I believe strongly that an Act 46 merger will negatively affect the children and the teachers in the Brattleboro schools.
As we all know, Brattleboro has a much higher rate of poverty than other towns in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, and we also have many families who have been negatively disrupted by the opioid epidemic.
Brattleboro’s school board, supported by our Town Meeting representatives, has implemented many programs to help these children, and other children who have learning and emotional disabilities, be successful in school. We have many paraprofessionals in the classroom, after-school tutoring, summer school, and behavioral interventionists. And, this year, Brattleboro added a social worker to specifically address the family issues resulting from the opioid epidemic.
In spite of these additional programs, Brattleboro currently has the lowest school-tax rate of any of the towns in the WSESU.
However, this will change if the Act 46 merger is approved. First of all, since all town tax rates in a merged district have to be the same, Brattleboro’s school tax rate will rise to match the other towns.
Even more important for Brattleboro schools is the fact that Act 46 is primarily about cutting costs. The huge savings promised to the Legislature by the Picus Report (“Using the Evidence-Based Method to Identify Adequate Spending Levels for Vermont Schools,” prepared in 2016 by Picus Odden & Associates for the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office) is all about cutting staff.
Teachers and parents who know the needs of their students and children and the importance of support staff in our schools should vote down this merger.