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.
The Draft Rule also provides that an alternative model must meet a set of rigid requirements before it can be approved. Again, that is not what Act 46 says. To the contrary, Act 46 imposes no specific requirements on alternative models. This was intentional—while Act 46 creates incentives to merge districts, it is ultimately up to each town to decide which structure is best for its students and its citizens.The state should step in only if a town is failing to meet the goals of Act 46, and fails to choose one of the options under the law.
After all, what is “best” for a particular district depends on a number of factors, many of which are best known by residents of the district. Section 5b of Act 46 lists some factors that may lead towns to conclude that an alternative model is best, but ultimately leaves that choice to the towns. The Draft Rule, by contrast, mandates rigid requirements that must be met for an alternative model to be accepted. This goes far beyond the sprit and letter of Act 46.
Our concerns are not merely hypothetical. Representatives from the five towns within the Washington Central Supervisory Union (Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Worcester) have spent countless hours over the last year studying consolidation and are at an impasse regarding the “preferred” model. Work is being done on an alternative model that aims to take the best parts of the “preferred” model and adapt them to local concerns.
That is exactly why the Legislature created an alternative model when Act 46 was adopted. One size does not fit all, and there are districts—like Washington Central—where an alternative model may work better, with far greater community support, than the consolidated model. Instead of creating roadblocks, the Draft Rule should facilitate these types of creative solutions.
For these reasons, we respectfully request that you reconsider the Draft Rule and replace it with a model that allows flexibility in how our schools are governed, as Act 46 envisions.
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