Closing School in Hopes to Privatize

On Town Meeting Day 2012 North Bennington decided to close its public school with the expectation that the school will be re-opened as a private school. Have other school boards considered this action? And if so what was your concern and what motivated looking at “independent school” status?

  1. My school board has never considered this option. The topic of closing a school has been never discussed. I would personally be opposed to closing a public school and having a private school fill that educational need. Private schools aren’t subject to the same requirements for IEPs, special education and physical accommodation. They don’t fill the needs of all students. They are also not accountable to the community. The range of classes offered is completely within their purview and not necessarily meeting the needs or wishes of the students. Equality in co-curricular activities would not be guaranteed.

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  2. We have been looking into the independent school set-up. We’ve had a meeting with the principal to discuss what is involved with becoming an independent school.

    From what we learned it appears that the schools that ultimately change from a public school to an independent school do so because of academic failing or stagnation and a desire by the board to have better interaction with their teachers and an easier time in hiring good teachers (or letting go of bad teachers). There seems also to be a desire by the board to have more control and input in curriculum. Financial need, we found out, is not a good reason by itself for becoming an independent school.

    In our case we were looking into the independent school because of financial reasons and the potential of loss of control over our curriculum in the future. We have wonderful staff and great teachers and a great history with them so; let me be clear; we were not looking to make any personnel changes. In fact what prompted our inquiry was the centralization of special education at the supervisory level and in the supervisory budget. By centralizing special education there is an expectation of economies of scale; however, we will see our special ed. costs double or more, while everyone else in the union would see a reduction in their costs. But, to become an independent school at this time, for that reason, doesn’t seem practicable. There is a tremendous amount of fund raising that needs to be done as an independent school, making the school board almost a full time job. So we have tabled it for the time being and are considering opting out of special ed. services from our supervisory union and ‘self-insuring’ so to speak as a way to keep our special ed. costs down and manageable. The other reason for considering this is that our special ed. personnel are fabulous and if they come under the supervisory control, we stand a good chance of losing them—in other words: lose of control. One of the reasons our special ed. costs are lower is because of the wonderful interaction between our special ed. teachers, our regular teachers and our principal (who is special ed. trained).

    So, we haven’t ruled out becoming an independent school, we’re just not looking to do that right now. That could change depending on what the Legislature does, how good or bad this ‘common core curriculum’ does and what the costs at the supervisory union level do.

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  3. I am a new board member and have not heard of this idea in our district as of yet. My questions would be: What does this do for the tax payer? Who governs the school functions? What do the children benefit from this change? Does this eliminate the state regulations as well as federal(no child left behind)?

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  4. I do not know nor claim to understand all of Bennington’s reasons for this decision. However, I believe in public schools and that it is the community’s responsibility to support them and keep them free of tuition and free of private and corporate interests. Thank you for the inquiry.

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  5. In answering this question I have to say the main problem I feel is the loss of federal and state monies which are a major funding source for special educational students. Our school considered privatizing when a group of residents tried to close it. How does a public school become a private school while still servicing the same student population with the same, and hopefully a better education? If the funds which are used to pay for these services are lost how does a school find new funding sources to continue with the programs? For our school it was going to be a tough financial void. There were a lot of scenario’s looked at to see what the best option was going to be and in the end staying a public school and becoming very proactive in the community through educating community members on the real, unbiased facts on education especially the financial costs. I am still on the board and personally I think we made the correct choice. Our population has grown every year in the past five years in our elementary school, and this would have been our downfall financially because we would have tuitioned all these elementary students instead of controlling costs, providing a known quality education and having a partnership with our community. Good luck with everything you chose to do as providing a quality education is a challenge academically and financially whether you are a private or a public school.

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  6. There has not been any discussion in our town. I would try to seek the advice from another local school board. They are facing closing their high school and tuition to a semi private academy. In the long run, I don’t see the real advantage of changing to a private school.

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  7. This has not happened in our district to my knowledge. I think most folks in our supervisory union are strong believers in the benefits of public schools. My concern with a private school if no public option existed would be what happens to kids needing special education services who live in Bennington? These services can be expensive; who would pay for them? I also have concerns that teachers may not be held to similar levels of certification as for public schools. I also wonder around transportation: who will pay for busing or does it no longer exist?

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  8. Yes we have thought of asking our residents if they would prefer to close the elementary school and reopen it as an independent or charter school. We considered this action due to what the Town and Board feel is the inequities of the State Education formula. As a ‘Gold’ town, we are no longer in charge of our own town’s destiny, but must now figure that any growth would just mean sending more to the State. We believed that we may have been able to escape Act 60. But after weighing the choices, speaking with some of the townspeople, we decided it would be a big risk. We would have had to have most of our Towns’ children return to the ‘new’ school in order to have any savings. If too many decided to go with school choice, we could end up worse off then we were.

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  9. Our neighboring town did exactly this. It has caused them a lot of tax problems. Outside of that, I think the opinions are very diverse.

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  10. I’m not sure what we went through relates directly to the question, but we looked at closing or privatizing our schools after Acts 60 and 68 hammered the taxpayers in town. Our hope was to find some way to limit the punitive taxes set up with Acts 60 and 68, but our analysis showed that not only wouldn’t we be able to save any money, but it would probably cost more. In addition, we would likely lose some of what we had built up in our excellent schools. I assume that North Bennington has voted to close the school in order to save money. From what we learned, I don’t see how they can accomplish that and also provide a good education for the children. If they are closing to try and start over for a better education program, that may be a different story. I would be very interested to hear what the basis for the vote was.

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  11. I can not imagine what conditions would bring a school board to close a school, or how they would imagine re-opening it as a private school would cure their problem(s). I only see more trouble ahead for a private school, such as:
    Who is the governing authority?
    Where do operating funds come from? — Obviously some from tuition, but amounts of $ will be more unstable and most state and federal funds should be cut off.
    Where do you get quality staff, as they will tend to go to public schools in the area for more money.

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  12. We have not considered this option. To my knowledge there are no schools in our supervisory union who are considering the option.

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  13. Our school board has not considered this action. It has not actually come up as a subject for discussion; however in our area it would be difficult to consider a private school vs. a public school.

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  14. I do believe that some of the outlining districts are waiting to see the outcome of No. Bennington as a private school and just what it means. I think that No. Bennington made it clear they want to go private to get away from the state mandates that seem to appear more frequent then needed., without the money to follow. I guess we are all pretty upset with the mandates as well.

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  15. We have not encountered this – yet. WE did have a few unhappy parents who removed their children from a middle school and started their own home school program.

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  16. Our school board has not considered this.  We have some parents who have chosen to home school their children. That is their right. They are achieving good results. If the residents of North Bennington or any other town decides to privatize that should be their right of local self determination. From first hand experience the legislature, the governor, the VT DOE do a good job of taking our tax dollars, having us beg to get the money back and then telling us how to spend it. It is a highly politicized mess that has little or nothing to do with educating our children. It is never a good idea to have governance to far removed from direct service.
     

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