The unemployment rate has stayed at a low rate of 4% for quite awhile, however, there are still larger issues that many still have to face. For those who do not know, the Great Recession took a great toll on many. The poverty rate was at 8% and rose to 11.6%; although it has been getting better, it is still fairly high. State welfare benefits have increased from 41,000 people to well over 100,000; that is about one out of six people. A big reason for this is because of loose eligibility. Government workers have been encouraging more people to get benefits, instead of focusing on those in poverty who really need it. One major increase in state assistance programs is the federal school lunch program. Students who receive free or reduced lunches are now over 40%, much higher than the former 25% a few years ago. Many school faculty try to encourage students to apply for this program to attempt to raise funding for their school. To some people this information may be unknown, which is unfair to many Vermont state citizens (Woolf, 2014).
An estimate on Vermont’s poverty rate in 2012 was around 11% to 12.6%. The average household income was about $53,000, which places Vermont 40th in the country for the lowest rate of poverty. The federal poverty does not show the complete scale of inequalities in income because more often than not certain types of income are not included. Income taxes and tax credits are typically not included as well because they are calculated pre-tax. It is usually easier for people with a higher education to be able to find work, but it has become clear that it is now harder for them financially. Those without a diploma are suffering even more compared to what they were in 2007. The poverty rate for women has also increased a great amount, especially during the Great Recession, but is now starting to decrease at a slow rate (Niles, 2013).
Our current poverty rate stays at a percentage of 12.30%. This includes a 15% poverty rate for children, 6% poverty rate for seniors, and 13.30% of women. The percentage of single parents who are raising children is on their own is at a high of 29%. This shows how many other people may be getting benefits over who really needs them. Single parent families are having a harder time affording needs for their children. They are having to focus on necessities, and are unable to spend extra money on anything else. The amount of people receiving Food Stamps is at 31,000 (Spotlight on Poverty).
The percentage of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree is at 34.90% but if you compare that to the number of these graduates in debt 63%, it doesn’t seem like a good enough percentage. This is just an example of how hard it is on college graduates to receive an income to cover all of their expenses. Should those with a degree receive more than a minimum wage income? This seems to be a waste on those who worked so hard on finishing out school to find a career in something they are passionate about because they are unable to receive what they deserve in salary.
An increasing poverty rate results in a decreasing profit for businesses. Think of it this way, if a family is making minimum wage, their money is going toward necessities and nothing extra. Meaning their income is too low to spend spontaneously, therefore businesses are going out of business with a decreasing customer base, people can't afford to see a movie, buy clothes, or supplies to start an at home project when they have to worry about things like heat, water, and electricity with the small income they have.
How do we solve this problem of poverty? A simple solution is looking at the stem of the problem which is employment and and take home pay. There needs to be more employment opportunities for the community so that we having working families. In order for more opportunities to become available that means businesses need to be opening in VT instead of closing. We need to give these new businesses incentives, tax stipulations that won't cripple them within their first few years of being open. Businesses growth is the first step to stomping out poverty. More business means higher employment rates, which means more employed families, resulting in a healthier more robust job market. With a healthier job market it also introduces competitive wages. As business growth increases poverty will decrease.
Niles, Hilary. (Sept. 23rd, 2013). Latest Poverty Numbers Reveal The Most Challenged Populations. Retrieved fromhttp://vtdigger.org/2013/09/23/latest-poverty-numbers-reveal-challenged-populations/
Woolf, Art. (May 22nd, 2014). Poverty rate tells another story of Vermont’s economy. Retrieved from http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/money/2014/05/22/poverty-rate-tells-another-story-vermonts-economy/9381625/.
What is Act 46? For those who are unaware Act 46 is a process that puts in place standards and goals that would set all schools and school boards on the same type of model that has been put in place by statewide regulations. This model would include but is not yet limited to placing policies on what should be taught at school, creating a lower teacher to student ratio, "Vermont has the lowest ratio in the nation, with an average student-to-teacher ratio of 9.4 to 1, according to a 2013 report from the National Education Association" (VT Digger). and creating an “equal” educational opportunity for students across the board.
First and most importantly is this policy change comes at the cost of the parents, the voters, and the taxpayers of the state. The extra cost comes at the hiring of more teachers for a lower student to teacher ratio. Depending on the number that they put in place schools may have to hire on several more educational personnel in order to meet these qualifications. And for each teacher that means more money out of the pocket of the people in these communities.
The proposal on the table in most counties and districts is to accept Act 46 and be regulated by what is put in place from a higher power. This proposal also adds the temptation of a tax break for those districts who do choose to conform to Act 46 within the next 3 years. Schools and districts have been told this is a voluntary process, meaning if the schools want to opt out the certainly can. The issue with something that is “voluntary”, you have to ask yourself for how long? With more and more district voting to adopt this Act it may lead to the state cutting off funding for schools down the line who choose not to conform. With no funding then they are left with the decision to charge tuition, shut down, or also be a part of this detrimental policy.
Every student learns differently just like every town and city works differently. As odd as that sounds put it into a larger perspective; students in Los Angeles California aren’t going to learn the same material (I.E. Vocational) as the students in Springfield Vermont. Of course the core classes may be similar where ever you go but the detail of the content is in connection to those opportunities in your area. School prepares you for job opportunities and higher education beyond the K-12 world. It is safe to say that employment and educational opportunities differ from location to location. That being said schools and districts should be able to put their own spin on the content that they are teaching to further relate to what is actually happening right outside their window.
Legislators that support this motion talk about how schools that don’t join this will be left behind. That’s funny, for a voluntary Act why light the threat that schools may be left behind? Those comments suggest a threat, that if all districts don’t conform now that they may end up high and dry. This is at a point where we can turn it around while the details are still being put into place, districts are still voting on their stance as to whether they will join or not. Let’s take notice to how this will affect you, your kids, and what they will now take from school going forward. It’s not too late to say nay to Act 46.