Vt. lawmakers look at fewer school districts - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers look at fewer school districts

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The Green Mountain State contains nearly 300 school districts, but a bill being drafted by the House Education Committee could merge them into dozens-- or even less-- and replace the supervisory unions by 2019.

Those working closest with the measure say local councils, similar to a model used in Massachusetts, would allow residents to give input on schools.

A draft outlines objectives to be met, with many of the specifics for the planned transition left to be figured out by a working group.

"We need to do this so that our children can stay in Vermont and thrive," said Vt. Education Secretary, Rebecca Holcombe.

Holcombe also says Vermont struggles to collect education data because each community handles things differently. She says that more standardization will make it easier to determine what works and what doesn't, from curriculum to management. She notes the system needs to be as flexible as future workers.

"We need to train our children to reason from evidence to manage their own learning, to think creatively, to continue to reinvent themselves for the dynamic economic future they're entering," said Holcombe.

Lawmakers say they're only focused on outcomes for students. Despite promises of reduced redundancy, there's no promise of reduced cost. Number crunchers don't even have an estimate.

"When we know a little bit more about what you have in mind, we'll go to work and try to give you some more information," said Bill Talbott of the Vermont Department of Education.

"As an economist I know we have excess capacity in our educational system. I think it's a difficult decision to determine who's going to shrink," said Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington.

Critics of the measure concede the state needs to act at some point, but worry about a loss of local control and casting a vote for a plan without a defined form.

That doesn't deter proponents who say they've done their homework.

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