Now that the dust has settled on school merger proposals from the State Board of Education, some of the most frustrated districts are joining a legal battle to defeat Act 46.
Four communities in the lower Northeast Kingdom are trying to adjust to a big reversal by Vermont’s education bureaucracy about recommended mergers under Act 46, the 2015 school governance law.
It didn’t matter if the local school board members had four minutes or four hours — the State Board of Education had made up its mind before the meeting.
Three years after passage by state lawmakers, Act 46 is entering the final chapter of forced school district consolidation, and towns miffed by the state’s power grab are ready to sue to regain control.
After years of study committees, votes and uncertainty, the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union finally knows where it’s headed.
The state is making final decisions on school mergers this week in a move that will bring Act 46 to its messy conclusion — and likely spark new lawsuits.
The Westminster School Board has voted to go to court if necessary to fight the forced merger of its schools with the towns of Athens and Grafton.
Voters in Windham will be asked next month if they want to close the Windham School if the state Board of Education follows through on threats to force the tiny school into a merger with other West River valley schools.
At least 21 school districts are considering going to court if the Agency of Education forces mergers on them, and they’ve got a group of lawyers ready to go.
“Arlington always struggled with Act 46, because they never had a natural partner to even have merger discussions with,” he said. “I can say with 100 percent certainty that Arlington won’t merge, because there is no merger partner for them.”
The candidate who made national headlines for winning six primary election contests in August is waging an even bigger battle in Vermont’s highest court: the battle over Act 46.