Sibilia Week 2 of the #Vermont legislative session:

Good morning!

Reports and notes of interest from the second week of the legislature below:

Department of Public Service creates wireless coverage maps and submits challenge to wireless coverage in Vermont

Montpelier—The Department of Public Service created an interactive map that shows the results of a drive test of mobile wireless coverage in the state. After reviewing providers’ maps that purport to show the extent of their coverage, the Department undertook a drive test of all major roads in the state to collect data and assess where mobile wireless service is actually available from a consumer perspective.  read more

Links are provided below to:

challenge map
VTel’s federally funded Wireless Open World (WOW) was to bring 4G/LTE wireless broadband to every un-served home and business in rural Vermont.

A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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Help for federal workers

As a result of the partial Federal Government shutdown, the Department for Children and Families, Economic Services Division (ESD) has issued guidance to all of its district offices to screen for and potentially provide benefits to Vermonters who are furloughed Federal employees. These Vermonters may be eligible for financial assistance during this shutdown. ESD may be able to help with the cost of food, fuel assistance, etc. Furloughed Federal employees may apply in person at their local district offices or online at dcf.vermont.gov/esd, or by calling 1-800-479-6151.

In addition to the information from DCF, banks & credit unions are urging anyone affected by the shutdown to contact their financial institution. Most institutions are offering some kind of assistance, such as overdraft assistance, loans, changes in terms of existing loans, to help people weather this hardship.

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VT/NH paid family leave plan

Last week Gov. Scott and NH Gov Sununu proposed a joint voluntary pad family leave program

From VtDigger: Democrats reject Scott’s paid leave plan, pitch mandatory program:

The paid family leave bill backed by Democratic lawmakers would be funded through a universal .93 percent payroll tax split between employees and employers.

Johnson said the plan would be cheaper than the governor’s and yet offer more time and pay: employees struggling with illness, caring for sick family members, or taking care of a newborn child would be able take 12 weeks of leave while receiving 100 percent of their wages.

The governor’s proposal would give employees six weeks of leave and 60 percent of their earnings each week.

“The cost of the program is a little less expensive, but the benefit is almost double, so you get twice the benefit at a slightly lower cost,” Johnson said.

The Democrats’ proposal would cost 70 cents per day per employee, for those earning a median income, according to Johnson.

Under the governors’ plan, Vermont and New Hampshire’s combined 18,500 state workers would receive the paid family leave benefit, administered through a private insurer and funded by the state.

Sharing risk across a bigger pool helps to provide more sustainability and less risk to insurance type programs – so I appreciate the notion of this proposed collaboration. Like every proposal, the details will matter.  I expect this to be a session long discussion in the House.

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CARE (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies)

Emergencies can take many forms, from natural disasters to human-caused events such as a major traffic accident that closes a road or takes out the power for hours at a time. For elders or people with physical or mental disabilities, such events can become life-threatening if they are prolonged and no one is available to help. The CARE Program (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies), administered by the United Ways of Vermont, Vermont 211 and E-911, are working together to identify Vermont residents who would require special assistance in an emergency. If you or know someone who would need special help in a crisis, please complete the linked form below and return it to Vermont 211. Your information will be entered into a database linked to the E-911 system, and the records will be updated each year. All records are confidential and will only be shared with groups involved in helping to keep people safe in an emergency. You must send a new form each year to keep your registration up-to-date. This form may be completed, printed and mailed to: Vermont 211 PO Box 111 Essex Junction, VT 05453

CARE Registration Form

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VSBA Legislative Alert: Act 46 Forced Merger Delay Under Consideration

House leaders have indicated they are open to delaying implementation of forced mergers until July 1, 2020.  These House leaders have heard from school board members and community leaders who are participating in the lawsuit to prevent forced mergers from taking place.  The indication is that everyone agrees that Act 46 mergers should be delayed until 2020.

It is not clear whether there will be an opportunity for those affected by this decision to testify.  If you have an opinion about whether or not the General Assembly should delay implementation of Act 46 mergers ordered by the State Board of Education, now is the time to let us know. Because it isn’t clear whether board members in affected districts will be invited to testify, please consider sharing your perspectives with these officials in order to ensure the decision is well-informed.

