8-5-16 – Legislature Needs to Rein In State Board of Ed

by Rob Roper

When the legislature passed Act 46, the school district consolidation law, the sales pitch supporters gave a skeptical public was that the hope was the sticks and carrots contained in the law would spark creative conversations at the local level. The legislature didn’t want to dictate solutions from on high, but rather allow the folks on the ground to work out solutions among themselves.

If this was really the legislature’s and the governor’s intent, they need to send a strong message to the State Board of Education, which is adopting a “my way or the highway” attitude regarding consolidation, recognizing the fact that there is no highway.

In a recently released draft of guidelines for communities seeking “Alternative Structures”, the SBE and the Agency of Education state directly:

Act 46 of 2015 identifies five specific statewide education goals (the “Goals”) underlying the legislation’s governance provisions. According to Act 46, the Goals are best met by a school district that is responsible for the education of its PK-12 students, is a supervisory district (i.e., a single- district SU), has an ADM of at least 900, and is organized in one of the four most common structures (a “preferred, unified system”). However, Act 46 recognizes that a preferred, unified system may not be “possible or the best model” to achieve the Goals in all regions of the State and, in these situations, an SU with multiple, member districts (an “alternative structure”) “can” meet the Goals, particularly if the SU manifests specific characteristics.

Throughout Act 46, the law identifies an “alternative structure” as an exception to a preferred, unified system, which is the default. [Emphasis added]

In other words, if you have a creative local solution to meeting the educational needs of your children, you can pretty much forget about it. We, the state, are setting the goals, and we, the state, are mandating the structures that we, the state, think will lead to the best outcomes.

Those cynics among us might conclude that this really was the intent of the legislature, but they just didn’t want to be held accountable for forcing local communities to adopt structures that local voters don’t want. Let’s hope these legislators, now candidates for office in November, prove us cynics wrong by forcefully telling the unelected members of the SBE to back the heck off, and give wide leeway to local control under Act 46.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Donka August 6, 2016 at 12:40 am

I went to a forum on Act 46 in Montpelier 2 weeks ago, I have also gone to several local meeting discussing Act 46, First the mood is 90% against Act 46. But what I found really interesting was that at the Forum not a single legislator that voted for Act 46 showed up. They don’t mind forcing legislation upon the people but don’t want to stand in front of them and give them there reasons. A truly shameful way to govern. Just one more reason I am running for Windsor County Senate..


James Hall August 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Good Morning:
You are absolutely correct in your writing, Rob, another thing that has to happen is this; the Commissioner needs to be fired. Bruce Lisman will do this along with some other much needed house cleaning all throughout state government. Education and Human Services are the two big elephants in the room that need a complete overhaul.
Bruce has a plan.


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