Winooski, Burlington School districts receive $3.7 million grant from Nellie Mae Foundation

first_imgWinooski and Burlington School Districts announced today that they have received a three-year, $3.7 million grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), the largest charitable organization in New England focused exclusively on education, to support student-centered approaches to learning. The grant will be used to develop personalized, proficiency-based learning approaches to be developed by educators in partnership with students, parents and community partners.In order to prosper as a community, we need more learners achieving at higher levels. Student-centered approaches are aimed at reshaping education to move away from the current system’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ methodology. Student-centered learning models are built around the fact that different students learn in different ways, including: being flexible about how time is used for both students and educators, including learning opportunities outside the traditional school calendar; harnessing the broader community to support and deepen learning experiences; using curriculum, instruction and assessment that promotes the skills and knowledge needed for success in college, work and life; basing advancement on demonstration of proficiency in skills and knowledge.‘We applaud this initiative in Burlington and Winooski, and appreciate the continued support of NMEF, the Tarrant Foundation, and Voices for Vermont Children,’ said Armando Vilaseca, Vermont Education Commissioner. ‘Innovations such as this are creating new models of learning for Vermont students; using flexible pathways and proficiency based strategies to create transformative learning environments.’Burlington and Winooski High Schools serve over 4,700 students, from multi-generation Vermont families to New Americans from around the world. Together with community partners Vermont Adult Learning, The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, Linking Learning to Life, and the Tarrant Foundation, Winooski and Burlington have undertaken this work to make sure that ALL our young people have what it takes to succeed in today’s world.  During the past year, the community participated in developing a shared vision for this initiative ‘ to ensure that every student in Burlington and Winooski will graduate from high school with the confidence, enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge to build a satisfying and sustainable future for themselves, their community, and their world.Superintendents Mary Martineau and Jeanné Collins stated that ‘this funding from NMEF will be crucial in helping us re-design education in ways that insure the success of every student, including those who face the greatest barriers.’As the lead community partner in the Winooski-Burlington Partnership for Change, Voices for Vermont’s Children will engage parents and youth from marginalized communities to help design student-centered learning reforms that ensure the success of every student. Carlen Finn, Executive Director, noted ‘This initiative supports Voices’ long-term goals of helping all Vermont children succeed, especially those who struggle because of economic and social barriers in our society. Voices brings a strong voice for community participation and engagement to this initiative.’In conjunction with the NMEF grant, the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation announced today a $200,000 gift over the next three years to support student-centered, technology-rich learning at Burlington and Winooski’s middle schools.  The funds will go to the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont as part of a research-based initiative combining deep, sustained teacher learning, technology integration, and best practices in student-centered learning to promote engagement and improve learner outcomes.‘Our Foundation has been working with the Partnership for Change since the beginning, and we are thrilled to bring these additional resources to the table,’ said Foundation director Lauren Curry.  ‘By supporting engaging, relevant, personalized learning in the critical middle school years, we believe students will be better positioned for success when they make the leap to these newly-transforming high schools.’This is not the Foundation’s first investment in the Burlington and Winooski School Districts.  It provided $100,000 for technology infrastructure in Winooski over a decade ago ‘ a grant that, according to Curry, helped spark the Foundation’s current strategic education initiative.  It’s also invested more than $200,000 to support student-centered, technology-rich learning on a 90-student team at Edmunds Middle School over the past three years.  ‘The combined challenges of more learners needing to succeed and succeed at a higher level, led us to these partners,’ said Nicholas C. Donohue, President and CEO of NMEF. ‘Our grant is a value-add to the momentum the district and its key stakeholders already have. We are looking forward to seeing their successes.’Grants are being made under NMEFHYPERLINK “http://www.nmefdn.org/grantmaking/Initiatives/District/(link is external)”’HYPERLINK “http://www.nmefdn.org/grantmaking/Initiatives/District/(link is external)”s District-Level Systems Change (DLSC) initiative that the Foundation is using to promote the implementation of student-centered approaches.About the Nellie Mae Education FoundationThe Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest charitable organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the middle and high school levels across New England. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a three-part strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping education policies; and increasing public understanding and demand for high quality educational experiences. The Foundation’s initiative areas are: District Level Systems Change; State Level Systems Change; Research and Development; and Public Understanding. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $123 million in grants. For more information, visit www.nmefoundation.org(link is external).About Winooski and Burlington School DistrictsBurlington and Winooski School Districts enroll approximately 4,700 students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students in Burlington and Winooski come from many places ‘ including multi-generational Vermont families and new Vermonters from throughout the United States and the world.  Opportunities for students include challenging advanced through foundational academic, music, arts, world languages, physical education, social-emotional development, and rich extra-curricular activities including drama and sports programs.  A number of innovative partnerships with area universities and colleges, youth centers, and local community organizations enhance student learning. For more information, visit www.wsdschools.org(link is external) and www.bsdvt.org(link is external).About Voices for Vermont’s ChildrenFor twenty-seven years, Voices for Vermont’s Children has worked on behalf of children and youth by: advocating during the Vermont Legislative session; organizing and working in state and regional coalitions; providing up-to-date information, policy briefs and fact sheets on issues important to children and youth; Co-sponsoring workshops, trainings and conferences; publishing Vermont KIDS COUNT child and family data reports, and; developing community leaders and organizing community members across the state on behalf of children and youth.  For more information, visit www.voicesforvtkids.org(link is external).About the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant FoundationThe Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation makes grants to create opportunity, help meet basic needs, and improve the lives of people in Vermont.  The Foundation pursues an aggressive spending strategy, granting double the standard amount for similarly-sized foundations.  The Foundation’s primary fields of interest are human services and education.  Between 2005-2011, the Foundation granted more than $10 million.  For more information, visit www.tarrantfoundation.org(link is external). WINOOSKI, VT ‘ February 23, 2012- Winooski and Burlington School Districtslast_img read more

