John In Vermont, voters will decide next week whether to okay the largest public school reorganization in 125 years. A new ballot measure would merge smaller schools and do away with perks that let parents use tax dollars to send their kids to private schools, even in Canada. Opposition is fierce, but advocates say it’ll cut costs and strengthen public schools. John Tulenko of Education Week reports
Cabot School School was recognized as the best school in Vermont by U.S. News.
High school students in Vermont are tested via the Smarter Balanced Assessments, according to the Vermont Agency of Education. Students in Vermont may be able to receive discounted tuition at out-of-state public colleges in New England through the Regional Student Program Tuition Break.
In the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, there are seven silver medal schools and six bronze medals schools in Vermont. The state also has two schools that earned gold medals.
Polls consistently show that American parents generally favor their children’s neighborhood school and think it’s performing pretty well — whatever their opinion of public education nationally. Such attitudes help to explain why in many communities school consolidation and closings create discontent and political divisions.
That’s the case in Vermont, where there’s anxiety about how Act 46, which gives considerable power to the state, will play out. The school reform law enacted last year encourages — or mandates, depending on your viewpoint — schools and districts to combine in order to achieve more efficiency at less cost. The law is yet another attempt by the Legislature to check rising school budgets in a state where enrollments are falling.
Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe says the Vernon School Board has no legal authority to withdraw the school district or its statutorily appointed members from the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Act 46 study committee.
“The Vernon School Board’s recent vote neither dissolves the Study Committee nor affects the nature of its work. If the Study Committee ultimately decides to recommend formation of a union school district then it may choose to name the Vernon School District either as a ‘necessary district’ or as an ‘advisable district,'” Holcombe wrote to the WSESU, “even if Vernon’s appointees choose not to continue to participate.”
Savings of $1 million associated with the “accelerated” merger, expected by some school officials but doubted by others, is now off the table. That pathway would have consolidated all districts within the supervisory...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by David F. Kelley, an attorney and a co-founder of Project Harmony (now PH International) who is a member of the Hazen Union School Board.
Students from wealthy families have always had school choice. Most students from poor families and even middle class families have not. But for over a century, in 90-some-odd small, rural towns throughout Vermont, school choice has been a great equalizer. From years of coaching high school debate I have come to appreciate the importance of choice in towns like Stannard, Walden and Wolcott. Act 46 is jeopardizing that tradition, and people need to understand the law if they want to save it.
Windham 4 Rep Mike Mrowicki hosts Marlboro School Board member Dan MacArthur, Westminster School Board member Rick Gordon, Dummerston School Board member Kristina Maylor, and Vernon School Board Chair and Windham 1 Rep Mike Hebert for a roundtable discussion of Act 46 and its impact on the region.
As a Woodbury Elementary school board member and an Act 46 study committee member, I recently visited the four other elementary schools in our supervisory union. One of the most striking things I noticed seems overly simple at first: geography matters. All five schools are within a short distance of each other, yet are physically laid out in varying designs, built in different eras, and led by principals unique in background, personality and vision, creating individual physical schools with distinct climates that reflect the varied terrain of the towns. One school is beside a lake, another on a hillside.
Perhaps what most impressed me was that where a child attends a school significantly shapes that child’s education. While I’m profoundly sympathetic to the impetus to equalize educational opportunities for Vermont children, I have to question the wisdom of the current trend to...