Editor’s note: This commentary is by Eric L. Davis, who is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College. It was first published in the Addison Independent on Dec. 10, 2015.
The consolidated school districts required by Act 46 are a threat to the values of democracy, local control and sense of place in small towns all over Vermont.
The legislative process that led up to the enactment of Act 46 last spring was not sufficiently thorough. The key parts of the law were written in haste at the end of the session. Members of the Legislature did not have enough time to consider the consequences of the bill, both intended and unintended.
What started out as an attempt to deal with increasing property taxes morphed into an attempt to improve educational opportunity by creating larger school districts. However, there is no consistent evidence, either from Vermont or from consolidation efforts in other states, that larger school districts will result either in decreased property taxes over the long term, or in improved educational outcomes for students.
Larger districts will seriously detract from the important Vermont values of local control and local participation in governance. The proposed Addison Central district is a good example. Currently, there are eight elected school boards in the seven towns within the district: one district-wide board for the middle school and high school, and one local school board for each town’s elementary school.
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