4-20-16 – Sharpe’s  Misrepresentations

John McClaughry

Rep. David Sharpe (D-Bristol), the engineer of the Act 46 school consolidation bill, penned an op ed on Vermont Digger on April 27. Says Sharpe, “Act 46 explicitly prevents the state from requiring towns to close schools or relinquish tax-funded tuition programs at any grade level.”

At first glance, that is arguably true. But the unsaid part is the problem.

Act 46 says, in effect, “You can keep your tuition town choice if you want. Act 46 doesn’t make you give it up! Of course if your voters merge your tuition town into a state-approved unified district that offers K-12 education, your school district disappears. Your kids are now at the mercy of the multi-town unified district board, whose predominant concern will be to require your kids to attend the unified district’s existing K-12 system instead of slipping away to the schools that their parents prefer.”

“You say you don’t want to merge? Well, we’re giving you the chance, and the tax incentives, to get you to see it Our Way. If you don’t take Our offer by 2019, the Secretary of Education will put your kids where they belong, whether you like it or not, and that will be the end of your silly tuition town business. Serves you right.”

I could – with some effort – have some respect for Sharpe if he would come clean on this, instead of denouncing “misrepresentations” that are usually closer to the mark than his own.

Act 46 resulted from property tax outrage, but instead of lower property taxes, Shap Smith and David Sharpe gave taxpayers the Education Establishment’s long sought consolidation mandate, and they happily consigned tuition town school choice to the receptacle for Great Errors of the Past.

 – John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Denault April 30, 2016 at 12:18 am

Exactly right on the money John! Shap Smith and David Sharpe know full well that each Supervisory Union has one school which is smaller than the others. It doesn’t matter if the school in question has 50 students or 250 students and each one is deliberately targeted for eventual closure by Act 46. Smith and Sharpe are fully aware that the declining enrollment they speak of is caused by our States academically failing schools brought about by the implementation of the outrageously defective “Common Core.” Evidence of the chaotic state our schools are in can be realized by Commissioner Holcomb’s recent directive to discontinue the use of SBAC testing, one of the only two Common Core approved student assessments. Holcomb states, the SBAC assessments are unreliable and should not be used in any way to evaluate and make changes in our student’s educational programs. As a result more and more parents across our State are either sending their children to private schools or are homeschooling. Meanwhile, Superintendents have become Act 46 “Cheer Leaders” because of the deal the Vermont Superintendent’s Association made in the beginning to offer their assistance with implementing consolidation legislation in return for the removal of S.194 which was a proposal by Senator Mullin which would have consolidated our 62 Superintendent Offices to 16 for an immediate annual estimated savings of $9 million. The school in the Town in which I live happens to be an award winning high achieving school, with the lowest per pupil cost of all 105 like schools in Vermont! If we are forced to merge our per pupil cost of $11,202.00 will increase to $12,564.00 an increase of $1,367.00. Our six School Board members will be dismissed, replaced with a new consolidated Board consisting of 4 Swanton members, 2 Highgate members, and 1 Franklin member. We will be required to sell our cherished local school to the new Board for $1.00 and we will be reduced to an insignificant member of this new consolidated Board. Now here is the dirty secret about Act 46, the new board will quickly realize they will be able to address declining enrollment and rising per pupil costs problem by simply voting to relocate the 120 Franklin students to the other schools, and return the vacated school building to Franklin for that $1.00 for the citizens to struggle with what to do with the empty building. Furthermore, the relief from having to refund State construction aid, and a percentage of the selling price of the empty school building granted by Act 46(13) will be repealed effective July 1 2017. If our empty school is returned to us after this date, Franklin will become liable for the refund of $311,000.00 in construction aid and a percentage of the selling price to be determined at a later date by the AOE. The thing which is most repulsive however, is all the misleading information we citizens are deliberately receiving. Those “Articles of Agreement” we are being told will protect our schools from closure are not worth the paper they are written on! 16 VSA 706n clearly describes precisely how each and every one of those “Articles of Agreement” can be amended. Perhaps the most egregious legal dilemma is created by the designation of the 16 VSA 706b study committee as a “Public Body” pursuant to 1 VSA 310 (3). If a School Board chooses to appoint a representative to this study committee they are deliberately not being informed that by doing so they will be surrendering their Legislative authority to this newly formed “Public Body”… see 16 VSA 706c (a) A review of 16 VSA 563 “Power of School Boards” does not delegate the ability of a School Board, a “Public Body” in of itself, to join with another “Public Body” In addition 16 VSA 563 most certainly does allow a School Board the ability to surrender ANY of the authority delegated to it by law. In fact, Title 24 APPENDIX “General Powers” and current Municipal Law “Delegation of Authority” specifically forbids any such action. Therefore, the formation of the 16 VSA 706b study committees are not in compliance with current State law. This situation creates the huge potential of litigations placing municipalities in “legal jeopardy” in the event an individual or group of individuals are financially or otherwise harmed in any way due to the work of this illegally formed committee. Act 46 is a slow moving “train wreck” and if we take Mr. Sharp’s advise to let Act 46 play out the accumulating damage will be financially disastrous.


jim bulmer April 30, 2016 at 12:43 am

No need for all this anxiaty. Come November throw these guys out and elect candidates who are honest, forthcoming, and will listen to the folks. We in Bridgewater are fortunate as we have just such a Representative in Job Tate. It ain’t rocket science.


Doug Richmond, Underhill May 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm

We are told to leave everything to unbiased experts, for sure.

They drive our costs thru the roof, then propose solutions that do not include repealing a single one of their hugely expensive damm mandates.

Here’s what we will do TO you, and here is the $$$$$$$$$ Bill

Maybe we all need to follow the lead of the West Rutland school, who got sick of this crap, and created their own private school, and tuitioned the kids. For all reports it is working fine


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