School Consolidation Bill Passes House, Has an Uphill Battle in Senate

By Steph Machado

Published 04/30 2014 07:41PM

Updated 04/30 2014 07:49PM

MONTPELIER - In a 76-60 vote, the Vermont House passed H.883, an education governance bill that would consolidate Vermont's school districts from 270 to 45 to 55.

The bill passed after weeks of testimony and two days of emotional debate on the floor. Rural districts especially had big concerns, since many small schools would close and students would travel to nearby communities.

"We heard that this bill would allow students to go 'down the road' to a school that offers, let's say a different foreign language," said State Rep. Sandy Haas (D-Rochester). "For me, down the road is up a mountain and across the long trail."

Supporters of the bill said Vermont's dwindling student population calls for major reform.

"It's been over 100 years since we had the courage to go from nearly 3,000 districts to the somewhat greater than 250 that we have today," said State Rep. David Sharpe (D-Bristol), explaining that it was time to do the same thing the legislature did a century ago, and consolidate. Enrollment is down from that last consolidation.

The bill is headed to the Senate, where the Education committee will have to vet it before it can make it to the floor.

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