In the News

By Josh O'Gorman, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

The wheels of lawmaking might turn slowly, but the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts are one step closer to receiving a delay in their forced merger.

House lawmakers gave overwhelming support last Thursday to a bill that would push out the deadline for some school districts — including Elmore-Morristown and Stowe — that the State Board of Education has ordered to merge.

Currently, Act 46 requires district mergers to take effect no later than July 1 of this year; however, on a vote of 134-10, lawmakers gave their approval to H.39, which would extend that deadline by one year for districts that never held a vote to merge.

The bill included an amendment developed by the House Education Committee; it’s a compromise to the bill introduced by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, that called for a blanket one-year extension on the merger timeline.

On Feb. 6, House lawmakers narrowly defeated Scheuermann’s proposal, 74-69.

By David Declore, Rutland Herald/Times Argus

House lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a bill that would give some school districts ordered to merge under Act 46 an extra year to prepare for that transition, while requiring others to heed the July 1 deadline that was written into the law four years ago.

Less than 24 hours after narrowly rejecting a “blanket extension” requested by a tri-partisan coalition of lawmakers led by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, the House approved a Solomonesque solution designed to give some districts more time to consummate their state-ordered mergers.

By Neal Goswami, WCAX TV

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, whose home district will be granted a delay, pushed House leadership to allow the votes and says she wishes her original plan had passed instead.

"We really pushed and they were gracious to allow it to happen. We really felt it important to express our views and the views of our constituents and to ensure we had some opportunity to give them to extend this merger deadline so these mergers can be done in the right way and a way that works for all of our students," Scheuermann said.

By Taylor Dobbs, Seven Days

House lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would provide a deadline extension for some school districts that have been ordered to merge by Vermont's Board of Education.

The legislation is a scaled-back version of a proposal that would have provided a one-year extension for all of the districts that were required to merge by July 1, 2019.  That measure, which hd support from a tripartisan coalition of House lawmakers, failed Wednesday.


By Spencer Conlin,

The House adjourned after the 69-74 vote, but will take up another amendment Thursday that would allow for some of the districts to delay a merger.

The amendment that failed Wednesday was proposed by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R- Lamoille-1. It came after several school districts filed lawsuits, challenging the mergers under the state Act 46 education law.

The communities being forced to merge are all in very different situations and at various points in the merger process," Scheuermann said. "In order to ensure confidence in both the law and the process, it is imperative that we are given more time."

By Lola Duffort,

The Vermont House of Representatives narrowly rejected a plan Wednesday to give a one-year extension to all school districts facing forced mergers under Act 46.

But House lawmakers, who voted 69-74 against a blanket delay, will take up another proposal Thursday giving certain districts extra time.

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, who sponsored the legislation asking for a simple one-year delay, said that while she would have preferred another outcome, she was glad at least the partial delay proposal looks likely to pass.

“It was close. It was very close. We were almost there. But we’re going to have something that we can use as a vehicle to continue to pursue this,” she said.


By David Delcore, Rutland Herald/Times Argus

Scheuermann was among those who expressed reservations about what some viewed as a “divide-and-conquer” proposal.

Though Scheuermann said she appreciated the fact that her home district — Stowe — would receive an extra year to complete a forced merger with the Elmore-Morristown district, the exclusion of other districts was problematic in her view.

“I think it would be a hard sell on the floor to give that opportunity to some districts and not others,” she said.

By the time it was over, a clear majority of the committee backed the amendment that Webb said sets the stage for back-to-back floor votes Wednesday.

The new amendment, which was approved, 7-4, won’t replace the one proposed by Scheuermann, but it will be offered as an alternative if Scheuermann’s fails.

Webb said Scheuermann’s amendment would be considered first and the one that enjoys the committee’s favorable recommendation will be voted on in the event it fails. If both amendments are rejected, the July 1 deadline written into Act 46 nearly four years ago would remain in tact pending judicial intervention or additional legislation.

By Lola Duffort,

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, who sponsored H.39, told the committee Tuesday that their version of the bill would be a “hard sell” with lawmakers. And she said one of the main problems with Act 46 had been that the State Board of Education, which decided which districts should merge under the law, didn’t fully understand the local context.

“I would submit to you that picking out certain districts for extension and not extension, is something of a challenge. I don’t think members of the committee understand all of the districts, and what each of the situation is on the ground,” she said.

By David Delcore, Rutland Herald/Times Argus

Scheuermann is hoping to round up 76 lawmakers to support the proposal that some fear will derail mergers on their way to completion and be used by those more interested in undermining the law than having more time to comply with it.