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