Vt. board of education chooses side in consolidation debate - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. board of education chooses side in consolidation debate

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Tuesday, representatives considered a range of miscellaneous changes to Vermont education laws, but soon they'll ponder a complete reframing of the system's structure, scrapping supervisory unions and cutting the number of school districts from more than 200 to between 40 and 55.

Proponents say consolidation would level educational opportunities, while opponents worry it would steamroll local control. The board lent its support to a Statehouse consolidation plan, but the body could act unilaterally on another issue after it withered in the Legislature

"We made it that every district will be universal that they will be responsible for educating the children within their districts," said Rep. Johanna Donovan, D-Burlington. 

By the afternoon, the state board of education voted strongly in favor of the plan. Supporters say larger districts will allow for more efficient management and should equalize educational opportunity.

Only one member present dissented, voicing concern that consolidation would limit local control. The board does not have the power to institute the governance change on its own, but it does for another issue new proposed requirements for Vermont's independent schools.

Earlier this year, senators shot down measures forcing independent schools to hire licensed teachers, have fully open admissions and offer all special education services.

The Senate's education committee replaced the proposals with a two-year moratorium preventing public schools from going independent.

"The two-year moratorium passed the Senate, what will happen in the House, we just don't know," said Bill Mathis, a state education board member.

But now, the non-elected members of the state board, all of whom serve at the will of the governor, are considering inserting similar mandates into certification rules.

The House is expected to act on the moratorium, but if they don't the board will still have its chance to change the rules.


The push for a moratorium stems from a North Bennington school's recent conversion, only the second such transition in more than a decade.
Last year legislators formed a study committee to examine the issue, but the report authored by former Education Secretary Armando Villasecca, was roundly criticized for only representing his perspective and not that of the full group.


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