Speaker of the House: Speaker@leg.state.vt.us
Chair of House Education, Rep. Webb: KWebb@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of House Education, Rep. Cupoli: lcupoli@leg.state.vt.us

Senate President Pro Tem:  timashe@burlingtontelecom.net
Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Baruth: PBaruth@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Ingram: DIngram@leg.state.vt.us

Single Education District concept floated:

In a draft policy memo dated Jan. 1, administration officials, led by Education Secretary Dan French, outline a new concept for Vermont’s schools: consolidating all school districts into one, abolishing the State Board of Education, and establishing four regional administrative entities, each with its own school board and superintendent, to oversee schools in the area.
Administration’s Education White Paper
Vermont School Board Association Response 

Coming up:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call

View on Monday night arrivals

votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

In the news:
Legislative Cheat Sheet and Lobbying
Rainville endorses Knight in adjutant general race

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

 

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Rep. Sibilia: Reflections on 2018 ~ Contemplating 2019

~ 2018 Reflections ~ Contemplating 2019 ~

This past year voters elected me to a third two-year term representing you in

 the Vermont Legislature.  Thank you for placing your trust in me. I will continue to work to represent our district with integrity and passion.

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Last session I served for a second year on the newly formed Energy and Technology Committee in the House. The former chair of this committee Rep. Steve Carr has retired and a new chair will be named for 2019. I was also appointed to the Joint House/Senate Information Technology Committee and the House Ethics Panel. There were a number of bills that I introduced or cosponsored, most having to do with education, telecommunications expansions and rural economic development which remain important issues in our district and our state.
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At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places.

The Vermont House and Senate efforts on Net Neutrality and Data Privacy protections combined with the failure of the 2G CoverageCo rural cellular network and increasing declines in land line telephone system are pulling together coalitions and urgent conversations regarding the need to assess our entire telecommunications infrastructure, transmission, content development, privacy and access systems. This will be a significant part of our work in the coming years.

An important reminder about landline phone service: Storms and weather and accidents happen, and when they do we can briefly lose our landline telephone service. When that happens, it is important to let the phone company know you have lost service.
If you start having chronic issues with your landline phone service like significant delays (more then 48 hours) in repair time, repeated failure to solve the problem or repeated failure to schedule a technician or service it’s important to then let your elected officials and those individuals who regulate the phone company know what is happening.
When your land line stops working:
1. Call your service provider and report the problem. Note the date, time, name of the person who has taken your call and what they tell you they will do to solve your issue.
If you still do not have phone service for more then 24 hours after your initial call to the phone company:
2. Send an email to your State Representative with the following information:
    • What the name of the telephone carrier isfcc
    • What the address is where the problem is located
    • What the name of the account holder is at that address
    • The best means for the phone company to contact that person
    • What the problem is
    • When the problem started
    • How many times the phone company has been contacted
    • What they have said/done
2. If you still don’t have service 24 hours later, and there has been no follow up by the company
  • If your provider is Consolidated you can submit comments to the public service quality complaint that has been opened up: Go to the Vermont Public Utility Commission website and open case https://epuc.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/135508/FV-Case%20Summary-Portal and file a public comment by clicking on the drop down menu under “Case Details” and selecting “add a public comment”. Suggested info for public comment is same info included in the email to your State Representative.
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The possession and use of marijuana and a limited number of marijuana plants was legalized early in the past session. We will see proposals for a system to tax and regulate sales in this coming session.
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Several acts to reduce violence in our schools and communities were passed. In a perfect demonstration of a functioning democracy, opponents of the legislation have filed lawsuits and asked the Courts to decide if the Legislature and the Administration acted in a way that violates our Constitution. This is exactly how our system of checks and balances on power is supposed to work. There are at least three additional pieces of gun legislation that I am hearing may be introduced in 2019 – a 48 hour waiting period on gun purchases, a ban on 3-D printing of guns and a gun storage requirement. When and if these bills are introduced and considered, your specific examples of how you personally might be impacted by such laws will be helpful if we end up taking these bills up.
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This past year a special committee examined 50 years of Act 250 The Commission on Act 250: the Next 50 Years is a six-member legislative committee that was established to examine and report by December 15, 2018 on a broad list of issues relating to the State land use law known as Act 250, originally passed in 1970 and codified at 10 V.S.A. chapter 151. The draft report has recently been released. To publicly comment, please email Act250Comments@leg.state.vt.us
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 Education issues for our district and much of the state continue to revolve around Act 46

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River Valleys School Board Chair Rich Werner walks members of the public through expected tax implications on its first budget proposal

implementation.  Stamford continues to make progress on developing an interstate district with Clarksburg, MA.