Vermont joins with California in low carbon fuel standard court fight

first_imgVermont, along with six other states, filed an amicus â friend of the courtâ  brief Friday with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit supporting Californiaâ s appeal of a federal district courtâ s rulings invalidating its low carbon fuel standard. California adopted its low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for transportation fuels as a key part of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.â Climate change threatens the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,’said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. â The federal government has been slow to take action on climate change. Vermont needs to have the ability to adopt a low carbon fuel standard as one of its tools to confront climate change.’Vermont is one of several New England and Mid-Atlantic states working on developing a regional low carbon fuel standard, similar to Californiaâ s.In Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Goldstene, 09-2234, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (Fresno) ruled that Californiaâ s LCFS impermissibly regulates interstate commerce and issued a preliminary injunction blocking Californiaâ s enforcement of the standard. In the brief filed today with the Ninth Circuit, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oregon and Washington agree with California that the courtâ s analysis is flawed and its rulings should be reversed. Vermont Attorney General, June 15, 2012last_img read more

$33.8 million in federal funding secured for consumer-owned health insurance company in Vermont

first_imgToday the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the award of $33,837,800 million in loans to the Consumer Health Coalition of Vermont for the creation of a new non-profit health insurer in Vermont. Unlike Vermontâ s current health insurers, the Vermont Health CO-OP will be entirely member-owned and governed. Of the loan award, $6,289,400 is allocated for â start-up’and $27,548,400 for cash reserves (â solvency fundâ ).â Weâ re excited to be part of a national movement of member-owned and governed health plans. We believe the Vermont Health CO-OP will play an important role in health care reform and is a perfect fit for Vermontâ s culture and rich heritage of cooperative endeavors,’said Mitchell Fleischer, Chair of the founding Board of Directors.The Affordable Care Act (ACA) charged HHS with designating at least one CO-OP in each state, which will provide a selection of innovative health plan options for the stateâ s Health Insurance Exchange, slated to begin operation in January 2014. The federal loan to Vermont Health CO-OP will provide funding for the 18-month start-up period for the new non-profit company, as well as the solvency fund required by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation for licensed health insurers.  The loan agreements with HHS require payback of the start-up loan within five years, and the solvency loan within 15 years.The ACA requires these new health plans to be non-profit corporations, with direct election of the board by the individuals covered by the CO-OPâ s health plans.  The ACA also requires that any financial gains realized by the CO-OPs must be used exclusively on behalf of members and to re-pay the loans from the federal government. The Vermont Health CO-OP is incorporated in Vermont and will apply for an insurance license immediately.  It will begin marketing products by October 2013. CO-OP health plans will be available statewide to individuals and small groups through the Vermont Health Insurance Exchange starting January 1, 2014. The CO-OP also anticipates offering plans outside of the Exchange to larger employers as well.The founding board includes individuals with extensive experience in health insurance, regulation, and health care delivery, including CEOs of successful Vermont start-up ventures.Under the bylaws of the CO-OP, and as required by federal law, within two years of the issuance of the first insurance policies, the founding board will be replaced by an operational board directly elected by the members. The Vermont CO-OP will work with Vermont Managed Care to coordinate the delivery of health services through its growing network of hospitals, physicians, patient-centered medical homes, and other health care providers throughout the state of Vermont.â We will be working closely with the Vermont Health CO-OP to implement the types of delivery systems and payment reforms envisioned in Vermontâ s Health care reform efforts,’said John Brumsted, president and chief executive officer, Fletcher Allen Health Care, which wholly owns Vermont Managed Care. â Weâ re excited to have a partner whose foremost goal is to strengthen the patient-physician relationship, and who is eager to innovate with us in the new health care reform environment.âTodd Moore, president of Vermont Managed Care said â We believe the Vermont Health CO-OP strongly aligns with our vision of the future, where provider-based organizations assume financial accountability for the medical cost and quality outcomes for a population.  We anticipate strong relationships with payers in our market area who see value in this type of payer-provider partnership, and are confident that the Vermont Health CO-OP will be a leader in applying this model. Founding Board member James Lampman, President of Lake Champlain Chocolates, noted that the mission and governance of the Vermont Health CO-OP differentiates it in important respects from other health insurers. â The CO-OP will be a democratically operated health insurance company.  Its only purpose is to serve its members. All of the founding Board members are dedicated to establishing a corporate culture centered on that goal. The CO-OP will focus on our Members’health improvement and will operate with full transparency.’As part of the rigorous application and selection process established by HHS, the CO-OP was required to present comprehensive feasibility and actuarial studies and a business plan. Moreover, the CO-OP is required to meet a series of strict operational milestones in order to continue to draw down the federal loan funds.  