Laws & Regulations

Act 46: Unification to Achieve Sustainable Governance

What is Act 46?

Act 46 of 2015 is an opportunity for districts and supervisory unions to unify existing disparate governance structures into sustainable systems of education delivery that are designed to meet identified State goals, while recognizing and reflecting local priorities. Learn more.  

What are my options?

There are several different routes to take that may provide incentives for communities that voluntarily merge. Learn more. 

FAQs and Other Resources

The Agency has provided answers to frequently asked questions and clarification regarding Act 46 and the related Acts 153 (2010) and 156 (2012).  Links to other related resources are also listed. Learn more.

What is Act 46?

Act 46 of 2015 creates a multi-year process that provides three phases of incentives for communities that voluntarily merge into the most common governance models. There are three incentivized phases of Voluntary Mergers: Accelerated Mergers (Phase 1); REDs or RED variations, which are potential Alternative Structures (Phase 2); and Conventional Mergers (Phase 3).

Districts that do not pursue or achieve a voluntary merger must evaluate their ability to meet or exceed State goals and make proposals to the State Board. In 2018 the Secretary will develop a proposal and the State Board will issue a final statewide design that realigns ummerged districts into more sustainable models of governance that meet State goals - to the extent realignment is necessary, possible, and practicable for the region. 

What are my options?

Voluntary Mergers

After reviewing the guidance documents below to help you determine which phase of voluntary merger might be appropriate for your districts, the study committee can use the following Study Committee Worksheet for All Phases of Voluntary Mergers as it discusses, analyzes, and prepares its proposal.  Please submit the completed worksheet to the Secretary with the final study committee report (and any draft report you may choose to submit). 

Phase 1: Accelerated Mergers

Phase 1 provides incentives to a new district that is formed by the merger of all districts within a single supervisory union and that meets certain additional criteria, including becoming operational as a supervisory district on or before July 1, 2017 (Act 46, Sec. 6) . 

Phase 2: REDs and RED Variations

Phase 2 incorporates the processes and incentives enacted in Act 153 of 2010 for Regional Education Districts (REDs) and Act 156 of 2012 for Side-by-Side Mergers, Layered Mergers, and Modified Unified Union School Districts – three variations on REDs that are eligible to receive incentives available to REDs.  Each of these governance models is potentially an "Alternative Structure" as envisioned in Act 46, Sec. 5(c).

Phase 3: Conventional Mergers

Phase 3 provides incentives to a new district formed by the merger of two or more districts that meets certain additional criteria, including becoming operational as a supervisory district after July 1, 2017 and on or before July 1, 2109.  (Act 46, Sec. 7)

Unmerged Districts

A district that has not pursued a voluntary merger or that does not expect to voluntarily merge before July 1, 2019 is required to complete three tasks, pursuant to Act 46, Sec. 9:

Statewide Governance Proposal and Final Plan

Secretary’s Proposal

Act 46, Sec. 10 requires the Secretary of Education to develop a proposal to realign districts into more sustainable models of governance to meet the goals set out in Sec. 2.  The Secretary will develop the proposal based on information gleaned from Voluntary Mergers, proposals from Unmerged Districts above, and from other resources.  The Secretary will propose changes to the extent necessary and in a manner that is possible and practicable for the region.  The Secretary will post the proposal on the Agency’s website and present it to the State Board of Education by June 1, 2018.

State Board’s Final Statewide Plan

Act 46, Sec. 10 requires the State Board to issue a final statewide plan by November 30, 2018 that requires the merger and realignment of districts and supervisory unions where necessary -- for the same purposes and under the same criteria that govern the Secretary’s proposal.  The State Board is directed to review the Secretary’s proposal and is authorized to take testimony and request additional information. 

Section 10 does not apply to districts created through the voluntary merger processes, CTE districts, and interstate school districts.

FAQs and Other Resources

Newsletter

Frequently Asked Questions

Elementary Schools; Town Academies

What options do school districts have regarding how they educate their elementary students?

An elementary school district is responsible for educating all of its resident children.  It can do this in one of two ways:

    1. A district can operate a public elementary school in which all of its students enroll (e.g., a community school).  Under this option, the district provides the education and establishes the program’s budget, as approved by the voters.  (16 V.S.A. § 821(a))
    2. A district can pay tuition to one or more public schools.  In addition, if the voters grant specific authorization, the district may also pay tuition to any approved independent school chosen by a student/parent.  Under this option, parents choose the schools (seats available) and the district pays tuition.  (16 V.S.A. § 821(a)(1) & (d))

Can we turn our public elementary school into a town academy? 

There is no such thing as a town elementary school academy in Vermont.  There are public elementary schools and there are independent elementary schools.  Some independent schools use the word “academy” in their name, but no independent elementary school in Vermont is a public or quasi-public entity with legal connections to the school district, the voters of the district, or the town in which it is located.

Study Committee / School Board Relationship

 Is a study committee required to obtain the favorable vote of each participating school board before presenting its proposed Report / Articles of Agreement to the Secretary, State Board of Education, and the local voters?  If no, then is there any authority to require a study committee to do so?

