The FWSU Act 46 Study Committee has now completed its first three meetings with the fourth to be held this Thursday (3/17) at 5:30pm at Georgia Elementary/Middle School in the library at 5:30. All meetings are open to the public! So far the committee is still in the “learning” stage and a definitive direction has yet to be decided. Prior to any district even considering any type of consolidation they must undertake a comprehensive study.
As you may know by now, Act 46 is a landmark piece of legislation passed during the last years legislative session. Act 46 is a law that seeks to address large issues currently facing the Vermont education system. The primary stated objective of the law is to stabilize rising property taxes, address declining student enrollment, and high per-pupil spending.
Act 46 will require the state’s 277 school districts to begin the process of redesigning the current governance structures in order to achieve what the state defines as “preferred governance.” A preferred governance structure is a new school district with at least 900 students, which will be called Supervisory Districts (SD). Essentially the Supervisory Union structure, established in 1912, will be replaced. The new SD’s will operate in the same manner as a single stand alone district (i.e. Burlington, Montpelier, Milton, Colchester), yet will comprise more than one town. Just recently all of the towns Franklin Central Supervisory Union voted to form a new Supervisory District. The new law asks us to redefine how we view our school community and take a more comprehensive view that all students in our region are our students.
A brief history of the FWSU Act 46 Committee. This fall, FWSU school boards voted to begin an Act 46 school consolidation study. The boards then sought community volunteers to join board members to form the FWSU Study Committee. That committee, comprised of community members and board members, will study our system, study Act 46, engage the community and make a recommendation as to how our schools will be governed in the future. It is completely unclear what that recommendation of the committee will be at this time.
The next few months should be very interesting. It is essential to know that any consolidation of school districts in FWSU would require a town-wide vote by each town. This is not a decision that a school board or committee can make independently. The committee will only recommend what the towns ultimately vote on, if they decide to vote at all. Districts that do not merge by 2018 run the risk of being assigned to a new district by the State Board of Education and will receive no tax incentive. Schools that do not operate high schools like Georgia and Fletcher cannot be made to lose choice by the State Board, that can only be accomplished by a vote of the town electorate. However, that school could be reassigned to merger with schools with similar configurations.
If you cannot make the meeting, you can watch a livestream of the meeting with the link posted on the FWSU webpage. A Schoology announcement will be published on the day of the meeting with the livestream link as well. In addition, all future meeting dates and minutes will be posted after each meeting.