The CO-OP is subject to oversight by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation and the federal Department for Health and Human Services until the loan funds are fully repaid. Formation Board of DirectorsMITCHELL FLEISCHERPresident, Fleischer Jacobs GroupDAVID JILLSONBusiness Manager, Orthopedic SurgeryJAMES LAMPMANPresident, Lake Champlain ChocolatesDOUG NEDDEPrincipal, Redstone GroupMARK PITCHER, MDPartner, Good Health PPCPAULLETTE THABAULTSenior Manager CVS/Caremark, former Commissioner Vermont Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care AdministrationOverview of Consumer Owned and Operated Plan (CO-OP)Provisions in PPACADuring the Congressional debates on health care reform when the â public option’proposal failed, people rallied around the idea of providing incentives and opportunities for member-owned and governed insurance companies to compete with the existing commercial insurance carriers in the new state-operated Health Insurance Exchanges. As a result, the federal health care reform law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ‘PPACA) created the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program.The idea is to bring to health insurance the model familiar to many American for electricity, water, housing, and food — the â cooperative’model of member-ownership and governance. (1)There are three major principles governing the award of the loans:(1) Consumer operation, control, and focus must be the salient features of the CO-OP and sustained over time;(2) Solvency and the financial stability of coverage should be maintained and promoted;(3) CO-OPs should encourage care coordination, quality and efficiency to the extent feasible in local provider and health plan markets; and(4) To be eligible for a loan, an applicant must be a private nonprofit member organization.An organization is not eligible for a loan if it was licensed by a State as a health insurance issuer as of July 16, 2009 or it was a related entity or predecessor organization of such an issuer. An organization is also not eligible for a CO-OP loan if the organization has as a sponsor a State or local government, or any political subdivision or instrumentality of a State or local government.Elements in PPACA provide strong support for CO-OPs: Start-up and Solvency Loans to cover the costs associated with getting the CO-OP up and running as a brand new insurance company, and to fund the â reserves’required by the state insurance regulators for licensing as a health insurance carrier. A requirement that a funded CO-OP must be allowed by states offer its health plans on the stateâ s Health Insurance Exchange.The statute provides loans to capitalize eligible prospective CO-OPs with a goal of having at least one CO-OP in each State. Congress provided budget authority of $3.8 billion for the program. The statute directs the Secretary to give priority to applicants that will offer CO-OP qualified health plans on a statewide basis, will use integrated care models, and have significant private support. The Start-Up Loan must be repaid in five years, and the Solvency Loan payback schedule requires payback of the loan in 15 years. The interest on these loans is close to zero, as it is the fed rate plus 0.CO-OPS cannot be started up by insurers, nor can a CO-OP partner with existing insurance companies for operational activities and services. The law allows CO-OPs to sell policies outside of the Exchange, but the Exchange business must comprise at least 2/3 of the CO-OP business.Here are some other salient points from the federal law: Profits must be used to lower premiums, improve benefits, or to finance programs aimed at improving the quality of care to members. Representatives of federal, state or local governments as well as representatives of insurance issuers that were in existence on July 16, 2009 cannot serve on CO-OP boards. CO-OPs may establish private purchasing councils that may enter into collective purchasing arrangements for items and services. But councils are precluded from setting payment rates for health care facilities or providers that are participating in health insurance coverage provided by the plans. Other newly created CO-OPs are discussing group purchases of reinsurance, administrative services, actuarial services, etc.Consumer Health Coalition of Vermont (the Vermont CO-OP) has been incorporated as a non-profit entity for the purpose of offering health insurance plans on the Exchange and to large employers. The CO-OPâ s bylaws conform to the federal requirements that the Formation Board be replaced by a Member-Elected Operational Board by 1/1/2016. The Formation Board oversees the management that will be setting up the CHCVT, getting everything ready to start issuing policies on the Vermont Health Exchange 1/1/2014.The federal website for CO-OP information is at:http://cciio.cms.gov/programs/coop/index.html(link is external)A good overview of the CO-OP legislation is Sara Collinâ s testimony for the Commonwealth Fund, which can be found at:http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Publications/Testimonies/2011/Jan/Collin…(link is external)The Vermont CO-OP website is: www.chcvt.coop(link is external)CO-OP Press Conference and Announcement Q/AQ How did this happen? Where is this money coming from?A The federal government included a provision in the Section 1322 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 to provide $3.4 billion in loans to establish non-profit consumer-based health insurance companies in every state, called â Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans (CO-OPs). These CO-OPs will provide health insurance to individuals and small employers in competition with other existing carriers. Larger groups can also sign up.The Consumer Health Coalition of Vermont, a non-profit Vermont corporation, was formed in October of 2012 for the purpose of applying for the designation as Vermontâ s CO-OP. The bylaws and other governance documents for CHCVT specify that it will operate in full compliance with the ACA requirements for CO-OPs, including member-governance. CHCVT filed an application with HHS on January 3, 2012 for the loans, and for the past five months has undergone a rigorous evaluation of all aspects of the business plan, actuarial projections, and financial feasibility. The CHCVT application received the endorsement of Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch, along with our partner Vermont Managed Care.Q How much money will the CO-OP receive?A The Department of Health and Human Services has provided two loans to the CO-OP. One loan in the amount of $6,289,400 is to cover start-up costs for the new insurance company. This loan will be repaid to the federal government during the next five years. The second loan provides the capital reserve required by the state of Vermont. This is not provided all at once, but will be drawn upon by the CO-OP as enrollment grows. These funds are not spent, but are held in reserve, like a contingency fund, to make sure that there is always enough money on hand to pay claims. The total amount available for reserves is $27,548,400. This loan will be repaid to the federal government over the first 15 years of the CO-OPs operation, or immediately upon closure of the CO-OP.HHS subjected the CO-OPâ s business plan, actuarial studies and feasibility study to a rigorous five month examination prior to authorizing the two loans.Q Is this the only CO-OP in Vermont to receive funding?A Yes, The Vermont Health CO-OP