31 J.L. & Educ. 167 (2002)
Rapid Response, Radical Reform: The Story of School Finance Litigation in Vermont

handle is hein.journals/jle31 and id is 177 raw text is: Rapid Response, Radical Reform: The Story of
School Finance Litigation in Vermont
MICHAEL A. REBELL AND JEFFREY METZLER'
INTRODUCTION
In February of 1997, barely four months after the Vermont Supreme Court
declared that the state's education finance system violated the state constitu-
tion,2 the state legislature enacted the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of
1997, known generally as Act 60.1 The new law replaced most local proper-
ty taxes with a uniform, statewide property tax, and established a per-pupil
block grant for every district. Act 60 also established a controversial sharing
pool requiring affluent districts that chose to spend amounts above the base
block grant to share part of their excess revenues with property-poor districts.
While some observers praised this approach as one of the most aggressive
and fairest ways to achieve educational equity,4 others dubbed the sharing pool
the shark pool,' and some have described Act 60 as Marxism. The majori-
ty of Vermonters appear to support the new law, but there has also been con-
siderable opposition in the form of lawsuits, civil disobedience, and attempts to
circumvent the law through private funding stratagems.'
How did a small, largely rural New England state come to adopt one of the
most radical fiscal equity remedies in the country? How could such far-reach-
ing legislation be enacted only four months after the court's decision, when
similar efforts in others states have taken years? Why did the Vermont Supreme
1. Michael A. Rebell is the Executive Director and Counsel of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. in
New York City. He also is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia University. Jeffrey Metzler is a third-
year student at the Yale Law School.
2. Brigham v. State, 692 A.2d 384 (Vt. 1997).
3. 1997 Vt. Acts & Resolves 60.
4. David Goodman, America's Newest Class War, MOTHER JONES, Sept./Oct. 1999, at 68, 70.
5. Joetta Sack, In Vermont Funding Shakeup, A Bitter Pollfor Gold Towns, EDUC. WEEK, Oct. 28, 1998.
6. See, Stowe Citizens for Responsible Gov't v. State, 730 A.2d 573 (Vt. 1999); Joetta Sack, News in
Brief: Vt. Sues 'Gold Towns' Over Finance Law, EDUC. WEEK, Jan. 20, 1999; Dan Seufert, Sherbourne Voters
OK Plan of Act 60 Defiance, RUTLAND HERALD, June 2, 1998 at Al ; Joetta Sack, In Vt. Funding Shakeup, A
Bitter Pill for Gold Towns, EDUC. WEEK, Oct. 28, 1998; Kathleen Burge, Vt. Towns Protest School Tax Plan;
Law Forces Sharing of Property Levies, BOSTON GLOBE, March 3, 1998; Stephen Greene, Big Fund Hits a
Nerve in Vermont, CHRONICLE OF PHILANTHROPY, April 22, 1999.

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