BREAKING NEWS

Press Release

5 PM, October 24, 2017
Contact: Jack Bryar , Research Director
jack.bryar@gmail.com 802-843-2735

VSBA Meeting Rejects Calls for Greater Accountability

In the face of opposition by the AVSBM and a continuing boycott by large numbers  of Vermont school boards, barely 30 voting members at the Vermont School Board Association Conference at the  Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, ratified a series of  Board-sponsored resolutions that called for greater restrictions and more state oversight of school boards, restrictions on union bargaining and approved an ALEC-sponsored bill designed to promote privatization.
By contrast, all the resolutions actually proposed by member school boards in the state were prevented from reaching the floor for a vote.

According to BFUHS Board Chair David Clark, it was, “Another terrible, self-inflicted wound by an organization that was supposed to be the voice of Vermont local school board directors. It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive rejection of the VSBA’s accountability to its member boards.”

Among the rejected proposals was a plea for greater representation by public school boards on the VSBA and a request that the state report out the real economic consequences generated  by Act 46.

David Schoales, a school board member from Brattleboro, said he was astonished that the the VSBA would not even go on the record to ask if Act 46 was achieving its goals.
"What does it say when the organization representing school boards does not want to even talk about having the legislature report on the fiscal effects of the Act 46?  The Vermont League of Cities and Towns included this in their 2018 VLCT Municipal Policy document for the upcoming legislative session.  Why not the school boards?"

In spite of the vote, most of the speakers at the conference spoke in opposition to the suppression of local board proposals and against the VSBA governing board-sponsored resolutions which , according to an attendee from Orange County, “Amounted to acquiescing to state-mandated cost cutting and distracted from the mission of  the VSBA.”
Clark added, “The Resolutions adopted by the VSBA can’t be taken seriously as representing the views of actual school boards. They would hobble school board’s ability to set budgets, to hire or replace staff, to conduct negotiations or even provide basic oversight of taxpayer money.  The VSBA resolutions amount to a declaration by The Vermont School Board Association that Vermont school boards are no longer competent to responsibly conduct their lawful business .”
The Alliance of Vermont School Board Members (The Alliance) which has been trying to reform the VSBA and make it more accountable to local boards, had circulated a white paper on the impact of the VSBA proposals. They pointed out that that several of the resolutions used language similar to anti-public school lobbying organizations such as ALEC, the Koch Brothers organization.

According to the Alliance the VSBA proposals would:

  1. Have the state take over benefits negotiations from local boards. Opponents said the proposal was designed to imply that local boards had failed to negotiate benefits responsibly and that anticipated property tax increases likely to take place in  many communities were the result of local board incompetence rather than a last minute clawback of money the state to pay for those benefits and projected reductions in state payments to local schools.Others suggested that setting up a special state council to negotiate benefits in place of local school boards would have little credibility and risk pitting board against board. 
  2. Have the state set up a  special task force to arbitrarily “recommend” staffing levels at local schools according an unspecified  school categorization system to be developed by state “policymakers”. The Alliance of Vermont School Board Members previously rejected the need for such a task force. The Alliance questioned the state’s competency to oversee such a program noting that the state’s initial formula penalized rural schools, schools who hired their own food services staff, and counted special educators in some communities and not in others.
  3. Have the state oversee the creation of another “stakeholder task force” that would limit the ability of school boards to negotiate early teacher retirements without making additional staff cuts. Alliance research suggested that the proposal would actually increase school operating costs in many locations.
  4. Have the state restrict fact-finding in teacher negotiations that would set up arbitrary formulas that would  make it nearly impossible for poor communities to be competitive in  attracting high quality teaching staff.
  5. Have the state create “guidelines” limiting school boards’ ability to use contingency funds or fiscal reserves to better manage school finances.
  6. Have the state set up “innovation districts” where school board oversight would be limited. The Alliance had noted that the language was identical to an ALEC proposal that would set up charter schools and exempt such school from an obligation to educate all students regardless of ability or handicap. 

According to the Alliance, the resolutions should not be taken seriously by the legislature or the public as representing anything other than the degree to which the VSBA has drifted from its mission to faithfully represent and advocate for school boards.

Local school board members should be outraged by overtly politicized resolutions designed to demonize school boards across the state and blame them for state failures to support public education. The Alliance will be sending its report on the VSBA resolutions to local school boards across the state to alert them to what is being said in the their name. They urge local school boards to contact their legislators as soon as possible.

For more information
Please go to the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members, AVSBM.org and download a copy of our report,
Recent VSBA Proposals Reviewed

About the Alliance
The Alliance of Vermont School Board Members is a statewide reform initiative of local boards across the state to advocate for local school boards and to champion their contributions to Vermont education and to our local democratic traditions.

 

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Announcing an Alliance of School Board Members
Grassroots Effort to Explore the Formation of a New Group
to Represent School Boards

A grassroots group of Vermont school board members and educational advocates are calling for the creation of an alliance to represent the views of the over 1,000 democratically elected school board members who have helped make our state’s public schools among the best in the country.

Members of school boards from across the state have proposed the formation of the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members, (avsbm.org) dedicated to ensuring that the voices of all school boards and communities in the state can be effectively heard when it comes to the formation of public policies. The Alliance proposes to conduct a series of regional forums to collect the views of the state's school boards and plans to query individual boards across the state about their needs and policy recommendations.

The alliance was generated by a statewide meeting in Westminster Vermont, in May and is formed by school board members who are frustrated with educational legislation and the role of the Vermont School Boards association in lobbying in support of that legislation. They expressed concern that the VSBA had walked away from its mission to represent and advocate for the state's school board members and this was making it increasingly difficult for Board members to successfully advocate for their community’s schools. They suggest that an Alliance of School Board Members is needed to provide that advocacy. 



According to former VSBA board member David Schoales, “The bottom line is that the Vermont School Board Association (VSBA) has become a top-down organization promoting an agenda emanating from Montpelier. Schoales, currently a school board member from Brattleboro, said “VSBA has shown a lack of faith in its own membership. We don’t believe a state school board association should push so aggressively to eliminate scores of local schools boards, and suggest that the dedicated, voluntary services of hundreds of local school directors don’t add value to our school system. Even more disappointing is their claim that board members with years of experience are suddenly too incompetent to negotiate basic health care benefits.” 


Jack Bryar, a school board member from Grafton, Vermont said, “I sympathize with our legislators and state officials who are trying to develop thoughtful educational legislation and responsible policies. They deserve to have a partner dedicated to relaying the wide variety of experiences and perspectives of those elected officials closest to our state’s schools around Vermont. They don’t have that partner today. It is one reason that so much of our recent educational legislation has been unnecessarily controversial.”

The organizers invite all local school board directors looking for a responsive and supportive membership organization to join us in building this Alliance via a series of regional meetings to be held across the state in the next several months. They encourage board members from across the state to come and articulate their needs and priorities.

In addition to these meetings, the Alliance expects to send out a series questionnaires to school board members to identify their most immediate concerns and to place before local school boards a series of questions for their input and advice.

The Alliance has published this website which includes a working schedule of proposed meetings, policy questions and other resources materials for local boards and board members. 


They hope to hear from board members and local boards across the state and urge them to help create a democratic, responsive alliance of school board members that can advocate for the needs of our children, schools and our communities


Vermonters interested in attending these meetings or getting more information please contact us at: info@avsbm.org.



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