The River Valley’s Unified District Board for Dover and Wardsboro has approved it’s first budget and projected it’s first tax rate and is preparing to go the voters at the River Valleys Unified School District Annual Meeting on February 12, 2019 at 7 pm at the Wardsboro Town Hall.
Whitingham’s lawsuit challenging the state’s education finance formula continues to move forward.
The Acting Secretary of Education produced a statutorily required plan on the alignment of all of Vermont’s school districts. The State Board of Education took testimony at public hearings, including my testimony, and crafted their Final Report of Decisions and Order on Statewide School District Mergers as required in Act 46.  New lawsuits are emerging from districts who have been recommended for forced merger.
Gov Scott proposed to alter student/staff ratios prior to receiving the statutorily required and funded student weighting study needed to ensure those ratios are implemented and felt equitably throughout the state.  He also successfully advocated for the use of one time funds to artificially lower property taxes for one year.
In 2018 Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcomb resigned and Gov. Scott appointed Dan French as the new Secretary of Education.  Long time legislator and former Chair of House Education and Vice Chair of Ways and Means Rep. Dave Sharpe retired which will almost certainly effect the tenor and type of education discussions the legislature has going forward.

In 2019 I anticipate there may be legislative proposals to hold some or all non-merged school districts harmless, to delay the effects of Act 46 for some or all non-merged districts or to reject some or all of the findings of the State Board of Education. I expect the Governor to propose major education finance changes, as he has every year. My support for those proposals always centers around two factors – not harming Vermont students and transparently helping Vermont taxpayers, in that order. Our local districts have complied with Act 46, but are still deeply challenged by the combination of our rural demographic challenges and the 20 year flawed education financing system. Locally we have more work to do and need to have that work supported. My efforts in the coming session will center around honoring the incredibly difficult and emotional work our communities have done so far, protecting the educational needs of our students and defending our taxpayers.
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In 2019 the Vermont Legislature will elect a new Adjutant General for the Vermont National Guard who will lead both the air and Army Guard in Vermont.  Legislators will choose between at two candidates. Vermont is the only state where the Adjutant is elected by the Legislature. If you are Guard Family or former Guard and have thoughts you’d like to share in advance of that election I would like to hear them.
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 must originate in the Vermont State Senate and can only be  proposed every four years. This is one of the years changes can be proposed. There will be a push for amendments that will create 4 year terms for Governor as well as establish civil and reproductive rights for Vermonters.
How does ranked-choice voting work?
How does Ranked Choice Voting Work

In addition, Rep. Ben Jickling of Randolph and I are working with Senator Chris Pearson of Burlington and other independents and Progressives on a bill which would bring Ranked Choice Voting to Vermont. Maine has recently utilized and the courts have upheld election results using Ranked Choice Voting. Massachusetts has a healthy public education campaign underway. We are looking forward to lots of public education on the benefits of ensuring candidates receive a majority vote and that all voters are able to have their votes considered in elections.

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The remote worker program has officially opened for applications as of January 1. This program reimburses individuals for some expenses to move to Vermont and work remotely. More information is available at the ThinkVermont website.
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Other issues we are hearing will be receiving legislative attention this session: Minimum Wage, Paid Family Leave, Water Quality, Climate Change
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Thank you to all who have taken our 2019 Legislative Survey.
Thus far we have 196 responses but are particularly light in responses from the under 35 crowd.

If you haven’t taken the survey, especially if you are a young person – please take the survey by Friday January 4th. Results will be published prior to the start of the new session on January 9th. The survey is designed to measure the attitudes and priorities of voters in the Deerfield Valley based on general topics and some specific proposals that we think will happen in the legislature this year.
 
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In 2018 I had some proud momma moments included my youngest daughter graduating from the UVM ROTC program as a nurse and 2LT in the U.S. Army and my son working all last winter in order to travel to France and Italy over the summer and then being able to watch him playing in the DIII Vermont high school soccer championship game this fall.  
Both of my daughters spent a fair amount of time in the State House during the debate and passage of

S.55 observing democracy in action and my oldest daughter has agreed to work with me part time during this year’s Session helping with research.
Proud to also share that my little brother graduated from the Vermont Police Academy this Fall and he is now working with Brattleboro Police Department.
 
