A cadre of Act 46 opponents has sent a five-page appeal to every candidate for Vermont office and to school board members across the state, calling for lawmakers to “hit the pause button” on school district consolidation under that 2015 law.
“It is time for a one-year pause on Act 46 mandates before more communities take the irrevocable step of dissolving their school districts — especially those pursuing mergers for the temporary tax breaks or because they’ve been told that the State Board of Education will force consolidation if they do not do so themselves. A one-year break will also give the understaffed Agency of Education a chance to sort through problems, prepare a public accounting of Act 46 to date, and develop success measures,” states the recently released document.
“Seven Problems with Act 46” is not signed because it was meant to be from the nonprofit Vermonters for Schools and Communities, according to Margaret MacLean, who heads the group. It organize...
On Nov. 8, voters in Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro will face important choices. One of those choices concerns our schools: How to vote on school district consolidation (Act 46).
This question is complex. There are reasons to vote “yes” (short-term tax incentives; the hope of budget savings; the possibility of freeing up the superintendent’s time to focus less on school board meetings), and also some reasons to vote “no” (the tax incentives are relatively small and only last for four years; the projected budget savings that might result from consolidation are minimal and may not happen).
I’ve decided to vote “No” on the question. These are the reasons:
The proposed school district consolidation is likely to decrease, rather than increase, transparency and accountability (two of the main goals of Act 46). Decisions about everything from budgets to staffing, which now benefit from the oversight of community-level boards...
Three legislators have told the State Board of Education it misinterpreted Act 46 and needs to build more flexibility into its proposed rules for an alternative pathway for school districts to merge under the law.
“I think the State Board of Education has misinterpreted the Legislature’s intent,” said Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington. “I read the draft rules. I was there when we debated the legislation, and I have talked to people in my community. I think it is fair to say that the board has misinterpreted what the Legislature intended.” Pollina did not vote for or support Act 46 when it was passed in 2015.
His co-authors on the Tuesday letter to education officials are Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, who chairs the Education Committee, and Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais.
In their letter to Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and state board Chair Stephan Morse, the legislators took issue with the Education Agency’s insistence in its guidance that the preferred merg...
While we appreciate your efforts to provide further guidance on alternative models under Act 46, we do not believe the “Draft Rule on Proposals for Alternative Structures Under Act 46” is consistent with the provisions of Act 46. We respectfully ask that you revise the Draft Rule so that it reflects the Legislature’s determination that Act 46 is not a “one size fits all” approach.
The Draft Rule claims that the goals of Act 46 are always “best met by a school district organized and operating as a Preferred Structure.” That is not what Act 46 says. Section 5a of Act 46 identifies one model of governance as “preferred” over other models, but Section 5b explicitly recognizes that the “preferred” model “may not be . . . the best model” for a particular district. The Legislature then specifically authorizes the use of an “alternative” model wherever such a model would better meet the goals of Act 46.