Two percent solution

Meanwhile, beneath the radar, the state ed department-in adept co-operation with the Golden Domers on the north side of Montpelier's State Street-has been operating a different cost-reduction program, so successful that its statistics are beginning to show up in such places as state census data and school enrollment numbers.

As a 2007 study by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency documented, increasing housing costs has had the desirable effect of reducing school age-child population per house.

Recent federal census data have shown, from 1995 to 200, Golden Domer actions raising an entire range of cost-of-residency items in Vermont have had the salubrious effect of causing a major out-migration of the 25-to-39 age-group (over 2200 in five years) and, thanks to recent research showing that, when young adults leave the state, they actually take their children with them, reducing K-12 enrollment proportionately.

As of 2008 it was at 94K, down from an earlier high of 106K, and even below the VHFA prediction of 95K by mid-decade. The strategy has even successfully reduced the Vermont birth rate, now lowest in the nation at about 10 per 1,000 of population compared to a national 14.

You might call this pursuit of enrollment-reduction the Sarah Lawrence option, after the Bronxville, N.Y., college (1981 S.L. graduate-on campus recently, to give informal instruction in Chicago-style, back-alley Democrat politics, was controverisal White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) management decision in the 1970s to solve a fiscal-deficit-per-student problem by reducing the number of students.

The objective: to achieve, if not profitability, at least income-expense balance. Since Vermont now, like Sarah Lawrence then, finds its per-pupil costs excessive, the solution lies in reducing the enrollment until the necessary savings have been captured. Seen in that light, with a target of $23MM and an annual per-pupil cost of $14.3K (2008) with basic math skills you can see that an enrollment cut of about 1,600 would do the job.

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