Open letter from Black River Area Innovations Network aka BRAIN

Dear Senator or Representative,

Thank you for your service to our great state of Vermont. We are reaching out to inform you of our difficulties here in Ludlow and Mount Holly. We are formally asking that a provision to S.122 be added granting Ludlow an Mount Holly school districts a one-year extension on meetings the requirements of Act 46.

Our communities, along with 140+ other cities and towns in Vermont, have encountered many challenges and inequities in Act 46 that are of grave concern. Here are just a few:

Incentives and Penalties- Act 46 and S.122 are unfair. Districts that were able to merge easily due to their geography, demographics and existing structures did so and are receiving incentives while those facing more challenges are penalized.

Act 153 Merger- Rutland Windsor Supervisory Union merger with Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union (Chester) creating Two River SU 4 years ago when the state requested. We were proactive and were working together on educational opportunities and innovations until Act 46 halted our teamwork and moved focus onto consolidation, governance and dealing with significant tax rate differences. In addition, our Union is only one of 2 in the State that has 2 High Schools in 1 SU – which adds extra burden on complying with Act 46. On that note alone we should be considered for an extension.

Economic and Social Benefits- In the upcoming town votes, we will be asked to close our high school and send our children 27 miles away to Mill River. An 2.721 merger and not an Act 46 merger, thus denying us the proposed extension on Act 46. Though we are a resort town, our local businesses will undoubtedly see a decrease in revenue due to the loss of our school and the business generated by community support of the extracurricular events. We are very concerned about our town’s stability.

Quality family time- With longer commutes for out children, 27 miles away, our families will lose the priceless everyday opportunities in our day to day lives. Families with various economic, personal challenges will be most negatively impacted as their opportunity to support their students will undoubtedly be limited. With over half of our school population receiving free and reduced lunch, this is another major concern.

Act 60/68 gold town status – Mount Holly and Ludlow generate over double the funds we need to operate our Prek-6 and 7-12 schools. Ludlow alone bill- $20 million in education taxes. Ludlow Elementary and Ludlow’s share of the Black River Union High School- $4 million. Ludlow alone sends to the Education Fund – $16 million.

It is difficult to understand how we should be expected to close our school, when we have enough money to operate it and still assist other school districts. Over the years we have cut out budgets to keep spending down while we see other districts increase spending and add programs. As a result, our students are being deprived of programs that were commonplace in all schools. Why is it ok for our children to go without so others can have more? In Ludlow Elementary we have 110 students and each teach ahs a supply budget of $125 this year. How far does $125 go in your home budget?

Please keep our communities, families and student in mind as you make decisions that so deeply affect us. We ask that you share with your colleagues our plight.

“We believe our students deserve the opportunity to be educated in our community.”

Editors note: BRAIN is the name chose by the parents’ working group from Mt. Holly and Ludlow.

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