Since arriving in the Vermont House in 2007, I have been a fierce advocate for local control - both in terms of education finance and budgets, and in terms of education delivery, local decision-making, and the creation of school district policies.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, the growing trend has been to wrest more and more control from the local districts and voters and put it in the hands of the state.

From decisions about what kind of cleaning products a school must purchase, and purposefully placing communities in the position of having to eliminate educational choice for parents and students, to the state-mandated change to proficiency-based learning, and the forced consolidation of school districts under Act 46, local authority and decision-making by school boards and voters is being replaced by the top-down, one-size fits all, approach to education.

This trend, especially in a state that claims to value local control of education, is a great disappointment, and one I continue to fight.

One of the most recent examples, Act 46, was, in my view, misguided.  As it was progressing, I expressed over and over again my concerns about the legislation, but politics won out.  Simply put, Act 46 was a product of politics - doing something for the sake of doing something.  It was not a solution to our property tax crisis, nor was it the creation of more and better opportunities that the proponents claim.  That is why I was one of 50 members of the House (the majority of which were Republicans) who voted agains the bill.

After its passage, however, it was time to work within the law and do all I could to ensure that our local district and Supervisory Union had the tools necessary to move forward under the new law.

And, that is just what I did.

First, I co-sponsored legislation that would extend the Act 46 deadlines. This was designed to allow communities such as Stowe time to do their due diligence in making decisions about how they move forward. 

Second, I co-sponsored legislation that would make clear that Alternative Structures under Act 46 were not only allowed, but were a legitimate course of action under Act 46. After all, it became clear, shortly after passage of Act 46, that the State Board of Education misinterpreted the legislative intent of Alternative Structures, and were attempting to make it very difficult for any district to be granted one. 

Finally, as the decision was made by the Stowe and EMUU School Boards and Lamoille South Supervisory Union to propose to the State Board of Education that we be granted an Alternative Structure, my role was to support that decision in every way I could.

For that reason, I closely followed the process of the State Agency of Education and State Board of Education in developing the rules sand regulations that would govern the approvals of Alternative Structures on Act 46.

In August 2016, the State Board of Education released is draft of "Proposed Rule 3400 - Rules Governing Alternative Structures Under Act 46."

In a nutshell, they were completely unworkable for Stowe and many other communities throughout Vermont that were planning to apply to be approved as an Alternative Structure.  The proposed rules made it virtually impossible, except in a case of geographic isolation, for any community to get approval by the Board for an Alternative Structure.  This, in my view, did not represent legislative intent.

In response to these draft rules, therefore, I submitted Public Comment to express my serious concerns.  I felt it critical to have a voice from Stowe at the table as they deliberated on the draft, and any proposed changes to it.

I was only one of 13 individuals to submit Public Comment in writing or by testimony.  Yet, as a result of my comments and the comments and testimony of those dozen other individuals, the draft rules were materially modified and made it easier for towns like Stowe to obtain approval of their Alternative Structure submissions.

As this process played out, I also had a number of meetings with the Scott Administration to discuss the hopes of Stowe to be granted an approval for an Alternative Structure under Act 46.

I was pleased therefore, that the Secretary of the Agency of Education recommended in her June 2018 report that the EMUU-Stowe School Districts NOT be merged in the Statewide Education Plan!

"Accordingly, because the Secretary believes that it is not practicable to require merger at this time because it would not advance the goals of Act 46, the Secretary does not propose that the State Board of merge the Elmore-Morristown Unified District and the Stowe District in the statewide plan."

This was great news for our region!  It is testament to the work of the Cara Zimmerman and the Stowe School Board, Stephanie Craig and the EMUU School Board, and Supervisory Union, and our collaborative approach to the entire process.  Now we just want to be sure the State Board agrees with the Secretary's recommendation.