And it’s also the first interstate school district in the nation
by Samuel Stebbins, 24/7 Wall St. via The Center Square
Tiny Norwich – a Windsor County bedroom community for Dartmouth College and its associated medical center – is the wealthiest school district in Vermont. The average household income is $155,346.
The population of Norwich is 3,612 (2020 census). It’s part of the nation’s first interstate school district – the Dresden School District – made possible by a federal law that was one of the final bills signed by Pres. John F. Kennedy before his assassination.
Norwich is also one of Vermont’s most politically liberal towns. It voted 90% for Joe Biden in 2020, compared to about 70% statewide.
The Dresden School District is the first interstate school district in the United States, according to Wikipedia. It operates the Francis C. Richmond Middle School and Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire. The district is part of the New Hampshire’s School Administrative Unit (SAU) 70, which also includes two other school districts, each with its own school board: the Hanover School District, which operates the Bernice A. Ray Elementary School in Hanover, and the Norwich School District, which operates the Marion Cross Elementary School in Norwich, Vermont.
Norwich and Hanover, New Hampshire, lie on opposite sides of the Connecticut River. According to Wikipedia, many Norwich residents were employed at Dartmouth College and the Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover. Before 1964, Hanover had provided secondary education to Norwich students on a tuition basis, paid by the Norwich school district, which had no local high school. Growth in enrollment in Hanover High School necessitated new construction, which would have been easier to finance with contributions from Norwich. Norwich was unable by state law to contribute to Hanover’s construction cost, and Hanover was unable by state law to give Norwich any voice in the operation of the schools.
Several Dartmouth College faculty members on the Hanover and Norwich school boards (John G. Kemeny, later president of Dartmouth, in Hanover and Donald Kreider and William Ballard in Norwich) sought to solve these problems by creating the Dresden School District. They secured consent from the towns of Hanover and Norwich, the legislatures of New Hampshire and Vermont, and the United States Congress (whose consent was required because the Compact Clause (Article I, Section 10, Clause 3) of the United States Constitution provides that “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress,… enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State”). The congressional bill creating the district was one of the last John F. Kennedy signed before his assassination in 1963.
The name Dresden was taken from the name of the corner of Hanover in which Dartmouth College was located in the 1770s. Between 1776 and 1784, citizens of Dresden sought to secede from the state of New Hampshire, either by joining with Norwich and other nearby towns in a new state called New Connecticut or by joining the state of Vermont. The dispute ended in 1784 when Vermont, under pressure from George Washington, rescinded its 1781 annexation of Dresden.
Disparities in school spending have been a point of contention in the American public education system for decades. Because public schools typically receive the bulk of their funding from local sources such as property taxes, wealthy districts are often better funded than poorer ones.
While studies have shown that higher per pupil spending can improve student outcomes, there are countless other factors – both inside the classroom and outside of it – that can impact a student’s likelihood of success. One of them is financial security at home.
For students from low-income families, setbacks can be more difficult to recover from due to limited supporting resources. A recent report published by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that children from low-income households who receive high scores on standardized aptitude tests in kindergarten have only a 3 in 10 chance of graduating from college and landing a good entry-level job as a young adult. Meanwhile, children from well-off families who score poorly on the same tests have a 7 in 10 chance.
This study suggests that even if per-pupil spending were equal across the thousands of school districts in the United States, students in high-income areas would still have a considerable advantage.
Of active districts in Vermont with at least 100 students, Norwich School District – located in Windsor County – ranks as the wealthiest. Households in the district have an average annual income of $155,346, compared to the statewide average of $83,767, according to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.
Due in part to the strong local tax base, education spending in the district is higher than the state average. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, per pupil spending in the district was $22,730 in the 2018-2019 school year, the most recent year of available data, compared to an average of $21,217 across all schools in Vermont.
|Wealthiest school district||Avg. household income in district ($)||Avg. household income in state ($)|
|Alabama: Mountain Brook City||$238,595||$71,964|
|Alaska: Cordova City School District||$112,521||$98,811|
|Arizona: Cave Creek Unified District||$162,758||$84,380|
|Arkansas: Valley View School District||$124,059||$69,357|
|California: Hillsborough City Elementary||$437,655||$111,622|
|Colorado: Elbert School District No. 200||$97,038||$100,933|
|Connecticut: Darien School District||$365,528||$115,337|
|Delaware: Appoquinimink School District||$125,597||$92,308|
|Florida: St. Johns||$113,475||$83,104|
|Georgia: Forsyth County||$128,476||$85,691|
|Idaho: Mccall-Donnelly Joint School District||$90,524||$77,399|
|Illinois: Winnetka School District No. 36||$371,021||$95,115|
|Indiana: Zionsville Community Schools||$174,109||$76,984|
|Iowa: Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District||$115,226||$80,316|
|Kansas: Spring Hill||$121,345||$82,103|
|Kentucky: Oldham County||$128,725||$72,318|
|Maine: Falmouth Public Schools||$170,467||$78,301|
|Maryland: Montgomery County Public Schools||$149,437||$114,236|
|Michigan: Bloomfield Hills Schools||$202,722||$80,803|
|Minnesota: Orono Public School District||$211,325||$96,814|
|Mississippi: Madison County School District||$112,066||$65,156|
|Montana: Blue Creek Elem||$114,007||$76,834|
|Nebraska: Elkhorn Public Schools||$142,333||$82,306|
|Nevada: Storey County School District||$92,393||$84,350|
|New Hampshire: Rye School District||$198,028||$101,292|
|New Jersey: Rumson Borough School District||$345,342||$117,868|
|New Mexico: Los Alamos Public Schools||$141,162||$70,241|
|New York: Scarsdale Union Free School District||$466,343||$105,304|
|North Carolina: Wake County Schools||$106,822||$79,620|
|North Dakota: South Heart School District No. 9||$114,918||$85,506|
|Ohio: Orange City||$243,210||$78,797|
|Oklahoma: Deer Creek||$140,124||$74,195|
|Oregon: West Linn-Wilsonville School District||$132,574||$88,137|
|Pennsylvania: Lower Merion School District||$218,005||$87,262|
|Rhode Island: Barrington||$177,659||$92,427|
|South Carolina: Lexington School District No. 5||$96,105||$76,390|
|South Dakota: Harrisburg School District 41-2||$118,082||$77,932|
|Texas: Friendswood Independent School District||$167,090||$89,506|
|Utah: Canyons District||$114,020||$94,452|
|Vermont: Norwich School District||$155,346||$83,767|
|Virginia: Falls Church City Public Schools||$181,261||$106,023|
|Washington: Lake Washington School District||$170,160||$103,669|
|West Virginia: Jefferson County Schools||$96,911||$65,332|
|Wisconsin: Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District||$240,795||$82,757|
|Wyoming: Laramie County School District #2||$98,751||$83,583|