Judge declines injunction in forced school mergers

Published: Mar. 5, 2019 at 10:33 AM EST
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A Franklin County judge has declined to temporarily stop the process of forced school mergers under Act 46.

The lawsuit was filed against the state board of education following a decision in November to move ahead with forced mergers for many districts that had not voluntarily done so.

Opponents of school consolidation have argued that the law passed in 2015 is unconstitutional and that the state board never had the authority to redraw school districts.

Although not ruling on the substance of the case, the judge said the process should not be delayed.

"The Plaintiffs have not shown a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits of their claim that the Board's actions in implementing Acts 46 and 49 are unconstitutional, and their claims of irreparable harm are speculative,"Judge Mello wrote. "The factors of potential harm to others and public interest appear at best neutral: Even assuming the Plaintiffs will suffer some relevant harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction, the current record suggest that the issuance of a preliminary injunction also may adversely affect others who are not party to the suit."

Dozens of Vermont school districts have been in limbo as they awaited the court's decision. In special meetings last month, some voters opted to delay selecting new unified school boards until the case was decided, holding up critical budgeting and hiring decisions.

Although the case continues to move forward, some are now looking to Vermont lawmakers for a remedy. A bill to delay the forced mergers of some school districts has already been approved by the Vermont House and is awaiting action in the Senate.