Multiple Choice: The Price And Cost Of Education

During the 2018-2019 school year, VPR's Howard Weiss-Tisman will follow the West River Modified Union Education District and file reports as the school district tries to navigate this change and uncertainty. In the course of the project, we'll meet the families, school staff and community members who make the whole deal work, every day.

People sit in chairs at Jamaica Town Meeting and look up to a group of people sitting at a table at a stage in the front of the room.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

There’s been a lot of focus on the school districts that are fighting forced mergers, and what they would do about passing a budget this year.

But even in the districts that have successfully merged, Act 46 churned up some strong emotions on Town Meeting Day.

Students seated in the gym of Jamaica Elementary School.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Debates about school district consolidations elicit strong feelings, on every side of the issue.

Opponents of Act 46 say it is destroying small communities. Supporters say it’s the only way to address declining enrollment and cut costs.

But for smaller schools in newly merged districts, the reality is often more nuanced.

Neil Pelsue, standing outside, looking at the camera.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Homeowners often complain about property taxes. But efforts to curb property tax increases by consolidating control of schools doesn't sound too appealing, either. This school year VPR reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman is following the West River school district in Southern Vermont to understand how it deals with the budget process and consolidation questions. The following story is an installment in that series.

Two Townshend Elementary School students sit at a table.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

State government almost shut down earlier this year, and the fight was largely over education funding.

And all of those debates in Montpelier, and negotiations over taxes and education costs? They’re all rooted in the decisions that local school boards make around this time of year.

The exterior of Townshend Elementary School on a blue-sky day.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Vermont’s public education system is at a crossroads — and school districts across the state are trying to determine a way forward in order to provide a 21st-century education to students in a rural state with declining enrollment.