Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Board Of Education Seeks New Staff To Implement Consolidation Law

The state Board of Education is considering asking lawmakers to approve funding for three new positions it says are needed to administer Act 46, the state's new education consolidation law.

The board will vote at its Oct. 20 meeting on whether to forward the request to the chairs of the Senate and House appropriations committees.

The state Board of Education does not have paid staff members, but Chairman Stephan Morse says the board needs the help as districts begin to move ahead with consolidation.

"It would be a huge change," Morse said. "And we hope that the appropriations committees see the wisdom of it and understand that if Act 46 is going to be successful the state Board of Education is going to need its own independent staffing."

The board wants legal help, a staff support person and a facilitator who will work with school districts during the mergers and then report back to the board. The new staff members would work under the board chairman, Morse said.

The three jobs will cost about $200,000 annually, according to an Agency of Education spokesperson.

"For Act 46 to succeed (and other state board requirements to be accomplished), it is essential that adequate staffing be provided," Morse says in a recent letter to lawmakers. "Without adequate staffing, Act 46 will simply unravel as 140 years of barren history demonstrates."

The Legislature passed Act 46 earlier this year. The law offers tax incentives to districts that approve a consolidation plan before July 1, 2016 and which have the merged districts in place before July 1, 2017.

New districts must have at least 900 students under the new law.

"Such staff increments must be added immediately," Morse wrote in his letter to lawmakers. "Accelerated merger requests are being developed and local districts must stage their activities to coincide with town meetings coming up in a matter of months. The state board must be in a position to act quickly and thoughtfully."

"Without adequate staffing, Act 46 will simply unravel as 140 years of barren history demonstrates." - Board of Education Chairman Stephan Morse

The board has authority to restructure districts that do not merge before 2018.

Act 46 authorizes the board to review and approve consolidation plans. The plans then go before voters in a town for approval.

The Agency of Education lost staff members over the past few years and Morse says the board can't rely on the agency to help with the extra work the board will be taking on.

The implementation of the new law is expected to be spread over four years. If the board votes in favor, the request  is expected to ask for the new staff positions to be funded during the entire time period, and evaluated beyond.

An additional staff member has already been added to the Agency of Education to help with Act 46.

"Now that Act 46 has come along, the playing field has changed somewhat," Morse said. "Under the law new districts will come to the agency for their recommendations and then the agency sends it on to the board for final approval. So we're in a different role, and so the board is going to have a discussion on whether we need individual, separate staffing at our next meeting later this month."

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
Latest Stories