Jeffrey Francis from the Vermont Superintendents Association wrote an op-ed piece in the Tuesday Reformer in which he espouses the virtues of Vermont's new Act 46. I would like to point out a few things that make implementation of the act difficult and make its goals hard to accomplish.
The first is a simple calculation that I believe the Legislature should have provided: the cost per pupil analysis done for the act is based on the average loss of students throughout the state, which is about 2 percent fewer kids each year. However, many districts are not losing students and some are gaining students. These trends are cyclical but it would have cost the state only pennies to look at individual districts and make a slightly more sophisticated analysis of their population trends. We are now doing this in my school district and I encourage others whose schools are growing to find ways to assess their actual growth rates because these drastically affect...
This commentary is by David F. Kelley, an attorney and a co-founder of Project Harmony (now PH International) who is chair of the Hazen Union School Board and coach of the debate team there and at Craftsbury Academy.
The authors of Act 46 said their goals were: 1. educational equity, 2. academic excellence, 3. efficiency, and 4. transparency. Only the Grinch who stole Christmas would oppose those goals.
But there is a serious disconnect between those goals and what Act 46 actually does. Act 46 does not reward equity. Act 46 does not reward academic excellence. It doesn’t reward efficiency, transparency or even making voters happy. Act 46 rewards school districts that adopt Montpelier’s “preferred structure.” Act 46 tells school districts we are going to give you money (and we’ll take it out of the state education fund) if you centralize your governance and adopt our “preferred stru...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Chaunce Benedict, of Swanton, who served in Vermont schools for 37 years as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent.
Act 46 supporters have been busy continually retelling us — over and over — the happy Act 46 bedtime story. In the retellings there are celebrations, claims of validation and assertions that “it’s working.” Indeed some mergers have been forged; many in locations where merger work was already underway. Oh, so happy.
Yet experiences with Act 46 in scores of communities are highlighting a very different story: a very unhappy one. Not the “communities are having a wonderful talk about the future of their schools” story. Not the “Let’s face our challenges and in the process strike a blow for democracy” story and not the “Hooray for the enlightened communities that said yes” and, “They’ve taken the opportunity to forge a new path toward amazingly improved and efficient 21st century schooling” stories.
Margaret MacLean, a Peacham resident, is a former Vermont Principal of the Year and former member of the state Board of Education. She is a member of the steering committee for Vermonters for Schools and Communities www.vtschoolsrock.organd a member of the local Peacham self-study group (www.peachamact46.org).
The Vermont state motto, “Freedom and Unity,” is synonymous with how Vermont’s rural towns and communities operate.
When it comes to schooling, we shine when we think locally and balance freedom and unity. Thousands of volunteers serve on school boards, adding value at virtually no cost to our system of education. They are a valuable piece of Vermont’s social fabric that connects our schools and communities. Without the sense of community ownership and voice they ensure, schools could become disconnected from community life, run by a distant bureaucracy.
The construct of the supervisory union is an example. Local school boards with the support of pri...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rick Gordon, PhD., who is a member of the Westminster School Board.
Somehow lost in the whole discussion of Act 46 is the question of what are the real benefits of merging and what are the costs? The main arguments for merging are the short term incentives given from the state, as expressed by the Superintendent of Washington West Supervisory Union, “Even though many may have concerns about consolidation, the tax incentives offered appear to be too great to ignore.”
Secretary of Education Holcombe has stated these incentives are merely offsets to cover the cost of merging. And who will pay for all these “offsets”? With no funding mechanism in Act 46, the cost of merging and all its “incentives” will fall on all of us taxpayers.
The problem Act 46 was intended to address was decreasing student numbers in Vermont and the related high cost per pupil cost of education. It is unclear how merging districts would address decreasing enrollm...
Since education has so much power over the future of our civilization, much care needs to be taken to design a system which encourages the public good. The philosophy of Vermont's education system is expressed in the goals of Act 46. However, the governance structure is inconsistent with its goals. Reacting to the prevailing atmosphere of fiscal fear, a system which puts money before children has been imported. The inception of Act 46 seems to be an attempt to find a simple solution for a complex problem without proper consideration of the democratic principles of our society.
A number of recent meetings including people in school districts in many parts of the state have revealed public dissatisfaction, anger, and dismay at the problems created by Act 46. In their efforts to comply with the law, specifically to meet the upcoming deadline for voting in a merger which will receive tax...
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ward Heneveld, Ed.D., who is retired in Enosburgh after a career in education as a teacher, administrator, planner and program officer in Vermont, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and throughout Africa where he first taught in Kenya. He has worked in Vermont as a professor of education, as executive director of a community action agency, and as director of the School for International Training. After more than 10 years at the World Bank he was program officer for the Quality of Education in Developing Countries joint initiative of the William and Flora Hewlett and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.
For the last two years I have followed both the Vermont Legislature and Franklin County’s process to formulate and now implement school district unification according to Act 46. While I agree that unifying town school districts is a good idea, I am voting against the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union’s (FNESU) unificat...