is the only federally designated CO-OP in Vermont.Q How will the Vermont Health CO-OP be different from other insurance companies in Vermont?A The Vermont Health CO-OP is different in four very important ways:o First, the CO-OP is member-governed. Unlike other insurers in Vermont, this insurer will be governed by a Board of Directors that is directly elected by the people covered by the insurance policies. Itâ so Second, the federal laws under which the CO-OP operates requires that if the CO-OPâ s income is greater than expenses, those profits have to go back to the policy holders, either in expanded coverage or in reduced premiums.o Third, the federal law charges the CO-OPs nationwide with being health care innovators, with working specifically on reforms to provider payment, to health care delivery and health care quality improvements. The CO-OP canâ t just sell insurance; we have to be a reform leader, which is why our partnership with Vermont Managed Care is so important to our members.o Fourth, because of these three differences, your role as a member and consumer is very different. You have a voice in the values, direction, goals and governance of the CO-OP. If you take care of your health and use the health care system wisely, and the CO-OP saves money, youâ ll see the benefits yourself. And finally, youâ ll be a part of a health plan built to support the reforms we all seek, one where the insurance company doesnâ t have to interfere with the patient/provider relationship.Q What impact could Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act have on the CO-OP and its funding?A We have been assured by representatives of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services that the CO-OP Program will continue regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal, and that the funds being loaned to start the Consumers Health Coalition of Vermont are committed funds that will not be affected by any possible outcome of the case before the Supreme Court.Q Will the CO-OP sell Blue Cross, MVP or other policies?A The CO-OP will sell its own policies. The CO-OP is not an association or group; it is a member-owned insurance company. Once the CO-OP receives a license from the State of Vermont Department, the CO-OP will be a third health insurance choice for Vermonters.Q Who can buy insurance plans from the Vermont Health CO-OP?A The Vermont Health CO-OP will be applying for a license to issue health insurance products to individuals and small businesses ( 50 employees. Their enrollment is also targeted for October 2013 for plans to start coverage on January 1, 2014.Q When will the CO-OP insurance plans be available?A The CO-OP business plan projects enrollment to start in October of 2013. Our first task is to apply for a license as a Vermont insurance company.Q How much will the CO-OPâ s health insurance plans cost?A Itâ s too early to know what the premiums will be for 2014, but our goal is offer plans that best our competition. Weâ ll be able to do this for two key reasons. First, our plans will be smart designs that give consumers positive incentives to get healthy and use health care wisely. Second, our agreements with Vermont Managed Care will give providers incentives to keep our members healthy and to provide high value health care. For example, weâ ll help our members stop smoking, the doctor will help, and members stop, weâ ll reward them. The beauty of the CO-OPâ s structure is that when our members and providers spend less money, the members will enjoy lower premiums and better benefits, and providers will share the savings.Q What is the relationship between the Vermont Health CO-OP and Vermont Managed Care?A Vermont Managed Care is the network of health care providers that CO-OP members will be able to access. www.vermontmanagedcare.org(link is external) The Vermont Health CO-OP and VMC intend to negotiate a risk-sharing financial agreement that allows VMC providers the flexibility to do whatâ s best for patients, while also incentivizing high value care. Through this agreement, VMC, which is a provider organization, will manage the care; the CO-OP will not manage the care. This is what consumers and providers in Vermont want.Q How many people will the Vermont Health CO-OP employ?A Another way the CO-OP will keep down costs is by staying small. Our business plan currently projects around 20 employees once enrollment reaches our projections for the fifth year. We wonâ t be adding employees to process claims and manage care, or spending money on technology to support those functions. The CO-OP will contract with a skilled administrator with high customer satisfaction ratings to process medical claims, and Vermont Managed Care will manage the medical network and medical care. The employees of the CO-OP will focus on member services, satisfaction, and financial management. One of the most important CO-OP employees will be the Ombudsman, whose job is to be an advocate for any and all members and their concerns, and to make sure the CO-OP complies with all state and federal requirements.Q Who runs the CO-OP? Who is on the Board?A As required by the federal law, the CO-OP must hold elections for the Board within one year of the issuance of the first insurance policies. For the Vermont Health CO-OP, that will be in late 2014. The entire Board, called the Operational Board, must be elected by membership by the end of 2015. In the start-up phase, the federal law allows a â Formation Board’to govern the CO-OPâ s activities. The bylaws and governance documents, and the individual members of the Formation Board were vetted by HHS prior to the issuance of the loan to make sure that the CO-OP is independent of existing insurance companies, is truly member-governed and complies with all other federal laws governing the CO-OP health plans. In accordance with the business plan, the first milestones for the Board include hiring a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) almost immediately. The CEO will then put together the senior management team, hire the additional staff needed, and start the process of applying for the Vermont insurance company license. Consultants on legal issues, business planning and operations, benefit design and provider contracting are available to the Board and CEO until the CO-OP has staff to take on those responsibilities. The list of Board members, and addition information about the Vermont Health CO-OP is on our website: www.chcvt.coop(link is external).South Burlington, June 22, 2012——————1 Because not all states have business statutes allowing creation of a â cooperative’for health insurance purposes, the federal law requires incorporation as a cooperative or non-profit, as state statutes permit. That is also why the federal law creates an acronym ‘â CO-OP’designating consumer/member â ownership and operation’as the hallmark.last_img read more

