A few months ago, I wrote about a vexing school consolidation effort in Vermont by the state’s legislators that’s caused quite a bit of controversy and unanticipated complications.
Now, John Tulenko, an Education Week correspondent for NewsHour has traveled to a northern region of Vermont to take a deeper look at a move to consolidate more than five districts into one and the resulting tensions. As in other other communities, residents there are concerned about rising property taxes, local control over educaton, and the future of small schools. The story aired Tuesday night.
With a plummeting student enrollment, Vermont has one of the highest per-pupil costs and some of the lowest student-teacher ratios in the country. By consolidating some of the state’s 280 school districts—some of which have an enrollment of just a few dozen students— state officials are hoping to save millions of dollars and give students in small towns greater access to academically rigorous programs and more electives like the arts.
The state is doing this through a law known as Act 46 which was passed last year. By providing a series of tax breaks for residents of districts that consolidate and tax increases for residents of districts that don’t, the state hopes to cut in half the amount of districts it has.
Vermont is just one of many mostly rural states still attempting to consolidate districts, a movement that began in the 1930s. Just last week, Iowa shuttered several more districts amid dramatic budget cuts and dwindling population in some of the state’s agriculture regions where thousands of farm workers have been laid off because of technological advances.
For updates on the Vermont situation and other district consolidation efforts, follow this blog.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.