Vermont Research News – School funding, tax fairness, new history books and more…

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Biodiversity loss in forests

According to a report about US forest compositions, Vermont will experience a change in the types of trees present in its forests over the next 200 years. Red spruce and eastern hemlock populations are projected to decline, while Sugar Maple and American Birch trees will remain dominant species. This decrease in biodiversity, or variety of species, is one of the many lag effects of global warming, which become more apparent as time goes on. To preserve biodiversity, scientists will have to find solutions that can adapt over time as ecosystems in Vermont gradually shift. 

Equitable funding for rural schools

Rural schools can be more expensive than non-rural schools for a variety of reasons.  A recent article applied a new formula for calculating state-level school funding to schools throughout Vermont.  It puts together individual needs of students, depending on grade level, family economic status and disability/ability, alongside additional costs from rurality, to determine equitable funding for each school in the state.

Life expectancy

Although the decline in the life expectancy of people in the United States since 2014 has gained a lot of attention, the Public Policy & Aging Report noted that less attention is paid to the life expectancy of residents of individual US States.  Currently, the differences in life expectancy across US states are larger than ever recorded.  Vermont has the fifth highest number for healthy life expectancy (which differs from total life expectancy) at 69.0.  The report found a relationship between life expectancy, the state and the state’s public policy investments related to health and well-being.

Restructuring the tax system?

A new report, two plus years in the making takes a comprehensive look at how to make the state’s revenue system more fair, sustainable and simpler. Tasked by the Scott administration, and written by three Vermonters who agreed to operate by consensus the 200-page report is a “wealth” of information. Public Assets lauded the report’s discussion of the so-called “benefit cliff.”.

PFAS Contamination in south-west Vermont

The Royal Society of chemistry conducted a sampling campaign in order to understand how much airborne perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS) emission can impact groundwater in soil, using lands near Bennington, VT and Hoosick Falls, New York.  Vermont and New York environmental agencies have found that since 2015, two water systems across a 200 kilometers squared area and about 1200 residential wells have been contaminated with PFAS.  These findings show that these regions were in fact affected by local PFAS air emissions, telling us that rather than environmental investigators limiting the areas that they are considering to the down-gradient direction of water flow, they must also include regions downward of emission sites, which are not normally considered to be at risk, the report states.

Increasing operating room efficiency

Hospitals across the United States are increasingly adopting the Acute Care surgery model within their operating rooms.  Under previous models, general surgeons would oversee both standard surgeries and emergency surgeries, often leading to delays.  Under the Acute Care surgery model, surgeons specializing in trauma and emergency surgery are constantly available for these specific surgeries, leaving the general surgeons to handle other operations.  A recent study measured the effects of this new model at the UVM Medical Center, showing that it decreased disruptions and led to greater overall productivity among surgeons.

Community leadership & the Vermont Proposition

As we approach Town Meeting in Vermont, a guide from the Vermont Council on Rural Development focuses on growing local leadership. The guide includes tips on bringing people together and dealing with conflict and a section on Community Projects builds on 20 years of VCRD’s community visits. VCRD is also hosting a conversation about what Vermont needs to do now to prepare for the future. Visit the website, review the draft report and answer the survey. 

Racial disparities, COVID-19 and Vermont Prisons

The United States is known for its unusually high rates of incarceration and Black and Latino groups make up a disproportionate amount of  the almost 7 million people under correctional control. An article in the Journal of The American Public Health Association examined the impacts of  COVID-19 on Black and Latino populations, finding that only four states collected comprehensive demographic information;  Vermont, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Washington.  Of the four states, the most comprehensive reporting came from Vermont, which included population estimates and COVID-19 case counts by ethnicity.  Overall the autords find that white prisoners are more likely to be tested and have a lower likelihood of contracting COVID-19. 

Food systems strategic plan

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, the Farm to Plate Network, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, have put together a comprehensive strategic plan to be put in front of the Vermont Legislature.  It seeks to increase sustainable jobs in Vermont’s food and farm sector, better care for Vermont’s soils, water, and landscapes in the face of climate change, and to improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.  It also highlights food and agriculture industries in Vermont which are critical to Vermont’s food system, including beekeeping, dairy farming, and maple sugaring, among many others.

Vermont Heritage: Essays on Green Mountain History, 1770–1920

A new collection of articles by two of Vermont’s most prominent historians H. Nicholas Muller III and J. Kevin Graffagnino, with editing support from Kristin Peterson-Ishaq, collected into a handsome volume and available from the Center for Research on Vermont. Contact the Center for a copy. See also VHS for  Vermont history books by Elise Guyette, Sara Rath, Judy Chavez, Paul Searls and more.

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Copyright © 2019 Center for Research on Vermont, All rights reserved.
The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research — focused on research in the Vermont “laboratory” — research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to an understanding of the state’s social, economic, cultural and physical environment. Thanks to support from the Office of Engagement at UVM
Send your news items to Newsletter Editors Nick Kelm or Richard Watts. In a collaboration with VT Digger, the newsletter is now published online. CRVT is responsible for the content. The newsletter is published on the 1st and 15th of each month. 

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