Sanders to chair Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee

first_imgSenator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been named chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV.) made the announcement while listing committee assignments for the next session of Congress. As the White House and lawmakers are in the final stages of negotiating a year-end debt reduction deal, Sanders said his first order of business is to stop a proposal that would slash benefits for disabled veterans. It is morally and economically unacceptable that anyone in Congress would propose balancing our budget by making significant cuts for disabled veterans, Sanders said. A proposed switch to a so-called chained CPI, a new way to measure consumer prices and calculate cost-of-living adjustments, would drastically reduce benefits for veterans and their families. The largest cuts would impact young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat. According to the Social Security Administration, permanently disabled veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,300 a year at age 45; $1,800 a year at age 55; and $2,260 a year at age 65. Sanders has served on the Veterans Affairs Committee for six years. He replaces Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who was appointed the new chair of the Senate Budget Committee. I have enormous respect for Sen. Murray and for all of her hard work on behalf of veterans, Sanders said. It is a great honor to be named chairman of the committee, but it is an even greater responsibility, Sanders added. We owe it to the over 22 million brave veterans living in the United States today to provide the benefits that they have earned and deserve. The very first bill Sanders introduced when he came to Congress in 1991 called for reimbursing members of the National Guard and Reserve for income lost while deployed during the Persian Gulf War. Since then he has been tireless in his fight for veterans, eventually helping secure $23 million to expand research to find treatments for the 175,000 veterans still suffering from health problems related to that war. Earlier this year, Sanders won a Congressional Leadership Award from the Disabled American Veterans. He has helped pass legislation to provide over $57 million to help severely disabled veterans adapt their homes to better accommodate their disabilities and supported legislation to assist the caregivers of severely wounded warriors. A co-sponsor of the new GI Bill of Rights, Sanders has been a leader in helping veterans transition from duty in warzones to life at home. Working with the Vermont National Guard, Sanders helped secure major funding to build and develop a cutting-edge outreach and reintegration program in Vermont to provide proactive assistance to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. The senator also has advocated for veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other often undiagnosed health issues, helping to secure funding for a new building and budget for the VAs flagship research center, the National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vt. Another key initiative by Sanders for veterans has been opening and expanding VA Community-Based Outreach Clinics. There are now five clinics in Vermont which operate as satellites of VA medical center in White River Junction, Vt., helping veterans cut down on their travel time to receive care. In addition, Sanders coordinated funding and support for a Womens Comprehensive Care Center in Vermont to provide medical services specifically for women veterans. He also successfully fought to raise travel reimbursement rates for veterans who commute long distances to receive medical care, mitigating travel expenses as an obstacle to treatment. To fight veteran homelessness, Sanders supported opening several housing facilities for homeless veterans in his home state and secured funding for transitional housing for Vermonts women veterans. Since Sanders arrival in the Senate, VA funding has repeatedly met the level requested in what is known as the Independent Budget, an annual report from a respected group of veterans service organizations. In addition to the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders sits on four other standing committees: Budget; Environment and Public Works; Energy and Natural Resources; and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Source: Sanders Office. 1212.12last_img read more

Dr Mariko Silver named Bennington College president

first_imgBennington College,Dr Mariko Silver has been selected as the 10th president of Bennington College. A leading educational, public policy, and international strategist, she has held prominent roles at Columbia University, at Arizona State University, in the administration of Arizona’s governor Janet Napolitano, and in the Obama administration. She will succeed Elizabeth Coleman, Bennington’s president for 25 years, who retires this month.‘Mariko Silver embodies a new model for the American college president’someone who sees the world not as a set of givens but as a collection of resources to be harnessed,’said Alan Kornberg ‘74, chairman of the Bennington College Board of Trustees. ‘She has an extraordinary intellectual and imaginative vitality, an outstanding track record, and a deep commitment to the College’s pedagogic traditions and values. Dr. Silver’s appointment also signals Bennington’s ambitions to expand the influence of the College’s founding ideals and contemporary practices in a world that is rapidly changing, that is simultaneously fragmented and interconnected, and that is, in every dimension, increasingly complex and global.’‘I am thrilled and honored to lead Bennington, one of the nation’s most innovative liberal arts colleges,’Silver said. ‘Bennington stands as a unique and essential voice in the higher education landscape. In its emphasis on the essential role of creativity throughout the curriculum, its developing focus on public service, its commitment to the teacher-practitioner model, and through its most fundamental organizational design element, which places students’and graduates’at the center of what matters, Bennington is distinctly positioned to engage head-on many of the challenges and opportunities facing higher education in the coming decade.’Silver comes to Bennington from Arizona State University (ASU), where, as senior advisor to President Michael Crow, she was a key strategist in what Newsweek called ‘one of the most radical redesigns in higher learning since the origins of the modern university.’She designed and led campus, community, and international initiatives focused on student engagement and accomplishment, on cutting-edge science, and on economic development. Silver also served as Professor of Practice in ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies and established international research and teaching partnerships, including the international University Design Consortium.‘Mariko Silver’s ability to build programs and projects in collaboration with faculty, university leadership, and diverse community stakeholders is extraordinary,’said ASU President Michael Crow. ‘Both Bennington and ASU, while obviously of different institutional scale, place extraordinary value on innovative institutional architecture, push pedagogical boundaries in service of the best educational experience for students, and pursue the best teaching and thought leadership outcomes to improve the global trajectory. Strategic, visionary, collaborative, Mariko is an innovative thinker steeped in the challenges and opportunities for organizational change in higher education and an outstanding choice to lead Bennington into the future.’Silver served in the Obama administration as Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Policy of the US Department of Homeland Security where she created the first department-wide international strategy, managed the Department’s international engagements, and co-developed a global initiative to enhance aviation security. Prior to that, she served as Policy Advisor to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, with responsibility for the state’s public and private universities, community colleges, and vocational institutions; the Arizona Department of Commerce; and Science Foundation Arizona. In these capacities she has worked with multiple communities and constituencies around the world and very close to home.”Whether balancing the needs of diverse communities, championing projects that serve both public and private needs, or understanding the role that education, science, and technology play in economic development, Mariko Silver has the ability to develop and advance big ideas,’said US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.Silver holds a BA in History from Yale University, an MSc in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Sussex (UK), and a PhD in Economic Geography from the University of California at Los Angeles. She and her husband, musician Thom Loubet, have one child.last_img read more