Nothing in State law requires a vote of the participating school boards or authorizes the imposition of such a requirement.  

Voluntary mergers under Acts 46 (2015), 153 (2010), and 156 (2012) are governed by 16 V.S.A. chapter 11, which is the process enacted in 1968 for the creation of union school districts.  A study committee must include at least one board member from each participating school district.  16 V.S.A. § 706a(b). 

Before completing its final report, a study committee is required to transmit the report to “the school boards of each school district that participated in the study committee and any other school districts that the report identifies as necessary or advisable … for the review and comment of each school board.”  16 V.S.A. § 706c(a) (emphasis added). 

A school board might choose to vote on a proposed report and notify the study committee of the result.  Such a vote, however, would only be advisory in nature and would not have a binding effect.  Under state law, a study committee has sole authority to create the proposed report.  16 V.S.A. §§ 706b and 706c(a).  Ultimately the final content of a study committee report is a decision for the study committee.

ADM vs Enrollment

What does average daily membership (ADM) mean?  Is it the same thing as enrollment?

ADM means the number of students who live in a district for whom the district is providing education (by operating a school or paying tuition for the student).   ADM is determined from the fall student census and is expressed as a full-time equivalency over a 20-day period – e.g., a student who resides in the district for all 20 days is 1.0 ADM; a student who is in the district for 15 of the 20 days is 0.75 ADM.

Enrollment is a headcount of the students enrolled in a school on October 1, regardless of their district of residence.  District A’s enrollment number could include, e.g., (1) students from District B (which does not operate a school for those grades) for whom District B pays tuition to District A or (2) students from District B who are attending District A's career technical center if they are also enrolled in District A’s high school.

Withdrawal from / Dissolution of Existing Union School District

How does a member of an existing union high school district withdraw from the union district? 

The process governing withdrawal from a union school district has been in statute for decades.   16 VSA § 721a. 

An overview of the process is as follows

  • The voters of member town A vote whether to withdraw from the union high school district
  • If the voters of A approve withdrawal, then the voters in each of the other member towns vote separately whether to ratify A’s withdrawal
  • The voters in each of the other must towns must vote to approve the withdrawal for the process to go forward – in other words, their votes are not commingled and a “no” vote by the voters of any one member town will stop the process
  • If each of the other member towns approves withdrawal by A, then the State Board of Education reviews the voters’ decision, holds a meeting with the parties, and considers:
    • (1)  Whether the students in A will have a school to attend if A withdraws from the union school district –
      • if so, then the State Board declares that A has withdrawn from the union school district as of:
        • the next July 1 or
        • as soon as A has satisfied its financial obligations to the union school district or has entered into an agreement to do so “in an amount satisfactory to the electorate of each  member” of the union school district
    • (2)  Whether it “is in the best interests of the State, the students, and the members remaining”  for  the union school district to continue to exist without A as a member OR whether the union school district should be dissolved
      • if the State Board determines that the union school district should be dissolved, then it declares the dissolution according to a time frame similar to that listed above
  • The State Board files the declaration(s) with the Secretary of State and others

(Note:  To simplify the explanation, the overview assumes that a town elementary school district wishes to withdraw from a union high school district, but the process is the same for withdrawal from a union elementary school district.)

If a member town successfully withdraws and the union school building is located in that town, then does the town school district own and operate the school?   

Even if “A” withdraws from the union school district (or even if the State Board dissolves the entire union school district), it doesn’t mean that A will automatically have control of the union school building – even if the building is located within the geographic boundaries of A. 

If a member town successfully withdraws and becomes a single district responsible for the education of all resident students in PK-12, then will it become its own supervisory district and hire its own superintendent?  Or will it be assigned to a supervisory union with multiple districts?   

Even if “A” becomes a single PK-12 district after it withdraws from a union high school, the State Board will not automatically designate it a supervisory district, able to hire its own superintendent.  The State Board is equally likely to assign the district to an existing or newly created SU.

Vermont statute (again, for decades) has authorized the State Board of Education – on its own initiative or at the request of member districts – to redraw the boundaries of an SU.  Therefore, if a member withdraws from a union school district or if a union school district is dissolved and only the former member town school districts remain, the State Board might decide to place the districts in different existing SUs or create one or more entirely new SUs in the region.  16 VSA § 261.

Why does a member that wants to withdraw from a union school district have to get approval from all of the other members?

Withdrawal from, or dissolution of, a union school district is a lengthy process that requires widespread approval at several levels.  We believe that the Legislature intentionally created this process so that the decision is made in a deliberate, thoughtful manner that insulates students from the negative consequences of local passions or political instability.  In addition, it will be necessary to resolve issues related to property ownership and financial obligations owed by the withdrawing district(s) to the union school district (or, in the case of dissolution, of the members to each other). 

Understanding Your District

Grants

Memos

Recent Study Committee Reports

Merger Activity Map

*Report includes the Secretary’s Recommendation; Study Committee’s Worksheet, Report, and Proposed Articles of Agreement.

Questions?

School Governance Team at aoe.act46@vermont.gov or (802) 479-1030

Page Last Updated on August 12, 2016