Why Vote No?
There are MANY good reasons to vote NO on the MAUSD-ANWSD Merger proposal on November 8.
Click on the links below to read more detail on our top nine reasons to Vote No.
- Merging would mean...moving school governance even farther away from the students and their schools and communities.
1 board for 9 towns: governance would be moved farther from the schools and communities that they serve; board members would have less understanding of the accomplishments, challenges and needs of each of the schools.
There would be 1 district budget for all schools and the superintendent’s office to be voted on by all 9 towns. Consolidation leads to less financial transparency, based on our experience with Act 46 consolidation.
Weighted voting on the merged board would mean the voice and views of board members from smaller towns would be easily overshadowed by that of larger towns. For example, in the proposed plan for weighted voting, Bristol and Vergennes board members’ votes together would be worth 37% (Bristol 22% and Vergennes15%). The voting weights for the other towns would be: Addison 8%, Ferrisburgh 16%, Monkton 12%, New Haven 10% Panton 4%, Starksboro 10%, and Waltham 3%. See Merger Study Committee (MSC) Report Article 9.
- Merging would mean...taking away towns’ Right to Vote.
The Merger Articles of Agreement removes MAUSD towns’ right to vote on whether schools will be closed, after the first 4 years of operation. HOWEVER, up to 3 grade levels could be removed from any elementary school, without a vote of the town, even in the 1st year of the new merged district. MSC Report Article 14B.4
- Merging would mean...lengthy bus rides for Middle and High School students.
Merging would mean that more MAUSD and ANWSD grades 6-12 students will experience bus rides of more than 90 minutes a day, at a cost of up to $3,272,500 each year. The school district has not yet responded to community questions and concerns about the details of its transportation plan.
- Merging would mean...taking all 6th graders from 9 towns out of their town elementary schools and placing them into a merged middle school, in Vergennes or Bristol.
There is no conclusive research that supports this move. ANWSD has recently announced a plan to move all ANWSD 6th graders to the middle school in the 2023-2024 school year with or without a merger.
- Merging would mean...combining the high schools and the middle schools of the 9 towns of Mt. Abraham Unified School District and the Addison Northwest Unified School District.
The middle school (grades 6-8) would be located in Vergennes or Bristol. The high school would be in Bristol or Vergennes.
- Merging would mean...less, not greater, equity.
There is no evidence that merging MAUSD and ANWSD would lead to more equity for students. In fact, as one example, the MSC Article 14D allows for school choice among all schools beginning in the first year of operation, without providing transportation to and from schools outside of students’ towns of residence. This is a highly inequitable policy because many families will not be able to afford to provide this transportation. Choice would only be available to those who can afford to provide transportation.
- Merging would mean...implementing a radical change that will not solve the problem of declining enrollment.
The problem that MAUSD and ANWSD is trying to solve is the direct result of declining enrollment (in the context of a state funding system that was designed when enrollment was increasing). Merging governance, (creating 1 board for 9 towns), moving all 6th graders to a merged middle school, combining high schools, and adding more yellow buses and lengthening bus rides for many more students to an hour or more each way will NOT solve the problem of declining enrollment. In fact it would probably make that problem worse because young families would choose to settle in a school district with closer schools and shorter bus rides. Imagine how things might be different now if we, and the MAUSD and ANWSD Boards and Superintendents, had spent the past 2+ years working together with their communities on strategies for increasing enrollment - for attracting new families to our towns!
- Merging would mean...implementing a radical change before trying other, less radical strategies.
The Merger Study Committee, working with MAUSD and ANWSD, should have considered ways to collaborate without merging governance. The Committee should have focused on ways to work together that would help control tax increases and would enable both districts to expand opportunities for students.
For example: The detailed study commissioned by the MAUSD board identified specific strategies that would save the MAUSD $3,269,000 annually, without taking the radical step of merging governance, without closing or merging schools, and without moving 6th graders out of their town elementary schools.
For example: Creative collaboration between MAUSD and ANWSD would enable both districts to jointly offer a specific course, taught by 1 teacher, to students in BOTH schools. The course would meet remotely some of the time, and in person some of the time. And this is just one example.
As former RNESU superintendent and former member of the State Board of Education Bill Mathis put it in his August 18 Addison Independent editorial: The Chance Has Arrived for a Rebirth of our VT Schools, " For the high schools, perhaps it is time for a completely new look at our model. Simply consolidating to drive longer distances to a high school which does not meet the social, economic, or democratic purposes of society seems too hasty a leap.”
- The MSC Process was flawed from the start.
Many board members did not realize that the authority of the Committee (comprised of unelected members) would supersede any authority that either board has, to make decisions about whether or not to recommend merger and bring it to a vote.
The Committee never considered ways for the 2 districts to collaborate without merging governance, in order to save money and expand learning opportunities for students.The facilitator created the process so committee members would design the merged district before deciding whether merging was advisable. Once the Committee had spent an inordinate amount of time on the design, it was difficult for any member to speak against a merger recommendation.