The Rupert-Pawlet merger has largely hinged on whether the towns should continue to designate middle and high school students to schools in bordering New York state — Rupert students to Salem, Pawlet students to Granville. The debate has closely divided voters over financial concerns, as tuition to the New York schools is less expensive.
At issue in Rupert is the town’s long-standing practice of designating nearby Salem, N.Y. as its high school, which would be replaced by a school choice tuition model if the merger is upheld. The long-standing connection between the towns has been cited by merger opponents as reason to continue as a separate district.
Vermont’s education funding law Act 60/68 needs to be revisited and repealed. It has exacerbated the increase in taxes by creating a fund that is too often subject to raids by duplicitous politicians. Local control, including education financing, could be returned to the local citizenry, where it rightfully belongs.
Tuesday’s re-vote of the school district merger proposal in Woodford re-confirmed the initial results, and by an even wider margin.
With Vermont set to pay $31 million in incentives for districts that agreed to merge under the state’s education consolidation law, critics of Act 46 say the payouts are unfair and hurt poor rural areas.
“If we keep it open as a public school, the discussion will not end, we will be at this again and again. … (But) if we turn Black River into an independent school, its destiny is in the hands of the community, not the Vermont Agency of Education.”
A re-count of votes in Pownal on whether or not to merge five local school districts confirmed the results reported earlier this month.
The merger proposal that would have created the Mount Anthony Unified School District out of the Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, Woodford, and Mount Anthony Union school districts has failed.
Education leaders met at the Capitol Plaza Hotel on Wednesday to discuss public education “that works for all children.” Speakers at the conference addressed equity, special needs and Act 46.
“If I fail with this lawsuit there will be no local control of schools in Vermont. This is a last stand. This is it.”
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is asking lawmakers to review Act 46 to hold the education governance law accountable to its promises.