3-1-14 – School District Consolidation is a Blatant Power Grab

by Stu Lindberg

Vermont’s House of Representatives education committee is working on legislation, H.544. ,that will drastically change how our public schools are governed. Local school boards will be eliminated and replaced with regional appointed boards. This massive restructuring is being done in to “improve outcomes for students and creating greater efficiency in reporting to the state and federal government.”

The online newspaper, Vermont Digger, says, “Lawmakers make no promises about cost savings. Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, chair of House education committee, supports the new governance system and she says it could lead to better cost effectiveness over time.” “I think it’s accountability for taxpayers; I think it’s more accountability for students, and so I think we’ll see where we’ll go with it,” Donovan said.

No cost savings for taxpayers? But accountability for the taxpayers and for the students? Really? Sounds like political doubletalk to me. So why the need to restructure our governance system at all? Control and power. This legislation constitutes a blatant power grab by the ruling elite in Montpelier. It is yet another ferocious attack on local self governance that Vermonters used to cherish so deeply. It is also quite clearly a swift and decisive move that creates taxation without representation. Our town and union schools were built with the hard earned tax dollars of citizens. These schools continue to operate on these tax dollars. Locally elected school boards provide for responsive and immediate accountability for how our children are educated and how these tax dollars are spent. These boards allow for the maximum amount of ownership of schools by taxpayers. This tyrannical legislation eliminates representation and further reduces financial accountability.

Even Carol Brigham, of the famed Brigham decision and subsequent Act 60, is quoted quite recently in the Rutland Herald, saying “Bottom line, this bill is a fast track to silencing local voices and closing small schools.” In 1997, Mrs. Brigham was Vermont’s poster child for faith in big government. The 1997 Brigham Decision and ACT 60 stripped local control of education finance from the towns and consolidated control over our educational tax dollars into the hands of state government. This was done in the name of making education financing “fair” for all Vermont’s school children. There exists a popular but illogical assumption that big government is capable of making everything “fair”.

The amount of money now being spent on education in Vermont is around 1.6 billion dollars. This equates to a lot of power. Money is power and power corrupts. History is abundant with examples of what happens when the people blindly hand authority of their money to big government. More often than not big government ends up dictating to the people what kind of choices they can have. The end result is no choice, no freedom and no liberty. Since the passage of Act 60 our elected state representatives and state senators have been steadily eroding the authority of local boards with poor results. The results are expensive state and federal mandates, stagnant student test scores and skyrocketing property taxes, all of which the boards have little control over.

Please call your local state representatives and state senators and tell them to oppose H.544. Remember there is an election in November. Your vote can make real difference.

Stu Lindberg is an Ethan Allen Institute Member and serves on the school board in Cavendish, Vermont.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy Gregg March 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Is this proposed restructuring into districts based on a working model somewhere? If not, all it is is a distraction. Both Vermont League of Cities & Towns and Campaign For Vermont have provided tangible and real solutions with numbers that show taxpayer savings, as well as increased student opportunities, and why our legislators and the governor refuse to consider these recommendations is a complete mystery. On second thought, maybe they just do not want anyone messing with their cash cow.

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Milan Miller April 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Please consider signing an on-line petition found at https://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/defend-local-education-in-vermont

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