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Vermont Consolidation Effort Profiled by NewsHour Fails

Last week, Education Week reported for NewsHour about the area surrounding Franklin, Vt., a small region on the border of Canada that was in the throes of a fierce debate over whether they should consolidate its five tiny school districts into one. 

The proposal was spurred on by Act 46, a law passed by the state's legislature last year that provides a series of tax breaks to districts that consolidate and a series of tax increases for those that don't and overspend. The effort is meant to cut in half the number of districts in the state, several of which have just a few dozen students in them. 

But on Tuesday, the residents overwhelmingly voted against the consolidation effort. None of the five districts voted for the plan, according to local media reports

Advocates of the plan said that by consolidating, district officials can combine their resources to offer more extracurricular activities and Advanced Placement courses.  But opponents feared the effort was the first step to closing some of the areas smallest schools and end the area's flexible voucher program.

The consolidation effort fared better elsewhere in the state. Two other efforts across the state passed yesterday, according to the Associated Press.  

What's next is hard to tell, according to Jay Nichols, the superintendent of the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union which oversees all five districts. The area could place the issue on the ballot again or they can wait for the state to intervene and come up with its own plan. 

"At this point we do not know what we will do next," Nichols said in an e-mail. "Boards will be meeting this month to have conversations on how to best proceed."


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