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A final thought on 2018 – During the past four years I’ve been privileged to serve in the Vermont Legislature, I have had the added honor of sitting next to Rep. Kiah Morris of Bennington. Kiah was the only African American women serving in the Vermont House. Kiah has unexpectedly stepped away from serving in the House, and I have been reflecting on what I have learned since meeting her.
Kiah and I came into the House the same year and shared an immediate bond as Southern Vermont moms with young sons still at home. In our first term, we successfully worked together with a number of our colleagues on the creation of the Southern Vermont Economy Zone, a long term economic strategy which is already resulting in new collaborations and projects in Southern Vermont. It was eye opening to me each time I heard racist and discriminatory remarks in devotions, debate or comments in the Vermont House of Representatives including speeches on several civil and human rights measures Kiah had proposed which were so vitriolic they reduced visitors to tears. Watching the two self described local white supremacists harass her – sometimes daily and sometimes hourly over the years she served – equally as shocking. It’s hard to see what we don’t see.
Growing up and living in areas that are largely rural and almost exclusively white had afforded me virtually no opportunities to witness overtly racist acts. Out of sight, out of mind.  Sitting next to Kiah brought home to me the work that is still needed to combat racism and bigotry, even in Vermont. As our entire country continues to feel the demographic shifts of a globally connected economy, retiring baby boomers and lower birthrates, and we in rural Vermont continue to seek qualified employees for existing good paying jobs, people who want to start businesses and live here, enroll their students in our schools and enjoy the beauty, quiet and safety that keep us here, we have to start by asking (as my friend Kiah has asked me) “who deserves to be able to be here and to enjoy those things?”
Thank you for keeping me informed about your hopes, challenges and points of view last year – I hope you will continue in 2019 – Happy New Year!

2019 survey on the #Vermont Legislative session for the Deerfield Valley

This year I’m collaborating with fellow Deerfield Valley legislator Rep. John Gannon on a brief 16 question survey which is designed for you to weigh in on what areas you’d most like the legislature to spend their time on. There are a few additional questions about issues that could emerge during the 2018 Vermont political discussion. We are hoping you will consider giving some brief input prior to the the legislative session which begins January 9th and will likely go through early May.

This survey is intended for our constituents in Dover, Halifax, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham, and Wilmington but our weekend residents and neighbors are free to weigh in.  The only required questions are name and town of residence. The survey should take you about 5 minutes to complete if you choose to answer all of the remaining questions.

Take the survey

A reminder about the Consolidated Communications hearing in Readsboro Monday November 26th:  After a significant increase in repair and new service complaints this summer, the Department of Public Service petitioned the Public Utility Commission for an  investigation to be conducted. There will be two hearings statewide – one in Readsboro at the school on November 26th starting at 6:30 and another in St Albans at BF Academy on December 6th at 6:30. Please share this information with your neighbors and ask them to attend or file comments with the PUC on case #18-3231 if they have experienced a service quality or new installation issue. It seems likely that Vermont’s policymakers are not aware of the extent of the service quality issues, or the results of the billions of dollars of deferred maintenance. While we all want to see more internet and cellular service, unreliable land line phone service in areas without cell or internet poses significant dangers for vulnerable populations and public safety.

Please stay in touch with issues of concern,

Rep. Laura Sibilia

Rep. Sibilia: Voting, PUC hearings on Consolidated Communications

Good evening/morning,
Election day is Tuesday, November 6th. You must be registered to vote in the town you currently reside in. In Vermont you can register the day of the election. Information on Vermont’s voting laws is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
This year, we have contested elections for U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor and State Senate. I am running uncontested for re-election to represent you in the House of Representatives and ask for your vote. You may write in a name for any office. Just about every election in Vermont we are reminded that the individuals vote counts a lot. Many races have been won with one or two votes and a number of statewide elections have not resulted in a candidate receiving a majority of the votes and required the legislature to choose the winner. Please vote!
Dover Town Hall                              7:00 AM
Readsboro Central School            10:00 AM
Searsburg Town Clerks Office     10:00 AM
Stamford Elementary School          8:00 AM
Wardsboro Town Office                  9:00 AM
Whitingham Municipal Center     10:00 AM
All polls close at 7:00 PM
Results will be posted as they come in at the Secretary of State’s elections results web page.
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Consolidated Communications hearings
 
Southern Vermont: READSBORO November 26th 
Northern Vermont: SAINT ALBANS December 6th
Time and locations TBD 
 
