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Vt. Business Panel Urges Governance Overhaul

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Vermont should overhaul its system of local school governance to eliminate the "hodgepodge'' of more than 300 separate governing bodies, a group of business leaders appointed by Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin has proposed.

The current system, it said, should be replaced with fewer, more unified school districts that would more accurately reflect the system through which children pass during their 13 years of public schooling.

The 11-member panel, which presented its report to the state board of education late last month, found that schools in the state are governed by 318 separate municipal corporations, each with its own board of directors. Fewer than 20 percent of the corporations operate a complete K-12 system of education, it found.

"This form of organization is out of step with good management practice,'' the panel said. "It facilitates neither rational management nor citizen control of public education.''

The report recommends that the state offer fiscal incentives to encourage school-district consolidation. It also suggested that the state provide students with vouchers to enable them to take courses in neighboring districts if such programs are unavailable in their own schools.

The panel also urged schools to take steps to make teaching more attractive as a career, such as providing opportunities for professional development; to implement pay systems that would reward superior performance; and to increase public recognition of the teaching profession.

The state, the group continued, should also improve the collection and dissemination of information on the quality of education in Vermont.

"From a business perspective, few considerations are more important than the ability to measure the relative success of an enterprise,'' the panel said. "Yet education in Vermont, representing an annual investment of nearly $350 million, is judged by anecdote or by a few indicators that obfuscate as much as they shed light.''--R.R.

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