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Vt. State Board Of Education Chair Resigns To Work On Holcombe's Gov. Campaign

State Board of Education Chair Krista Huling looks over a school district map during a meeting to review Act 46 mergers. A judge has denied a request from more than 30 school districts to temporarily halt the Act 46 merger process.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR file
Krista Huling looks over a Vermont school district map during a meeting in October 2018. Huling resigned as chair of the State Board of Education on Thursday.

The chair of Vermont's State Board of Education resigned Thursday.

Krista Huling's resignation came after other board members expressed concern with her new role as treasurer for the campaign of Rebecca Holcombe, a former Vermont education secretary running for governor as a Democrat.

Huling told VPR Friday that she was surprised at the pushback, but believes her resignation will jumpstart a much needed discussion. She said, being a small state, the board has struggled with this kind of issue in the past.

"I'm a teacher, I'm a justice of the peace, I'm on local boards. We all have different roles, and when is that a conflict?" Huling said. "And when is it just adding perspective to the table that's needed?"

Huling sent a letter to board colleagues Thursday announcing her departure from the board and explaining her decision. She wrote:

"I have always served as a way to improve the lives of Vermonters and I feel I can best pursue that end by working to elect a governor who will be an advocate for public education, ensure all Vermonters can care for loved ones at the beginning and end of life through paid family leave, and help pass sensible gun legislation to keep Vermonters safe."

But board member Bill Mathis told Seven Days that Huling hadn't initially disclosed her work with Holcombe's campaign to the board; Mathis told the paper that members found out about Huling's involvement via the media, rather than from Huling directly.

State Board of Education members are appointed by the governor and help establish state education policy. In her resignation letter, Huling highlighted the board's work on Act 46, Vermont's school district consolidation law:

"My years on the board have been the defining years of my life. I am proud of the work we did as final arbiters of the bi-partisan law, Act 46. By focusing on creating more opportunities for students, we completed a difficult task without adequate resources."

The State Board of Education released its final report on Act 46 in November 2018, but legal challenges and questions around implementation has continued into this year.

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