When the legislature restructured the state entities which oversee education K-12 in Vermont, the department of education was removed and replaced with an agency. By extension, the top official of the school became the secretary of education, equal to a cabinet minister. The State Board, therefore, lost its responsibility.
The new chairperson of the Board thinks that it is now time to think of what role they will play in the landscape of education in Vermont. He was quoted saying that the Board by law is no longer the same without its power to hire and fire the top school officials. John Carroll, the chairperson, believes that the Legislature of 2012 and its directive changes have prompted the Board to surrender all its administrative function to the agency, and now concentrate on long term planning.
In the last few years, the Board has played major roles in the debate over education. This has rendered them in a position of having the final say in many matters such as mergers under Act 46, and Act 173.
Peter Peltz, another member of the Board and former lawmaker, is of the belief that the General Assembly’s assignments to the body neither contain staff, and nor funding. The volunteer board is left to depend on the agency for any personnel they need. In the past, in rare cases, the Board is contracted as an outside legal counsel such as when Governor Peter Shumlin had blocked the agency from assisting the board in the drafting of controversial rules for private schools.
Another Board member, Oliver Olsen agrees that with the shedding of administrative functions, the Board will have more time and space to direct attention to planning the education system. However, with the financial issues in Vermont, the Board must keep in mind that a request for staff and funding from the General Assembly will not be acceptable.
This is not the first time that the function of the Board has been questioned. In a Memo published in 2018, the Secretary of Education, Dan French spoke of consolidating school districts which would abolish the Board entirely. French is a non-voting member and said that he had applied for the post of Secretary so as to structurally alter the design of the Board to accommodate the Vermont demographic. He believes that planning the structure of education in Vermont is more important.