We're trying new software to live blog the event. Just go to the Home page and you should be able to see the event scroll by in the grey window on the left. If we have technical difficulties we'll do it the old fashioned way, right back here :-)
We were not able to be on site today. A look at the Senate Ed Committee schedule shows they covered this in the afternoon:
Merger of School Districts
Appearing before the committee:
Donna Russo-Savage, Legislative Counsel, Legislative Council
Mark Ottenger, Legal Counsel, Department of Education
Joel Cook, Director, Vermont National Education Association
Next week's schedule shows the House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled all of Tuesday for H.782. Witnesses so far are Jeff Francis, Vermont Superintendents Association, and Michael Livingston, The Sharon Academy.
It was a circular day in the House Ed Committee Room.
There were questions about the process, questions about what was to be delivered. Questions about whether working on governance changes should even be part of Challenges for Change. Apparently the deadline for submitting proposed changes to statute is on Friday.
Rep. Kilmartin went to bat for choice this morning, which I am sure resulted in the idea that maybe they shouldn't mess with governance at this point.
Discussion went round and round a few times about approach to the problem, and even defining what the problem is. Finally in the afternoon the consultant who helped develop the Challenges for Change program came into the committee and reiterated that CfC is about looking at desired outcomes and restructuring PK-12 education delivery to find the savings.
The Committee pushed back that the items the Dept of Ed was supposed to deliver as part of the recommendations wer never delivered, and also pointed out that the Commissioner's number one option (consolidation) is not possible to implement within the time frame required for fiscal savings, so why was it suggested at all?
The Committee is frustrated and feeling very pressured.
A question came up whether education is a function of the state or municipality. It looks like tomorrow legal counsel is coming in to discuss the Brigham decision (The state Supreme court case which is responsible for our current education tax scheme ensuring equity of opportunity in education.)
There seems to be a disconnect between what the CfC/administration thinks about the value of this process and approaching it from the "bettering outcomes for less money" angle, and the realities of the complexity of education law in Vermont, and the great variety in our educational landscape.
There was a lot of discussion in the morning about the Bennington hearing and how many parents spoke out for choice, and frustration with how we fund education in this state.
The Senate Ed committee was supposed to discuss the hearing today but ran out of time, they have it scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
The House Ed committee is taking testimony from Rep. Frank Geier tomorrow about his plan for educational change, followed by testimony on the Brigham decision.
The "In The News" page has plenty of NEW local news articles posted.
Morning: We're in the House Education Committee right now. The conversation is quickly evolving, and governance change may be taken off the table because it does not address $$ outcomes for Challenges for Change. This thing is a serious see-saw they way they come to and back away from choice and governance.
There was a lot of talk about Bennington's hearing. Good job everyone!
It sounds like they have a deadline extension of Friday to respond to Vilaseca's CfC suggestions. Their mandate is to suggest any statutory changes by Friday, and there is a meeting happening today to clarify statutory law vs. session law changes that could be presented on Friday.
Please read our overview of H.728 and CFC if you need background info-------->
There were two committees meeting today.
Ways and Means was reviewing H.782. They are supposed to examine the financial implications of the bill. There was intense posturing and questioning of the school choice provisions of the bill. Two members spoke out strongly against choice. Rep. Clarkson said that we really should be considering consolidation as an opportunity to "capture" choice kids and bring them back into the system to boost enrollment. Rep. Sharpe wanted to know what the NEA, principals and superintendents thought of the bill. No one asked what parents thought of the bill. Sharpe is opposed to any expansion of choice and was even uncomfortable with expansion of public school choice.
If it sounds like there was some "mission creep" going on in the committee, I would have to agree. The Joint Fiscal Office presented their numbers, and said they have no way to model potential cost savings. The committee chair pointedly asked what the objective of the bill was, and what problem it was aiming to solve.
It is not clear how much more discussion or testimony they will take on the bill, we'll let you know as soon as we hear.
Next door in the House Education Committee Vilaseca was once again presenting numbers that were requested by the committee. It was a long, contentious morning. Committee Chair Joey Donovan declared OPTION 1 (the commissioner's forced consolidation recommendation) to be "deader than dead." With that statement we are going to assume that choice is not in danger from Challenges for Change, although there will be some painful budget cuts coming up in FY 2012 as part of Option 2 or 3.
Senate Ed went on the road again to Newport. Monday the 5th they will be in Rutland, and in Bennington on the 6th. We urge you to attend and speak out about how important choice is to you.
Thank you for your support, and for talking to friends and school mate's parents about our website and how to stay informed.
We're covering two committees this morning, an update on House Ed once I connect with my colleague. I am in Ways and Means where they are trying to understand the funding complexities of the bill. It was announced by Rep. Peltz that the Gates Foundation has agreed to fund the transition costs.
There is some pushback on the independent schools. Peltz appears uncomfortable defending choice of indie schools.
There is no way to determine what the savings could be overall and the committee is having a hard time with that.