About ACT 46

K.T. Capellini, a Plymouth resident who unsuccessfully ran for State Representative last year, recently offered up two Facebook posts to help clarify the options being presented by the State in its drive to consolidate schools under ACT 46. What follows are both posts verbatim. It’s a bit of a long read, but if you are confused about the legislation and plans this information will help clarify the options for you.

K.T. Cappellini

K.T. Cappellini

1.What Plymouth Residents Need to Know about the ACT 46 Vote this March 7th:

This coming March 7th, on Town Meeting Day, the townspeople of Plymouth will get their first chance to vote on Act 46 school district consolidation.

In a nutshell, there are currently three possible options for consolidation: join the Windsor Central Supervisory Union, which currently serves Barnard, Bridgewater, Killington, Pomfret, Plymouth, Reading and Woodstock; join the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, which currently serves Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Mount Holly and Plymouth; join neither, and wait and see what happens if/when the state steps in a few years down the road.

Of those those three options, only the first one – join WCSU – will be presented on the ballot, as WCSU has finalized it’s plan, sent it to the state for approval, and warned it for a vote. TRSU has not yet done so with their consolidation plan, which is still mired in debate, and looks like it will not be ready in time.

As concerns the WCSU plan for consolidation, the highlights are as follows, which in my view, are all positive for Plymouth:

1. Provides definitive representation on the new Board for Plymouth – most of the smaller towns like Plymouth will get two seats out of a total of 18 on the newly-consolidated school board; the townspeople of Plymouth will also vote for these two new representatives on Town Meeting Day.

2. Forms new parent advisory committees for each school – Parents will still get to maintain an active role and offer input on how things are done in the new union

3. Preserves elementary-school choice for all Plymouth students WITHIN the membership of the newly formed union – For example, if Killington, Pomfet, Reading, Woodstock, and Plymouth all vote to join the WCSU, then Plymouth students can attend elementary school at any of the five schools.

4. Protects elementary-school choice for students already enrolled outside the newly-formed union – Those students already enrolled outside the WCSU will be allowed to continue their enrollment there until the highest grade allowed in that school. So Plymouth students already attending school in Ludlow or Mount Holley can finish there.

The WCSU plan also proposes to do a lot in the way of cost savings, educational opportunities for students, etc, etc, as most of these ACT 46 plans do. I’ll spare you the details, as you can read about them for yourself at http://www.voteonact46.org/the-plan/. However, in the case of Plymouth, I know that the above four issues were the most important to folks at all of the study groups/forums I attended.

And while I’m still not convinced that ACT 46 is the right solution to the problem of financing education, I can at least say that WCSU’s consolidation plan is a step in the right direction towards maintaining a decent amount of local parental control in Vermont’s educational process.

2. Recommendations on ACT 46 Survey for Plymouth Residents:

Of the three options outlined in the survey, only one (join WCSU) will be on the ballot March 7th, as the TRSU plan will not be completed in time. The option of joining neither union obviously requires no formal plan.

What this survey does is let our two school directors (we no longer have a school board because we don’t have a school) Julie Dupont and Rebecca Geary know which direction we’d like them to lean in, as per their recommendation to the town and its residents regarding consolidation.

That said, as I campaigned to be your State Rep. on a strongly anti-ACT 46 platform, I recommend that Plymouth residents choose the third option, i.e., join neither union, as their primary or “#1” option. As it’s been pointed out many times previously, not just by me but by scores of pundits, journalists, legislators, even the ACT-46 study group members themselves, the cost-savings benefits potentially gained through consolidation are negligible. Moreover, they’re only temporary, and will disappear after four years.

In the meantime, we will have sacrificed school choice, a valuable tradition in Vermont that allows parents to have an ultimate say in where and how they’re kids are educated. Given that the language of ACT 46 allows any non-operating school district to retain school choice “if it so chooses,” there’s no real need to give it up now.

The projected cost benefits accruing to Plymouth through consolidation are not nearly enough to outweigh the importance of retaining school choice in a rural area with a small number of students scattered throughout it. If the state eventually wants to lump us in with another choice district, great, then we’ll get whatever “projected” cost benefits accrue from that merger at that time. As a non-operating district with no real skin in the game, i.e., no school to close, no teachers to fire, no independent school board to sacrifice, there’s no value-added to acting now.

Yes, it’s getting more expensive to educate Plymouth’s small number of students. Yes, a viable solution is needed to remedy the reliance on property taxes to finance education. No, ACT 46 is NOT that solution. It’s merely an income-distribution measure masquerading as a “save the children” initiative. Good for the teachers and administration centered in bigger towns like Woodstock, bad for the children and parents of Plymouth.

The previous battle over closing Plymouth’s own school is illustrative in this regard. Residents were told that closing the school would result in a large net cost cost savings, thereby reducing their property taxes significantly. Fast forward to several years later; Plymouth now has no school, and property taxes are higher than they’ve ever been.

Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

As regards the two options for consolidation, I favor the WCSU plan, and recommend that you choose it as your secondary or “#2 option.”

Of the proposed unions that would be created by each plan, the WCSU union would consist of better schools, including Killington Elementary, which is favored by many Plymouth residents. As both plans would contain the same provision for allowing students already enrolled to finish at the highest grade in their current school, kids from Plymouth going to Mount Holley or Ludlow wouldn’t have to leave their friends in either case.

I’ve enclosed a photo of my survey outlining the three choices. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

See you at the polls.

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