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Declining Enrollment: Terms You Need To Know

To help everyone better understand the education system in Vermont, we've defined the terms used in our "Declining Enrollment" series in this glossary.

Throughout our series Declining Enrollment, we'll be using terms that help explain the specific aspects of the Vermont education system. To help everyone better understand the education system in Vermont, we've defined the terms in this glossary. 

Phantom Student: Vermont limits a district’s decline, or increase, in pupils to 3.5 percent per year, which can result in funding for students who don’t actually exist in that district. It is designed to protect schools from “sudden, dramatic population and revenue shifts,” according to the Vermont Agency of Education.

Per-Pupil Spending: The amount spent per year on education per student, usually broken down by school type and district.

School Choice: Some school districts whose towns do not have schools at a certain grade level, and are not part of a supervisory union,  provide tuition money for students to attend school elsewhere. These schools can be public schools or approved independent schools, and can even be out of state or in Canada. The students’ home districts are referred to as tuitioning districts because state law requires each student’s town to pay tuition to the school the student chooses to attend. That amount is determined by the announced tuition rate. This school year, the announced tuition rate was $11,936 for elementary school and $13,752 for secondary school, according to the Vermont Department of Education. Next year, those amounts will increase to $12,294 and $14,297, respectively.

Find a map of Vermont’s tuitioning school districtshere.

Additionally, Act 129, passed in 2012, allows for public school choice statewide by allowing students to apply to any other high school in the state; however, the same tuitioning rules do not apply. Schools can can limit the number of students who are allowed to transfer out as well as the numbers who can transfer in. Learn more about statewide school choicehere.

Tuitioning is the term used to describe the act of certain school districts giving students a fixed amount of money towards attending a school of the students’ choice.

School District: An area or region within Vermont that is governed by a local school board.

Supervisory Union: Vermont is comprised of 45 supervisory unions, which are made up of multiple school districts in one union. A supervisory union has one executive/supervisory board that oversees one or more school districts.

Local Control: Each school district in Vermont is given local control, acting as its own governance body, making decisions such as hiring, purchasing, contracting and more.

Average Daily Membership: The Vermont Agency of Education defines average daily membership as: “A count of resident and state-placed students who receive an elementary or secondary education at public expense; data are listed by town according to a student’s residence. Resident students are counted during the period from the 11th to the 30th day of the current school year, while state-placed students are counted for the school year prior to the current census period. Data are used in calculating equalized pupils which are used to determine the homestead tax rates.”

Small School:According to Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, nationally, a small school is defined as 200 students.

Micro School:A micro school is a school under 100 students. According to Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, 21 percent of Vermont’s schools have fewer than 100 students.

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