WSESU towns: discuss Act 46 without pressure of vote

BRATTLEBORO — I feel indebted to the voters of Dummerston who voted in December against the departure of Vernon from the current WSESU public school structure. Because of that vote there will be an opportunity for serious discussion of Act 46 at Town Meetings in five area towns and at Representative Town Meeting in Brattleboro.

Had voters in Dummerston approved the separation of Vernon, we would likely be facing the Act 46 merger as a ballot question on March 7. We now have a chance to discuss the issue at these town forums unencumbered by an Australian ballot happening at the same time.

With all due respect to people of Vernon and their wishes to leave our current union and pursue their goal of maintaining school choice for grades 7 to 12, no town is an island. We are connected because we have worked successfully together as a supervisory union for many years.

The big changes coming down the line with Act 46 deserve town-wide conversation and deliberation. The Act 46 Study Group has put in many hours, and that is certainly appreciated.

Now it is time for a wider process of examining the merger proposal. The changes to school governance are too significant to assume this will happen as a matter of course.

There are good reasons to put the brakes on approving the Act 46 merger that is about to be presented to the Department of Education and to the voters of of our local school districts.

Many of the financial benefits of merging are already being realized within the current supervisory union. The claim that our schools will be more equitable has not been effectively explained with specific examples.

The loss of individual town school boards and the loss of budget discussions at town meetings is a big change. The case for the benefits is not well understood by myself - or by most people that I meet around town.

Let's make sure we take the time, have the discussions, and vote on the specifics of what we are giving up and what we might be gaining with Act 46.

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