Save Our School Choice Day at the State House In Montpelier
Wednesday, Feb 24 at NOON
If you CANNOT Attend PLEASE DO THIS ONE VERY IMPORTANT
THING on WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 24:
WHAT DO YOU NEED ME TO DO?
CALL OR EMAIL YOUR LEGISLATORS VIA THE SERGEANT-AT-ARMS OFFICE.
Leave a message for your legislators with the Sergeant-at-Arms (802) 828-2228 OR send your message in an email to email@example.com
(YOU MUST NAME YOUR LEGISLATORS FOR YOUR MESSAGE TO BE DELIVERED.
CLICK HERE to find your local legislators and their contact information)
WHAT DO I SAY?
Ask your legislators to support legislation that allows current school choice towns to CHOOSE to retain their traditional choice status when merging with districts that operate public schools.
WHY SHOULD I DO THIS?
It's Vermont - everyone who makes an effort to be heard DOES impact the process. Background information: Currently under the Act 46 merger process you cannot have a school and school choice. Legislators were ASSURED that school choice would not be threatened by mergers, so they approved the legislation. The school choice political "hot potato" was passed around until the State Board of Education decided Act 46 did not allow choice and schools to co-exist.
Montpelier has lost its focus on correcting this important issue. Together we can remind our lawmakers to represent our interests and allow our communities to have access to ALL available choices when merging under Act 46.
Schedule of Events if You Can Attend:
Parents, teachers, students, grandparents you are all advocates for school choice. In Vermont EVERY VOICE makes a difference with out legislators. They ARE interested in what you have to say.
12:00pm: You are encouraged to arrive at the State House.
“Home Base” is the Cedar Creek room where we will have materials to pass out, including a “pledge” we hope you can convince your legislators to sign, and have questions answered by event organizers.
Noon to 1pm: You will have the opportunity to find and speak with legislators during their lunch hour.
1:00 pm: The legislature will be called to the floor, during which time you can grab a bite to eat yourself, tour the State House, etc.
1:30 pm: THE MAIN EVENT will be a Press Conference in the Cedar Creek Room as soon as the House is done with the floor (estimated time: 1:30 pm).
Who is sponsoring this event?
This is a non-partisan event pulled together by concerned individual citizens and advocacy groups. Please email if you have questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
We are not the creators of this event, however we believe it is the best opportunity to reach our legislators as a group with ONE POWERFUL VOICE. Please join us.
The State Board of Education recently ruled on a portion of Act 46 (the school consolidation law) in a manner that will prevent districts from keeping school choice when they merge with districts that don’t have choice.
A group of state lawmakers has sent a letter to Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, and the State Board of Education Chair Stephen Morse, asking the board to reverse their ruling.
Legislators are now talking about a legal fix to clearly ensure that communities with school choice are not required to give it up as part of a merger.
YOUR INFLUENCE IS NEEDED
EVERY VOICE COUNTS IN VERMONT
PARENT VOICES ARE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT
PLEASE TAKE ACTION:
Call, write or email your legislators - their contact information can be found here. Let them know you support fixing Vermont law to protect school choice. Encourage them to join the legislature’s School Choice Caucus, and to work with their fellow legislators to create a permanent fix to protecting school choice in Vermont in the coming legislative session.
Act 46 Starts to Play Out Locally
When the legislature enacted Act 46, they were responding to public outcry about escalating education costs and the desire for local districts to determine their own path forward with the merger of education governance structures. Now the clock is ticking and school governance mergers are going to happen in Vermont in the coming months.
The window of opportunity for local districts to determine their own fate is limited. As a result of the Act 46 deadlines and tax incentives, there is considerable local movement toward merger discussions.
How Could School Choice be Affected?
There are still significant questions surrounding school hoice and access to Independent Schools when districts with disparate educational options create plans toward merger. Currently Vermont law does not provide for a district to offer school choice, and operate a school within the same district. So what happens when two or more districts attempt to merge, some with choice, some with schools?
