Act 46 asks questions about education quality, equity and cost. But unless the legislature repairs its flaws, its biggest impact may be on democracy.
Schools are where we spend the majority of locally collected tax dollars. And here, we entrust what’s most precious to us - our children - to a public system. So it’s no wonder that participating in decisions around schools is the most organic and powerful way for adults to discover their role in public life.
And schools function best when the community is involved. The future of public education depends on citizens who are willing to pay for education - with their time, wisdom and dollars. For this, we need their democratic engagement.
But one of the unintended consequences of Act 46 is to move engagement out of reach of the average Vermonter.
Here’s one example. Although Vermont women hold only 1 in 5 select board or city council positions, women hold over half the seats on Vermont’s school boards. It’s extraordinary civic and leadership training for women.
But Act 46 calls for local school boards to be replaced by fewer, regional boards. In fact, it could result in the elimination of some 2/3 of Vermont’s school board positions. Goodbye to Vermont women’s most important entryway into public life.
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