Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (standing) addresses House lawmakers
House lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would provide a deadline extension for some school districts that have been ordered to merge by Vermont’s Board of Education.
The legislation is a scaled-back version of a proposal that would have provided a one-year extension for all of the districts that were required to merge by July 1, 2019. That measure, which had support from a tripartisan coalition of House lawmakers, failed Wednesday.
Dozens of the districts ordered to merge have sued the state board, arguing that the order was unconstitutional. At the same time, parents, board members and administrators in some of the districts are urging lawmakers to step in and provide a delay of at least one year — or until the court case is finished.
The proposed legislation, which cleared the House in a 134 to 10 vote, gives an extension to some districts that haven’t presented a merger plan to voters. The bill, H.39, gives no extension to communities in which voters have rejected merger proposals. Those districts must still merge by July .
Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) was the lead sponsor of the blanket one-year delay proposal that lawmakers voted down Wednesday. She voted in favor of the competing proposal Thursday, she said, because she sees any delay as an improvement on the current situation — even if it doesn’t apply to as many districts as she’d like.
The bill that passed Thursday would provide a one-year extension for Scheuermann’s district of Stowe, but not for other areas, including Enosburgh and Richford; Barre City and Barre Town; and four other consolidated districts made up of three or more existing jurisdictions.
The legislation will now move to the Senate.
See below for a detailed list of the district merger deadlines proposed by the House bill, H.39: