Editor of the Reformer:
Communities throughout the state of Vermont have worked hard, committed substantial resources and have shown dedication to the importance of public education. This collective commitment has provided Vermont students opportunity and success for many years.
Today citizens agree that there are substantial challenges in the public education in the state of Vermont. We are now confronted with a unique set of circumstances.
There has been a consistent decline in the student population state wide (in 1997 there were 106,000 compared to 77, 000 today). Fewer students has increased the per pupil cost. We have consistently been dedicated to maintaining quality of programs with declining numbers.
There has been an increase in the number of students living in homes with financial challenges. In WSESU the level of students eligible for free and reduced food assistance is 50 percent.
There has continued to be a larger discrepancy in communities of wealth and communities of lesser opportunities state wide.
All education funds are raised and pooled state wide and reallocated to guarantee educational equity for all students regardless of community resources.
Vermont's population is the second oldest in the nation and the total population numbers are not increasing.
These interconnected circumstances are what led to the passage of Act 46 in June of last year. The Agency of Education and the legislature worked together to establish a solution for some of these challenges. The need to maintain equitable public education for all our students is paramount as we go forward.
It is interesting to note that when given the opportunity to vote on the choice to form unified districts, 50 towns in the state of Vermont have voted to follow a unified district format this year. Communities that have voted in the affirmative recognized that change, however difficult, will collectively achieve equitable educational opportunity for Vermont students.
In the democratic process it is important that the voters of the five towns that make up the WSESU have the opportunity to cast ballots on this issue prior to June 30.
Shaun Murphy, Guilford, May 2