Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Bill in Vermont would slash number of school districts to 1/5 or 1/6 of current number, 273

To save money, the Vermont House last week passed a bill that over six years would consolidate the state's 273 school districts into 45 to 55 districts, eliminating several supervisory positions in the process, Josh O'Gorman reports for the Vermont Press Bureau. The bill is now in the Senate, which is considering a voluntary approach.

Vermont, a very rural state, has more school districts than towns or cities, Jess Bidgood reports for The New York Times. Since the mid-1990s the state's public schools have lost more than 20,000 students, "making these districts even smaller, while education costs—and taxes to pay for them—have risen."

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin told Bidgood, "If you designed a system from scratch, you would not design what Vermont has right now. We currently have more superintendents and administration than any state of our size. We need to think of a better way.”

Many parents, teachers and local administrators oppose consolidation, saying they are "concerned it will erode that tradition of local control," Bidgood writes. Proponents say "it would create efficiencies and increase student opportunities by sharing resources and collaborating on programming, as well as reduce administrative costs." (Read more)

Under the House bill, schools that voluntarily merge in the first four year "will be offered new financial incentives," Bob Kinzel reports for Vermont Public Radio. "But if some districts haven’t voluntarily merged by 2018, a special committee will step in and create new larger districts over a two-year period. In contrast, the Senate Education Committee has approved a bill that offers larger financial incentives and keeps the process entirely voluntary." (Read more)

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