Call Their Bluff on Act 46

by Rob Roper

Throughout Vermont, teams of good, earnest citizens are wrestling with how to deal with Act 46 and its mandate to consolidate school districts. The threat communities face is that if they don’t take this unpleasant, in many if not most cases unwanted, action the state will come in and do if for them.

You know what? Call their bluff.

Volunteers at the local/regional level are putting in thousands of collective hours of effort, sifting through meticulous details to make these shotgun weddings come together in a semi-cohesive way. And, from what I’ve seen and read, they mostly end up with a pitch that says, “It’s not what we would choose to do, but it’s the best we can hope for under the circumstances.”

But here’s the dirty little secret. The State Board of Education and the Agency of Education do not have the resources to “do it for you.” Nor do I think our elected officials would let them do anything really objectionable for fear of voter backlash.

Think about this… How many boards of how many people are out there now trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again? Dozens and hundreds meeting regularly, and they still can’t really get a handle on it. The State Board of Education is eleven people with zero staff. They meet once a month. They’re threatening to straighten all of these local messes for us from Montpelier? Great! Let ‘em do it. I’ll buy the popcorn.

There is, of course, a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma involved with this strategy. If everybody, or at least an overwhelming majority of communities, doesn’t vote no on their mergers, the few that do could be handled by the state. So, as Ben Franklin warned, hang together or hang alone.

Remember, these mergers once done are done. As someone put it in a recent panel discussion I had the privilege to take part in, we are looking at shotgun weddings with no possibility for divorce. The state is trying to manipulate you into doing to yourself what they don’t have the guts or the resources to do to you. Unless you genuinely think a merger is what’s best for your community, call their bluff. Vote no.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan Young March 3, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Thank you. “It’s not what we would choose to do, but it’s the best we can hope for under the circumstances” is easily the most pervasive argument in our district, going for round 3 of this nonsense on Tuesday.

I’d love for someone smarter than me to explain whether they even have the constitutional ability to force-place towns into districts down the road anyway. I know the BoE has been outspoken in opining that they do indeed have that ability, but Act 46 reads like The Three Little Pigs: give me my way or “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!” And I don’t expect the Big, Bad Wolf to be honest when asked if he actually has the lungs to do it.

Any thoughts?


JAY dENAULT March 4, 2017 at 10:34 pm

Make no mistake about it, the State is bluffing!!! Act 46 is in clear violation of Federal laws 18 U.S. Code 594 “Intimidation of Voters” and U.S.Code 52(b) “Prohibited Acts”. In addition, Act 46 is in violation of State Laws Title 24 “General Powers”, and current Municipal Law “Delegation of Authority”. In order for a citizen or Town to take legal action he/she or they must demonstrate they have been harmed in order for them to have “Standing” in a court of law. The minute the State attempts to force a merger, those affected will be able to legally establish the condition of “Harm”. As a result those so affected will be able to easily make the case in a court of law, at which point Act 46 will not stand up in court! Make no mistake the State knows this they are just hoping nobody will figure it out in time.


Mike Powers March 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm

I have come to the conclusion that this ill formed law is with us to stay. There is no way in hell that David Sharpe and his committee are going to grant any relief. Better to pick your dance partners than have Montpelier do it randomly with no thought to homogeneity, is location etc. This is just another example of a bad law passed by an out of whack majority in the house that could care less about the students. It’s all about power using the guise of saving tax payers money to implement further control. It’s time Vermonters excercised there rights and installed a truly representative legislature.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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