**REMINDER - Education Forum on Monday the 7th at 6pm in Rutland. Details here.
There are currently two bills in the legislature that are related to school choice and require your attention.
We are not suggesting taking action on these bills until we get a handle on how they are progressing (or not) in their respective committees. Please stay tuned - when it is time to take action we will email you with an “ACTION ALERT.” In the meantime, familiarize yourself with these bills (below) and let other parents know by sending them to this page.
BILL #1 S.44 (Here's a link to the PDF of the bill)
S.44 was introduced by Senators McCormack, Giard, and MacDonald. It would require all Approved Independent Schools to “comply with requirements relating to school quality, the provision of special education, and other issues imposed on public schools.” And, “any other federal requirement relating to public schools.” In addition any Approved Independent School accepting even a single publicly funded student would be required to submit their entire student body to standardized testing.
Independent Schools attract students based on their ability to provide a unique and effective educational environment appropriate to their target population - whether they serve 10 students or 600 students. This bill would require all Approved Independent Schools to comply with federal requirements for public schools, including No Child Left Behind (NCLB). By forcing Approved Independent Schools to be all things to all students, S.44 would destroy the specialization that enables them to be effective, and would further homogenize the educational choices available to our children.
Over one-third of 96 Approved Independent Schools specialize in serving emotional, behavioral, physical and learning special needs populations, some serve only single gender populations. The other two-thirds provide alternative and/or academically rigorous learning environments, including the Town Academies, sectarian schools, Waldorf schools, and ski academies. These schools have a track record of serving their students’ individual needs while meeting high standards for Independent School approval by the state of Vermont or other state recognized accreditation agencies. S.44 would disallow approval by other accrediting agencies already recognized by the state, in lieu of state approval.
BILL #2 H.133 (Here's a link to the PDF of the bill)
H.133 was introduced by Representatives Scheuermann, Donaghy, Donahue, Eckhardt, Komline, Lewis, Myers, and Strong. It is an education overhaul bill expanding school choice for all students K-12, and overhauling the current statewide funding system while consolidating VT into 15 school districts.
Consolidation bills are going to come up every year, as will proposals for changes to education funding. Expansion of school choice to all students is noteworthy in this bill, but whether or not the legislature has the stomach to entertain top-down consolidation again is unlikely without strong public support.
- It reduces the current 62 Supervisory Union structure into 15 Educational Districts (ED).
- It replaces local School Boards with School Advisory Councils to oversee educational quality and academic policy.
- The new ED would oversee former Supervisory Union responsibilities including delivery, monitoring and reporting of special education services, transportation, purchasing, hiring of staff, finances and student data.
- All students would have school choice K-12, including choice of approved independent schools, and schools outside of their district.
- School differences would be respected but all schools would be asked to work together to coordinate curriculum and and scheduling that will facilitate the flow of students.
- It would eliminate the statewide education property tax. Each ED would develop an ED-wide budget and would assess a property tax within the ED to fund the budget. Funds raised through the ED-wide property tax would remain within the ED. Rolling appraisals would replace the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) that is currently used.