Vermont has largest home sales increase in New England

first_imgAccording to the’ RE/MAX of New England 2014 Housing Forecast, single-family home transactions increased’ 14.6 percent in’ Vermont,’ the largest jump in sales in New England in 2013, while the median price increased 3.7 percent. Condominium transactions rose 15.2 percent with the average median price rising 2.6 percent. Multi-family home transactions were down -3.3 percent while pricing on these units climbed 19.2 percent to $207,768.Vermont’s housing market demonstrated continued signs of recovery during 2013. Single-family homes and condominiums experienced encouraging year-over-year growth in the total number of units sold when compared to 2012. Average median price also showed stabilization, posting important year-over-year increases over 2012 figures.According to NNEREN data, the total number of single-family transactions increased 14.6% year-over-year, the largest increase in this category in New England. Average median price increased 3.7% to $211,262.Condominium transactions increased 15.2% year-over-year and the average median price also rose 2.6% to $182,718. Multi-family homes experienced a slight decline of -3.3% in total transactions year-over-year. The average median price of $207,768 represents a 19.2% increase over 2012. This is the largest multi-family category increase in New England.Limited inventory in Vermont paved the way for price increases in the state with even higher inventory shortages anticipated for 2014.‘Vermont is driven by an anti-development mentality,’ said Chad Jacobson, Sales Associate at RE/MAX North Professionals in Colchester. ‘We have limited housing availability particularly in Chittenden County which represents about 25% of the state’s population. It makes it challenging to keep up with demands on housing.’Chittenden County, which borders Lake Champlain, posted single-family home transactions up 17% and 11% in condominium sales year-over-year. According to Jacobson, ‘The best news is that while we are seeing double-digit increases, the average and median prices are up in the low single digits. This is a critical statistic as it’s a signal to buyers that they can and should buy again.’With the lowest unemployment rate in New England at 4.5% according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, Vermont’s economy is anchored by jobs in both higher education and healthcare.Jacobson says strong consumer confidence coupled with low interest rates allowed entry-level buyers to come into the market in 2013. However, he notes that the government shutdown in October did stall Vermont’s fall business. ‘We literally came to a standstill in the fall because the number of funding mechanisms literally shut down with the government. It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that we experienced a surge of activity as buyer confidence returned.’Jacobson says there are several trends to watch in Vermont during 2014. Low interest rates will continue to entice buyers into the market as long as the trend of low increases in value continue. ‘My biggest concern is the interest rate risk. After a number of years of artificially low interest rates, those who make money lending money will want to make money again.’Move-up buyers also continue to be largely absent from the market again in 2013 and the supply in higher price points is more significant than in other segments. ‘I’m hoping for a continued neutral, balanced market. We have low foreclosures in Vermont as we are more conservative than the rest of the nation.’Concluded Jacobson, ‘People need to buy homes. We have had three good years of economic recovery and housing is, and will continue to be, the best investment anyone can make. I can guarantee that if you buy a home in 2014, your payment will never go up. However, I cannot guarantee that if you rent in 2014, that your landlord won’t raise the rent.’Meanwhile, New England will continue to experience a significant shortage of inventory and consumers should expect to see higher interest rates as we head into the second half of the year.’ New England will continue to experience a significant shortage of inventory and consumers should expect to see higher interest rates as we head into the second half of the year.’ RE/MAX of New England cites low interest rates and rising consumer confidence in propelling the New England housing market into solid recovery throughout 2013. An ebbing supply of inventory coupled with low interest rates and pent-up demand fueled the market and drove-up pricing throughout the region.According to the report, single-family, condominium and multi-family home transactions were strong throughout New England in2013. With the exception of Vermont, which experienced a -3.3% decline in multi-family home sales, each state experienced growth in all three categories of transactions. This is reflective of a larger trend throughout the northeast and nation, where single-family home sales in the region are up 9.9% on average according to MLS data.In Connecticut, where the average median price of a single-family home was $216,105, sales increased 10.1% year-over-year. Condominium sales rose 15.1%, and multi-family homes rose 5.3% according to CTMLS data. In Fairfield County, the news was even more positive. Single-family home sales increased 18.4%; condominium sales rose 30.2% and multi-family homes were up 5.4% over 2012 numbers. The average median price of a single-family home in Fairfield County was $390,955 in 2013.The average median sales price of a single-family home in Massachusetts increased 8.8% from $287,841 to $313,109 in 2013. Home transactions in all three categories all surged ahead. Single-family home sales increased 8.8% and condominium transactions increased 11.9% year-over-year, while multi-family home sales grew 4.2%.At $215,655, the average median sales price of a single-family home in New Hampshire was up 6.9% over 2012 figures. Single-family home transactions increased 10.9% year-over-year, while condominium transactions grew 17.8%. Multi-family home transactions were up 2.9%.Rhode Island experienced significant growth in 2013. Single-family home sales posted solid gains in 2013, up 10.7% year-over-year. Condominium sales increased 32.5%, and multi-family home sales grew 2.1%. Average median price for single-family homes increased 7.4% compared to 2012, reaching $206,870.Single-family home transactions increased 14.6% in Vermont, the largest jump in sales in New England in 2013, while the median price increased 3.7%. Condominium transactions rose 15.2% with the average median price rising 2.6%. Multi-family home transactions were down -3.3% while pricing on these units climbed 19.2% to $207,768.‘The significant improvement in median price we saw in most market segments across the region is the result of reduced inventory,’ said Dan Breault, Executive Vice President and Regional Director of RE/MAX of New England. ‘While interest rates did rise upwards of one point over the summer of 2013, it did not dissuade buyers from moving forward. In fact, it appeared to have the opposite effect of creating competition and driving prices up in key markets.’Strong home sales during 2013, especially in the second half of the year, bode well for the 2014 housing market. ‘The traditionally slower fall and winter months showed very strong activity in key markets across the region,’ continued Dan Breault. ‘This is an excellent bellwether of how we can expect the first quarter of 2014 to shape up.’To read the entire RE/MAX of New England 2014 Housing Forecast, visit’ www.remax-newengland.com(link is external).last_img read more

