districts.
We have a little over a month to finish our work for this session. Again, it has been a sincere pleasure serving the people of St. Albans in the Vermont House of Representatives. I look forward to hearing from everyone at [email protected].