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.
NEWARK, Vt. — During a State Board of Education meeting in Newark last Wednesday, schoolboards and community members from Montgomery and Sheldon protested the acting Secretary of Education recommendation that they merge with the now unified Berkshire-Bakersfield school district.
Passed in 2015, Act 46 created a multi-year process that encouraged school districts to voluntarily merge with neighboring districts to reduce administrative spending and improve educational outcomes. Districts could forego voluntary mergers with the understanding that the state might order them to merge in the future.
The Vermont State Board of Education has supervision over, and management of, the Agency of Education and the public school system, except as otherwise provided by law. The powers and duties of the board include making regulations governing: attendance and records of attendance of all pupils; standards for student performance, adult basic education programs, approval of independent schools, disbursement of funds, and equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education.
Ninety school districts - about a quarter of Vermont’s communities - have proposed meeting Act 46’s goals through collaboration rather than formal merger.
In some, topography makes merger unworkable. In others, merging with differing debt levels would create inequitable burdens on the towns least able to pay. But all advocate for accessible, equitable rural education.
They’ve all responded within the law. All are convinced they’ll meet students’ needs as well, or better, by retaining community-level governance. They simply don’t accept a trade-off between children and community—they argue that one cannot possibly thrive without the other.