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.
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.
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.
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.
Holland residents voted to close their school in part to protest what they perceive to be the state’s overreach into local affairs, as well as to preserve their community.
Vilaseca explained that “after seven or eight years, if the districts haven’t joined together, then the State will come in.” He did not mean that the state would “come in” with preaching and incentives. He meant that the state would come in with a Big Hammer.
School districts that are considering closing their schools are in a race against time. They must act before they are merged with other districts, because once these districts are forced to merge, they lose their autonomy and authority to govern their district.
While the state government doubles down on implementing forced school district mergers under Act 46, a host of local residents and stakeholders are threatening to close down schools rather than subject them to the Act 46 process.
On Primary Day, voters in Groton, Wells River and Ryegate voted to close Blue Mountain Union School to prevent a Montpelier-forced merger.