The Vermont Department of Public Service has petitioned the Vermont Public Utilities commission for an investigation into the service quality provided by Consolidated Communications, Inc. In seeking the investigation, the Department noted that the number of consumer complaints received from Consolidated customers related to service outages between July and September of 2018 has increased by 2,760% over the same period in the previous year and that the number of complaints related to installation delays between July and September of 2018 has increased 500% over the same period in 2017. The Department has been conducting an informal inquiry into the complaints and Consolidated is cooperating with the inquiry.
Please share: I personally have received multiple reports of elderly, handicapped or geographically isolated customers safety having been compromised by service quality issues (5 and 10 day repair times for instance). It is important for state regulators to understand the magnitude of the service quality challenges. If you have experienced poor quality telephone service, lengthy repair or installation times please consider testifying in person or you can provide testimony online at the Vermont Public Utility Commission Online Portal for case #18-3231-PET
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Act 46 news 
The State Board of Education has recently accepted the Secretary of Education recommendations for the Searsburg and Stamford Interstate District Alternative Structure proposals. Many many thanks for the countless hours both groups have put forward on behalf of their students and taxpayers in order to fulfill their districts obligations under Act 46.
Congratulations to the new River Valleys Unified School District board  for their recent award from BCTV: Municipal Partner of the Year.

“River Valleys Unified School District Board was created last summer following the unification of Dover and Wardsboro School Districts under Act 46. The River Valleys USD Board turned to BCTV to video its bi-weekly meetings as a way to engage and provide transparency. And, in fact, thanks to the board’s promotional efforts, most of the meetings have received hundreds of views.

‘It’s gratifying to get so many views, and critical that those who can’t attend can get the full flavor of the somewhat complex process,” said Board Chair Richard Werner. “In addition, it’s been a benefit to all of us to be able to review the videos as work progresses.'”

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Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info 
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Highlights from this summer/fall
 
Ditch School in Wardsboro with Gary Urbanati
 
Readsboro meeting w/Agency of Digital Services & Department of Public Service
 

Community forums in Wardsboro, Dover, Readsboro and Stamford & healthcare forum in Whitingham

Toured Great River Hydro Facilities 

Attended dedication of 
Gold Star Families Memorial
State Board of Education Act 46 Alternative Structures Hearing
 
Grew a contender for World’s Smallest Gilfeather Turnip


A Historic Gathering of Independents at the #UniteSummit
Attended and spoke at: A Historic Gathering of Independents at the #UniteSummit in Denver


Listened to this excellent VPR Podcast series on Jack Sawyer and Vermont’s gun debate


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These posts have been made to my website and to social media since the end of the 2018 session

 Opportunity: #Vermont Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) program

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Please stay engaged and stay in touch via email lhsibilia@gmail.com or phone 802-384-0233. If you’d like to receive updates from my blog as they are posted please check out www.laurasibiliavt.com.
Laura
Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Update from Rep. Sibilia :: Public forum in Stamford, Healthcare forum next week

Tuesday October 9 Tue 6:30 PM at the Stamford Elementary School we are hosting another public forum.  Thus far these forums have been excellent opportunities for me to hear from and respond to small groups about specific constituent concerns. Act 46, workforce, healthcare, telephone and internet service, carbon taxes and climate change have been the most frequent topics brought up – please come and lets talk about how Vermont government can better respond to Vermonter everyday challenges.
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Next Tuesday October 16th Rep. John Gannon and I will be hosting a single issue forum on Healthcare with Vermont’s Healthcare Advocate Michael Fisher in Whitingham at the Twin Valley auditorium from 6-7:30
Ambitious health care reform that changes how providers are paid is currently being implemented across the state. Come participate in a discussion to better understand how these changes will impact your premiums and access to care. We will also discuss passage this past year of an individual mandate requiring Vermonters to be covered by insurance as of January 1, 2020. This legislation was passed in reaction to the repeal of the individual mandate federally this past year. Deerfield Valley State Representatives Laura Sibilia and John Gannon want to ensure residents, employees and employers in the Deerfield Valley communities can weigh in on the current state of healthcare and what choices they face with an individual mandate. complete release here
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Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info 
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I attended the Vermont State Board of Education hearing on September 19, 2018 at Green Mountain Union High School, Chester, VT.
This hearing was for the State Board to hear from districts prior to deciding what to do with those that didn’t opted to merge voluntarily.
The 95 districts that didn’t merge submitted alternative plans, or Section 9 proposals, to the Agency of Education for consideration. Stamford/Clarksburg Interstate group testified.
In June, Acting Education Secretary Heather Bouchey recommended 18 forced mergers. She recommended the remaining districts not consolidate – due to mergers being impractical or legally impossible – or that they continue with processes already underway. The state board has a final plan due on Nov. 30.  I provided testimony to the state board which can be read  here.
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16th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival & Contest

October 27, 2018  Wardsboro  Saturday 10 to 3
Rain or Shine
Main Street and Town Hall
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29 days till the election!  Got one of these? Want one?
 
