State Education Board To Consider Act 46 Merger Plans For 3 Districts
Under the state's Act 46 school consolidation law, districts are being asked to form study committees and then submit merger plans to the State Board of Education for approval.
State Board Chairman Stephan Morse says he's encouraged by the start, but he understands it'll take a lot more work to have every district in the state sign on to a consolidation plan.
"This is the first time since the 1890s that there's been a major reform in the governance structure of Vermont's educational system," Morse says. "It's huge. And I think both legislators and the State Board, as well as the agency, can fully appreciate the difficulty that some areas are going to have pulling this together."
After the State Board approves a plan, it goes before voters in each town for final approval.
The state's school consolidation law creates three different tracks for districts to follow as they attempt to create larger supervisory unions.
Under the accelerated plan, districts that have town-approved plans in place before July 1, 2016 and are operational before July 1, 2017 receive significant tax breaks from the state.
"This is the first time since the 1890s that there's been a major reform in the governance structure of Vermont's educational system ... [We] fully appreciate the difficulty that some areas are going to have pulling this together." - Stephan Morse, State Board of Education chairman
Phase two seeks to create supervisory unions with at least 1,250 average daily students or four districts, with plans in place before July 1, 2017 and operational districts working before July 1, 2019.
Under phase three the remaining districts will be expected to have at least 900 average daily students, and the new district does not have to be contiguous.
"School board members in districts have taken this new legislation very seriously and they're aggressively working on it," Morse says. "As time goes on, geographically, its going to be more difficult for different schools to get together, that's why the legislation allowed up until to June 30, 2019 to get all of this done."
There are currently 23 active study committee working across the state ands Morse says he expects there to be between 10 and 15 plans up for votes under the accelerated merger structure.
The State Board of Education might hold an extra meeting in January to consider additional mergers.