Vermont’s schools are the foundation of community, both in the vital nurturing they provide our children, and in their attraction of new residents to the Green Mountains. Vermont’s schools have been declining for decades: enrollment continues to drop even as administrative expenses increase.
Recent consolidation under Act 46 has not delivered on promised cost savings. Many rural schools have been forced to merge against local voters’ wishes, despite legislative promises that small Vermont schools would not be forced into mergers. Some school districts have been compelled to absorb the debt or poor performance of others. Some small Vermont schools with high performance and modest costs were terminated.
If Vermont’s schools continue to be compressed in the name of cost-saving while teachers and superintendents are guaranteed salary and benefit increases. This problem will only get worse. Children are often bussed long distances under the Act 46 scheme, which is neither economically nor environmentally beneficial. It also departs from what parents expect for their children in Vermont schools.
The current situation for Vermont’s school system is unsustainable. John has consulted some of Vermont’s most informed minds to tackle this intractable problem. The solution to this complex problem is not simple, but it is sensible. Act 46 must be repealed. In its stead, decisions for Vermont’s schools must be returned to the local communities who can best determine the appropriate course for their needs. Income-sensitive subsidies can be used to ensure both parental choice and equal opportunities. Some Vermont schools may be best left merged: some may wish to merge classes instead of districts (this is consistent with proficiency-based learning concepts). Some communities might consider that private Vermont schools — existing or to be formed — would more effectively serve their children’s needs.
Act 46 seeks to make the same industrial, bureaucratic mistakes that are now being faulted in Vermont’s dairy businesses — bigger is not necessarily better, and this is often true with education. Vermont’s steady compression of schools through forced mergers is unconstitutional, counterproductive, and continues an escalating crisis instead of confronting the core problem — costs that rise regardless of performance or cost effectiveness.
Vermont schools close. Bureaucracy grows. Our children deserve better.