This year there is not a contested election but a number of folks have asked me about putting signs out – thank you! If you have a campaign sign please put it out – if you’d like one, please let TJ or I know and we will get one to you.
If you are able to offset year round communications and travel obligations through a token financial contribution, it’s appreciated.

Please stay engaged and stay in touch via email lhsibilia@gmail.com or phone 802-384-0233. If you’d like to receive updates from my blog as they are posted please check out www.laurasibiliavt.com.

Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Testimony to SBE on Act 46 Section 9 proposals

Stamford testifies about progress on the Stamford/Clarksburg interstate school district

I attended the Vermont State Board of Education hearing on September 19, 2018 at Green Mountain Union High School, Chester, VT.  This hearing was for the State Board to hear from districts prior to deciding what to do with those that didn’t opted to merge voluntarily.

The 95 districts that didn’t merge submitted alternative plans, or Section 9 proposals, to the Agency of Education for consideration. Stamford/Clarksburg Interstate group testified.

In June, Acting Education Secretary Heather Bouchey recommended 18 forced mergers. She recommended the remaining unmerged districts not consolidate – due to mergers being impractical or legally impossible – or that they continue with processes already underway. The state board has a final plan due on Nov. 30.

Testimony took place all day with many districts that have been unable to secure a vote to merge from their electorate advocating those votes be respected. Local votes should be respected, particularly on matters limited to that community. Since he passage of Act 60 twenty years ago, education decisions in Vermont very seldom impact only one community.

I provided testimony to the state board which can be read below.

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Thank you for allowing me to testify today.

There are a number of points of view I am bringing to this testimony, but to be clear I am testifying today as the State Representative of the Windham-Bennington District.

I’m the oldest of 12 siblings whose lives were measurably improved by the staff of a small rural public school in Whitingham.  I would note that is a school district which has since been merged for over 10 years with Wilmington

I’m a mom of three and I invested my treasure, my children, in my community school and that Twin Valley merged district – my girls have graduated from college and my son will head to college in another 2 years

I’m a 17 year member of the Dover School Board which will meet for its final time at this year’s Town Meeting

I’m a one year member of the new River Valleys Unified Board for the merged districts of Dover and Wardsboro, a member of the Windham Central Supervisory Union Board and a four year member of the Vermont School Board Association Board for Windham County School Boards

An elected member of Vermont’s General Assembly who surprised many by voting for Act 46. I did so because I was convinced that our rural schools and students were in trouble. Every single one of my geographically isolated and rural towns has complied with Act 46 resulting in 3 completed mergers, one interstate merger in process and one standalone non operational district. They are all working many many hours to find improved educational benefits for their students.

I hold a private sector job which assesses demographic and economic data for the Windham And Bennington Region – who it should be noted are working together – and the two counties are in the midst of planning strategies to work together to repopulate and reinvigorate the economy in Southern Vermont

I’m also a resident of the Town of Dover. The fourth largest sending Town to the state education fund.

I want to remind you that Vermonters did not get a vote on whether or not they wanted to change how we pay for education after constitutional violations were found in Brigham. Our courts and the legislature – with their statewide view and constitutional imperative – decided for Vermonters because, in Vermont, all students are to be afforded substantially equitable education opportunities no matter where you live.

I want to remind you that Vermont business taxpayers are making huge investments in education for students all throughout the state – without being able to vote on the budgets.

And I want to remind you that students living in poverty, students living in fragile family circumstance, or in towns losing population, students attending schools in places where they can’t access internet, after-school programs, foreign language, or where they don’t have consistently competent boards, top notch administrators or low staff turnover – these students don’t get to vote.

The conditions that created the need for Act 46, chiefly declining population, still exist and in some places, like Southern Vermont, they are accelerating in younger age cohorts.  The activity that has taken place to date in the BRSU and along Route 100 and Route 30  have been and continue to be significant for those communities – but that activity alone is not going to fix the inequities or bring greater fiscal accountability to this state funded system.

Please remember – you have a responsibility to all of the kids and the kids don’t get to vote.