If voters reject a proposal, then that proposal should become impossible

Acting education secretary ignored the majority of voters in the WSESU

BRATTLEBORO — Dear Legislators,

Recently, the acting secretary of education, Heather Bouchey, ignored the majority of voters in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union who emphatically rejected a merger and is now imposing that same merger plan on us.

In her recommendation, she claims that the Legislature “did not contemplate a departure from the goal of a preferred merger based upon community sentiment” and makes assumptions that the voters who rejected the merger did so because of “a lack of information, misinformation, or the bad timing of the vote.”

This reasoning is an insult to the many voters in all towns who emphatically rejected the merger after studying it for two years.

These voters want to maintain more local control while still meeting the goals of Act 46 though collaboration. They care so much about that goal that they rejected the financial incentives that the state was offering to persuade districts to merge. Even Guilford voters rejected the merger. These were not ill-informed voters!

Moreover, the secretary ignored the fact that the law the legislators approved included a provision that purposely asked the voters to decide what they wanted. If “community sentiment” was not important, why did our legislators include it in Act 46?

Did you legislators anticipate that an appointed official like the secretary of education could overrule the public?

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A thoughtful and well-crafted Alternative Governance Structure proposal was submitted to the secretary, and she rejected it.

In issuing her recommendation, she puts the responsibility on the Legislature, insisting that your body wanted Alternative Governance Structures only if a merger was “impossible.”

Is that what you as legislators understand from your participation in the process? I believe that, in a truly democratic society, if the voters reject a proposal, then that should be the proposal that becomes impossible!

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We can vividly see how the democratic process is eroding on a national level. I am stunned that it seems to be happening here in Vermont.

I am writing to you, our legislators, asking you to acknowledge the democratic process that Act 46 allowed and to support your constituents' rejection of the merger by writing letters to the secretary of education.

I also urge you to come to Chester on Sept. 19 to support the Alternative Governance Proposal. At the Board of Education meeting this week in Newark, Vt., to review AGS proposals from northern Vermont, both Senator Randy Brock and Rep. Carolyn Whitney Branagan spoke in support of the AGS proposals submitted by their constituents.

Senator Brock emphasized that the “no” votes were not just “community sentiment” but also were “reasoned votes made after a lot of study.” He also said he couldn't think of a single legislator who would say their intent was to impose forced mergers on towns that voted “no.”

I would very much appreciate it if you would each get back to me with your thoughts about my questions and about whether you are willing to support the voters' decision.

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