Vermonters debate school district consolidation - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters debate school district consolidation

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The number of Vermont school districts could soon be slashed. House Education Committee Chairwoman Joey Donovan says that right now with more than 270 districts, there is too much governance. She's backing a new plan that would reduce districts across the state to about 50 and completely eliminate supervisory unions.

The measure aims to cut administrative costs, standardize management practices and streamline curriculum.

Donovan said, "I think we've heard there's a need in Vermont to ensure excellence and good outcomes for kids, but we do have to start looking at a different governing system."

A community hearing Wednesday at the Statehouse allowed taxpayers to voice their opinions on the bill in front of the education and ways and means committees.

Feelings were mixed. Those in favor of the bill say it will put all students on an equal playing field and cut administrative costs.

"Decision-making would be simplified with one board instead of four, sharing staff would be easier if employees all belonged to the same district, budgeting and accounting would be simplified," said Grant Giesler, the former president of the Vermont Association of School Business Officials.

Many opposed argue a consolidated structure would lead to leadership that's out of touch with the needs of individual communities, would be bad news for the local control, and may not save a whole lot of money.

One opponent said, "I think what we would lose with H.883 is a real connection with our communities."

Opponent Diane Payton of Lunenburg said, "These children aren't yours. They don't belong to the state. They don't belong to anyone else except the parents and grandparents and families who have them. And their right is to choose at any grade for any reason the school they want."

And time is of the essence for the bill; it still needs to pass the House and the Senate. But Donovan says that while their timeline is short, she thinks the issues raised by the bill are important enough to warrant quick movement.

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