On June 1, 2018, the Vermont Secretary of Education Issued a statewide plan in which she responded to 83 individual school districts who applied in 43 Alternative Governance applications.
37 districts were recommended for forced merger. 36 had no recommendation. 10 districts were set aside for later evaluation.
As articulated by Vermonters for Schools and Communities in our “Unfair and Unwise” document (available at www.vtschoolsrock.org) the secretary did not in her June 1st plan recommend any alternative applications to the State Board of Education for approval.
Therefore, it is significant that the Table of Decision Points document published by the Agency of Education on September 19th shows a specific language change.
In listing the 36 districts on which no recommendation was made in the June plan, the Secretary now refers to them as AGREED.
One of the primary reasons we relocated to Vermont was to have our daughter attend a small local school where they knew her name and personally knew and cared about her. Not as a dollar amount to a school budget bottom line, we were searching for community and we found it at Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River.
Our daughter has health issues. A rare condition called periodic fever syndrome left her burning up with fever and pain plus joint swelling once a month. Ehler Danlos, a connective tissue disease, imposed a continuous wave of muscle/joint pain and easy dislocations doing what we take for granted daily.
We lived in Illinois and Illinois schools tested out as competent but the class size, pace, lack of close community and a willingness to work with a special needs child was lacking. We moved to Vermont based on the reputation of its small inclusive school system.
From Day 1 Blue Mountain Union school was different. No interviews shuffling paperwork and frowning at imposed extra...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rep. Jim Masland, of Thetford Center, a Democrat who represents the Windsor-Orange 2 district in the Vermont House of Representatives.
To the State Board of Education:
Throughout Vermont’s history, our economy has transformed itself numerous times. From potash to timber, from sheep to marble and granite, from machine tools and copper to maple sugar and dairy, and to computer chips, composites and aerospace manufacturing. While the means of earning a living and building Vermont’s economy have changed, what has remained integral to who we are as Vermonters has been our deep sense of community.
As employment becomes more and more urban based, small towns are under assault from market forces beyond their control. That does not diminish, however, Vermonters commitment to each other within the towns in which they live and raise their families. You must recognize that the school is almost always the locus from which community involvement and participation gro...
Irecently thought of an ad campaign I am thinking of pitching to the state:
COME MOVE TO BEAUTIFUL VERMONT — WHERE YOUR VOTE
on local issues DOESN’T count!
The state has recently begun a campaign to get young, “e-workers,” who can work at their job via the internet, to move to Vermont by offering a $10,000 incentive to do so.
Unfortunately, one of the key things that has been attractive about living in Vermont is being undermined. I believe that what will really attract young people to Vermont (besides the obvious natural beauty) is that the ideals Vermont has always held dear — are now becoming more desirable by many young people. There is in the larger culture a recognition of the importance of strong local communities. This is especially true as it relates to the local food movement, in which Vermont has been a national leader. But this also applies to the desire of many young people (in this age of Trump) to have a voice in their governance – and, of course, in how their children are...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Scott Thompson, of Calais, who is a U-32 board member, Act 46 survivor, and recovering elitist.
If you have had better things to do over the summer than follow the latest plot twists in the saga of Act 46 (the 2015 law promoting school district consolidation in Vermont) — and I hope you have — you may not be aware that the Scott administration is proposing to force mergers on districts where consolidation will do demonstrable harm.
The battle lines are starkly drawn between the Agency of Education’s forced consolidation plan and the loyal opposition’s riposte, “Unfair and Unwise.” I urge you to check out what could be happening to you, or to a neighbor near you. The stakes are much higher than commonly thought.
I’ve been reading about the “Vicious Act” of 1892. That’s the law Vermont legislators passed a century ago mandating consolidation of all school districts within a town to a single district. The law was not popular.
Vermont is now dealing with a similar law that some feel is the Vicious Act of 2015 – Act 46, the school governance law that mandates further consolidation of town school districts. The legislature may have felt that consolidation makes sense. And the impact for some towns may very well be benign. But for others, it is not.
The way the law has worked to date is to transfer significant resources, through incentives, to merged districts. Many of the merged districts are in the more urban areas of the state. Rural areas help to pay for these incentives through Education Fund dollars.
Montpelier — Representatives of the Blue Mountain Union High School community carried a blunt message to the state Board of Education on Wednesday: Force us to merge, and we’ll close the school.
The contingent of roughly 50 people wearing blue and gold “We Choose BMU” T-Shirts were among a few lively groups of Upper Valley educators, parents and students who went to the Statehouse to argue against mandatory mergers.
In June, the Vermont Agency of Education released a 189-page report that recommended forcible mergers for 18 school districts, including one that would compel Blue Mountain Union District (Groton, Ryegate and Wells River) to join the Bradford Elementary School District, the Newbury School District and the Oxbow Union High School District to form a single unified union school district that would teach approximately 1,000 students from pre-K through grade 12.
Forced mergers proposed under Act 46 rely on misleading data, represent executive overreach, and dismiss the Legislature’s intent in writing the law, a grassroots group argues in a new report released Wednesday.
Vermonters for Schools and Communities released “Unfair and Unwise” at a press conference during a State Board of Education meeting in the Statehouse where board members heard from dozens of school officials livid about compelled mergers proposed by the state’s Agency of Education.
Margaret MacLean, a retired Vermont principal, education consultant and former member of the State Board of Education, dismissed the plan in a speech to a small audience of two dozen people.
“The Secretary of Education’s plan regarding involuntary mergers misguides the State Board of Education, violates the law, and damages public education,” MacLean said.
BARRE — Those who fear the state Board of Education is itching to rubber-stamp a draft plan for dealing with school districts that haven’t voluntarily merged under Act 46 should have stayed to the end of Wednesday’s meeting at the State House.
After a session that spanned nearly nine hours and featured a parade of presentations from merger-averse school officials and residents around the region, board members ended the meeting by balking at one agency recommendation and openly hinting that could be the beginning of a trend.
After requesting — but refusing to require — that officials in the Barre Supervisory Union alter their plans to hold a November merger vote, board members predicted that probably won’t be the last time they ignore the advice of the Agency of Education while navigating the last leg of what Chairwoman Krista Huling described as a “historic” process.
“This is a heavy lift,” Huling said in a near-empty room that had been filled to capacity for much of the day. “It hasn’t b...
NEWARK – Residents from Franklin and Highgate followed the State Board of Education to their meeting in Newark Wednesday morning to protest a recommended Act 46 merger that could, pending the education board’s decision, forcibly merge their schools with Swanton to create a Missisquoi Valley Unified School District.
Act 46 created a multi-year process in which districts were encouraged to merge to their governance with neighboring districts with the goal of reducing administrative overhead and improving educational opportunities. Districts which did not do so risked being ordered to merge by the state.