In a long awaited victory for parental choice advocates, the town of North Bennington finally got the green light to replace its government run public school with an independent school. According to the following Vermont Digger article, the State Board of Education approved their proposal today:
Vermont will have one less public school at the start of the next school year. The State Board of Education approved a proposal today to shut down the public elementary school in the town of North Bennington and replace it with an independent school.
The proposal originated last spring, when North Bennington residents first voted in favor of the change, but it languished after the State Board rejected the request on the grounds that it did not address the special education needs of the student population.
Declining enrollment numbers were a driving factor behind the change, prompting some residents to call for preemptive action to prevent the state from mandating a school district merger. (The state does not currently have the statutory authority to take this action.)
It took three votes over the course of nearly a year, but the board voted in 5-2 in favor of the measure this time around.
There won’t be radical physical changes— the independent “North Bennington Village School” will be located in the same building— but North Bennington will now become a tuition town, enabling students to use their state-allotted tuition to attend any school of their choosing.
The good news for parental choice advocates is that this decision is likely to encourage other towns to follow suit. The bad news is that the opponents of choice in Montpelier are likely to propose legislation to put a halt to this trend:
According to Mill Moore, the executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, a number of other towns, including Killington and Burke, have been considering making the same move from public to independent. Moore said the State Board’s decision to grant approval to North Bennington may pave the way for other towns, but he expects lawmakers will introduce bill in the upcoming session to clamp down on the trend.
Stay tuned folks!