Act 46 objectives, incentives & deadlines
Act 46 requires that communities form unified pre-K–12 school districts that serve at least 900 students by July 1, 2019. The law is designed to address rising costs in education — the number of Vermont schools has remained steady but the number of students served in those schools has dropped over the past several decades — and to provide greater equity in educational opportunities. Before the law went into effect, Vermont’s 303 public schools were governed independently in close to 280 school districts.
Drops and fluctuations in student numbers have also forced schools to cut staff or reconfigure teaching assignments from year to year or move some assignments to part-timers. Lawmakers figured that larger districts would be able to negotiate a single contract across multiple schools in ways that could especially improve offerings in such areas as P.E., art, music and foreign language.
Addison Northeast Supervisory Union won’t vote on a unification plan until November at the earliest, so it is too late to get the financial incentives of an “Accelerated Merger,” which needs to be approved by June 30. But ANeSU could pursue a “Conventional Merger,” which must be approved by July 1, 2017. Those unified districts in operation before July 1, 2019, will see a reduction of homestead property tax rates, beginning with an 8-cent reduction the first year.
The law sets a Nov. 30, 2017, deadline for all districts to have a plan approved by the Board of Education and by voters. Those that fail to do so will have a plan imposed by the Secretary of Education June 2018, with the Board of Education issuing a final plan.
— Gaen Murphree