Bill H.883 would dramatically cut number of school districts, boards

MONTPELIER — A bill working its way through the Vermont House of Representatives would dramatically alter the way primary and secondary schools in the Green Mountain State are governed.

Bill H.883, “An Act Relating To Expanded Prekindergarten–Grade 12 School Districts,” would, if passed, reduce by the year 2020 the number of municipal school districts from 282 to 45, eliminate the state’s 60 supervisory unions and require the formation of regional school districts. Each of those expanded districts would encompass a minimum of 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and at least four municipal districts, and would operate under one school board.

The bill has been proposed in order to improve educational equity for Vermont’s schoolchildren and possibly save money by streamlining operations, creating efficiencies and sharing resources within the larger districts.

Districts would have until July 1, 2016, to create plans outlining consolidation to create an expanded district. The voters of each district and the State Board of Education would have to approve the consolidation plans by July 1, 2017.

School districts that do not at least have a plan showing the intent to consolidate by the 2017 deadline would be subject to state intervention by a “design team” that would create a plan for that district. All new, consolidated districts would be up and operational by July 1, 2020.

A single school board would oversee the consolidated, multi-town district, rather than the current system in which each individual town has a school board. Each school would have an advisory committee that would work with the town representative to the school board.

Vermont has the lowest student to school board member ratio in the nation: One school board member for 57 students.

The House Committee on Education OK’d H.883 on March 21 and it was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means last week.

Also, last week, the State Board of Education voted, 6-1, to support H.883. 

Two supervisory unions passed resolutions rejecting H.883.

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