The State Board of Education was expected to weigh in with guidance during a recent meeting, but they pushed the issue to the Governance Committee for further study. Board Chair Stephen Morse was hopeful that guidance from that committee will emerge in September.
Morse said, “What we are trying to do is create a possibility of a school district to be formed where every student within that school district would have equal educational opportunities,” Morse said. “I take the opinion that if the people within an area come to the conclusion that that is what they want to do, we ought to honor that suggestion.”
Mill Moore, Executive Director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association said, “The matter was discussed quite extensively last week in the SBE's Governance Committee, but the committee's recommendation was tabled at the SBE meeting. In effect, this is a green light to creative ideas for merger thinking.” In regard to limiting school choice Moore said, "Making that exclusion would create a deep political wound. It would be a long-remembered and perhaps bitterly contested decision."
The State Board of Education recently approved the first merger under Act 46, by the Essex and Westford districts, in which the Westford district has chosen to give up its current school choice options. As these very important local decisions are being made, we urge you to take part in your community’s conversation and planning. Citizens in Elmore have created a website to help share information and explore all options for their district. Their work provides a helpful information sharing model for other communities.
Confidential Agency of Education Memo Reveals Uncertainty about School Reform Law (related to school choice)
Written by Peter Hirschfeld
"This appears to be a case of the legislature having spoken, but we aren't sure what they have said."
- Gregory Glennon, general counsel at the Agency of Education, in a confidential memo for the state Board of Education
H.361 is the education reform bill you will start hearing about in the news. The bill has been passed out of the House Education Committee. While it is a far reaching bill and takes significant steps to consolidate Vermont's educational system, IT PROTECTS EXISTING SCHOOL CHOICE FOR TUITIONING TOWNS.
HOWEVER, money going to out of state schools will now be restricted to special education schools, technical schools, schools in towns bordering VT, and special geographic circumstances.
As the bill works its way through the House and Senate, we will continue to keep a close eye on it, and inform you of any developments that would be detrimental to school choice in tuitioning towns.
We are keeping a close eye on the legislation the House and Senate Education Committees are working on.
Please stay tuned in, as details emerge on the bill that will be moving out of committee, we'll keep you informed on how you can best make your voice heard.
This thoughtful commentary on the current consolidation debate is from Rama Schneider, an elected member of the Williamstown school board:
The Vermont House Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on the future of education in Vermont.
The public hearing will be held in the Theater of the Rutland High School, 22 Stratton Road, Rutland VT between 5:00 PM and 6:30 PM on February 27, 2014.
Beginning at 4:30 PM on February 27, 2014, those wishing speak at the public hearing may sign up outside of the Theater.
School Choice Vermont encourages your attendance and adding your voice to the conversation. Public hearings usually allow each person to speak for two or three minutes. They are a respectful and supportive atmosphere where you can share your thoughts with legislators who will be designing future bills, taking your input into consideration.
Please share with these lawmakers, the value in full educational choice, and how powerfully it has impacted the well-being of your child.
Movement Toward School District Consolidation Would Likely Eliminate School Choice in Tuitioning Towns
This VT Digger article written by Anne Galloway reviews the current movement underway in Montpelier to consolidate school governance. What is going unsaid is that towns with parental choice / tuitioning for their students, would no longer have that option.
Vermont is a diverse educational landscape, over 90 towns tuition their students. Generally we assume that our local educational system is representative of the rest of the state. This simply is not true. Burlington's system is different than Grand Isle's system, or Manchester's system, or Hancock's system. The folks in Montpelier working on this proposal are from communities that are not tuitioning towns.
We'll keep you posted on developments and how to make your voice heard at the appropriate time. In the meantime, please check in with your local legislators (a phone call or email is fine, and politely let them know you have concerns about the loss of choice as it currently exists, and ask them to keep an eye on this consolidation movement. Perhaps forward them the VT Digger article. Help them stay informed. Encourage others to reach out to as well.
And finally, forward this article to your local school board. School boards are generally informed by the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA), however the VSBA is supporting the consolidation agenda. Your busy school board members need your support to stay informed of all perspectives on this issue.
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