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.