State rules against anti-nuke group in Vermont Yankee case

first_imgNorthstar Vermont Yankee,by Mike Faher/The Commons(link is external) State regulators have rejected an anti-nuclear group’s last-minute objections to spent fuel plans at Vermont Yankee. The Vermont Public Service Board still is considering Entergy’s plans to build a new storage facility for radioactive spent fuel at the Vernon plant. But in an order issued June 1, the board declined to admit new evidence offered by New England Coalition in the case. The Brattleboro-based coalition had asked the Public Service Board to consider information about the proposed fuel facility’s visibility and its potential to be built underground. The board, however, ruled that the coalition’s motions were too little, too late.Dry casks already constructed at Vermont Yankee. VBM file photo.New England Coalition “appears to be seeking an additional post-hearing opportunity to litigate matters that could and should have been explored through discovery and cross-examination much earlier in this case,” board members wrote.Though Vermont Yankee is no longer producing power, its spent fuel remains on site due to the lack of a federal repository for such material. Some of that fuel is stored in 13 sealed dry casks on a concrete pad, but the majority of that material remains in a cooling pool inside the plant’s reactor building.Entergy has pledged to move all of Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel into dry casks by the end of 2020; eventually, the site will host a total of 58 casks. So the company is seeking Public Service Board permission to construct a second spent fuel pad adjacent to the first.There has been extensive debate about Entergy’s plans to build the 93-by-76-foot pad, given that the structure will hold radioactive material on the banks of the Connecticut River for decades to come.The Public Service Board held an evidentiary hearing in the case on Feb. 23. New England Coalition participated in that hearing, but in the months that followed the activist group also asked the state to consider several new arguments.The coalition argued that underground storage might be safer than the above-ground casks favored by Entergy. The organization also disputed Entergy’s testimony regarding the limited visibility of the planned fuel-storage facility.Those requests were made after the state’s evidentiary hearing, so the coalition was asking the Public Service Board to reopen the record in the fuel pad case to admit more evidence. The board on June 1 said it wouldn’t do so.The board ruled that “all of the evidence that NEC now seeks to present was available to it prior to hearings.” That includes information regarding the visibility of the fuel pad from various vantage points, as well as information about the design of underground fuel-storage casks.The coalition could have used this information in cross-examining witnesses at the Public Service Board’s hearing, or it could have asked for a delay during the hearing to allow more time to prepare its arguments.“NEC elected not to pursue any of these avenues and has not shown any good cause for the board to now allow it to change its tactical decisions,” the Public Service Board wrote. “Moreover, admitting the evidence now would place other parties at a disadvantage because they would not be able to offer further rebuttal or explanation of the material.”The board also declined to consider pictures presented by the coalition, ruling that “it is not clear exactly what the photographs demonstrate.”The New England Coalition additionally had argued that the testimony of two Entergy witnesses was “misleading, inaccurate and less than the whole truth.” But the Public Service Board said the coalition hasn’t shown that Entergy’s testimony “raises sufficient questions as to warrant further investigation.”Originally published in The Commons issue #360 (Wednesday, June 8, 2016). www.commonsnews.org(link is external)last_img read more

National Association of Attorneys General coming to Vermont June 21

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) will be hosting its annual Summer Meeting in Burlington on June 21. Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell will welcome the nation’s State Attorneys General. The three-day Summer Meeting is an opportunity for attorneys general to convene with key staff, other government officials and academic, corporate and association representatives to discuss legal issues on a number of topics to include consumer credit reporting, veterans in the workforce, health insurance coverage and mental health treatment, and keeping children safe.Governor Peter Shumlin will extend a welcome at the Tuesday opening luncheon at the Hilton Hotel and Burlington Chief of Police Brandon del Pozo is featured as the first guest speaker to kick off the meeting. Most of Wednesday’s presentations will address civil rights issues, past and present. Former Vermont Chief Justice and Attorney General Jeff Amestoy will discuss the 1853 prosecution of America’s only African-American attorney for opposing slavery—a case described in his recent non-fiction book, Slavish Shores: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Former Tennessee Attorney General Mike Cody will discuss his firm’s representation of Martin Luther King, Jr at the time of his death in then-segregated Memphis followed by a panel discussion led by Attorney General Sorrell, on the present day need to build a coalition of trust between police and communities of color. On Thursday, Vermonter and former Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission Julie Brill will lead a panel discussion on privacy and data security regulation and law enforcement.“I am honored to welcome my friends and colleagues from around the country to our beautiful State,” said Sorrell. “I am particularly proud to share the agenda with Vermonters who have earned national reputations for excellence in their respective professions.”WHEN & WHERE:Tuesday, June 21 at noon through June 23 until 3:45 p.m.Hilton Burlington, 60 Battery Street, Burlington, VT 05401Open sessions will be videotaped and posted to the NAAG website, www.naag.org(link is external), the same day as presented.Vermont AG: June 13, 2016last_img read more

UVM Health Network employs new treatment for heart valve leak

first_imgby Harold Dauerman, MD, UVM You may have a leaking heart if your mitral valve is damaged. What is the mitral valve you ask? It’s located between the left atrium (where blood enters the heart from the lungs) and the left ventricle of the heart (which pumps the blood to your entire body). Mitral valve regurgitation means that your mitral valve is letting blood leak backward into the atrial chamber of the heart. How Heart Valves WorkHeart valves work like one-way gates, helping blood flow in one direction between heart chambers and out of the heart. The mitral valve is on the left side of your heart. It lets blood flow from the upper to the lower heart chamber. See a picture of mitral valve regurgitation(link is external). When the mitral valve is damaged – for example, by an infection or with aging – it may no longer close tightly. This lets blood leak backward, or regurgitate, into the upper chamber. Your heart has to work harder to pump this extra blood. Small leaks are usually not a problem. More severe cases weaken the heart over time and can lead to heart failure(link is external). There are two types of mitral regurgitation:Harold Dauerman, MD (Photo: LCOM Creative Services)Primary regurgitation means there is a problem with the anatomy of the valve. The valve does not work well and does not close tightly. This might happen due to calcium buildup on the valve. It can also happen in people who have mitral valve prolapse(link is external). Secondary regurgitation means another heart problem causes the valve to not close tightly. The anatomy of the valve is typically normal. The heart problem, for example cardiomyopathy (Heart failure due to a weak heart muscle, such as from a viral infection), affects the heart muscle, and this causes regurgitation.Symptoms of Mitral Valve RegurgitationSymptoms of mitral valve regurgitation include being tired or short of breath when you are active. If your heart weakens because of your mitral valve, you may start to have symptoms of heart failure. Call your doctor if you start to have symptoms or if your symptoms change.Symptoms include:Shortness of breath with activity, which later develops into shortness of breath at rest and at night.Extreme tiredness and weakness.A buildup of fluid in the legs and feet, called edema(link is external).New Treatment Option for PatientsThe MitraClip device is a small clip that treats mitral regurgitation. It allows your mitral valve to close more completely, helping to restore normal blood flow through your heart.Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR) is a new treatment option for high risk patients with severe mitral regurgitation due to a primary structural cause of mitral valve leak.In 2013, the FDA approved a device called Mitraclip(link is external), a small clip that is attached to your mitral valve. We access the mitral valve with a thin tube (called a catheter) that is guided through a vein in your leg to reach your heart. Once placed, the clip closes the leaky valve.More than 25,000 patients have been treated worldwide and have seen improvement in heart failure related symptoms. The UVM Health Network started offering this treatment option in January 2017. It is for patients deemed appropriate by our heart team, including a cardiac surgeon, heart failure specialist, and interventional cardiologist. We very recently treated a 90-year-old, referred from Copley Hospital. He had lifestyle-limiting congestive failure. We found that he had severe mitral regurgitation. He was also a high risk for surgery, so we advised MitraClip as it is less invasive. Eighteen hours after the valve repair, he was smiling from his hospital bed.This minimally invasive therapy complements and expands the surgical and medical treatment options already being offered to patients with this high risk disease.Harold Dauerman, M.D., is an interventional cardiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and professor of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. He is the author of the information, below, which originally appeared on the UVM Medical Center blog and can also be found here(link is external).last_img read more

Vermont AG joins amicus brief opposing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Attorney General Thomas J Donovan, Jr, joined a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief with the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, challenging an Ohio state law that would defund Planned Parenthood and other health service providers that perform or promote abortions. The attorneys general argue that the Ohio law violates the First Amendment and Due Process Clause. The law unconstitutionally prohibits state funding of health care providers that perform abortions. This infringes on plaintiffs’ right to free speech, plaintiffs’ right to provide access to abortion services, and their clients’ right to receive such services.Attorney General Donovan said: “Women have a constitutional right to make their own healthcare decisions. Health care providers should not be forced to choose between honoring women’s constitutional rights and continuing to provide other essential health services.”The amicus brief, filed last night, was led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and signed by a total of 16 Attorneys General: Vermont, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.Click here to read the amicus brief.(link is external)The brief highlights the fact that, since 2009 alone, at least 15 states have passed laws or taken executive actions to prohibit family-planning and other public-health funds from being awarded to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other providers of abortion services. Such efforts to cut funding are specifically directed to support services that have nothing to do with abortion. Similarly, congressional Republicans have sought to defund abortion service providers as part of their unsuccessful bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While this measure is on hold for now, Congress has also passed a resolution that encourages states to pass defunding measures. Congress’ resolution also repealed a Department of Health and Human Services rule that prohibits states from denying federally funded family-planning grants for reasons unrelated to the entity’s ability to provide family-planning services.Ohio’s law was enjoined by the federal district court before it could take effect. The Ohio law would prohibit the State from awarding public-health grants to providers who perform or promote safe and legal abortions, even though the grants have nothing to do with abortion services. Those grants instead provide funds for other health services, such as education to prevent violence against women, screening for breast and cervical cancer, HIV and AIDS prevention, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and infant mortality prevention.The attorneys general seek to ensure the availability of safe abortion services and other important public health services from accessible providers in each of their states. The attorneys general will protect the right of providers to engage in constitutionally-protected activity.Vermont AG: April 6, 2017last_img read more