A step forward has been taken...
Your steadfast support of school choice this legislative session has resulted in the passage of H.771 a bill that will modestly expand public high school choice in Vermont - some would say against fairly heavy odds. Well done!
The voices of parents and educators has made all of the difference in the conversation. You wrote letters, you shared information with friends, family and community members, you testified before the committees by phone or in person, and you made phone calls to the state house to share your support. Your actions made all of the difference.
So what will this bill do for school choice in Vermont? Geographic boundaries are removed, and enrollment rules are a bit broader. Stay tuned for a "translation" of the bill. If you can't wait, check out this PDF, on page 1828 for the language in the bill.
We're hearing from two sources that the conference committee appointed to H.771 is approving the school choice provisions in the bill! More to follow...
I've just been told by a Montpelier contact that the public school choice provisions in H.771 are going to be allowed to die.
I don't know about you, but I find it deeply disturbing that the support of hundreds of parents and educators is being ignored. The language in the bill was carefully crafted to address the concerns of the Vermont Principal's Association, the Vermont Superintendent's Association, and the Vermont School Boards Association.
BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR KIDS? It is up to us to speak for them.
Please call the Sargeant-at-Arms office at 802-828-2228 and leave a "pink slip" or "message" for Representative Donovan saying "I support public school choice."
And if you know anyone in Chittenden County, where Representative Donovan is from, please ask them to do the same. Time is limited, make your calls throughout today and tomorrow. Hopefully it won't be too late.
This is it. The time has arrived to give your final support to the expansion of public school choice. The legislative session is wrapping up, legislators are under pressure to make deals, we need to make sure public school choice makes it through this process.
Please email your Representatives (contact info here) for one FINAL time. Tell them you support the expansion of public school choice as outlined in H.771.
4/25 Legislative Update
It looks like the public school choice bill S.201 might die in the House Education Committee. FORTUNATELY the Senate Education Committee added the school choice language in that bill, to another bill: H.771. This bill has already passed the House and is in the Senate.
We are asking you to please share your support of the school choice provisions in H.771, with JUST YOUR SENATORS, On Wednesday and Thursday. A simple email will do.
Locate contact information for your senators here.
H.753 has been passed out to the Appropriations Committee, and is still active in Senate Ed regarding the provisions to exclude tuition from the over-the-threshold spending calculation for K-12 tuitioning towns.S.201 has been passed to the House and is in House Ed, they have taken some testimony but nothing is on the schedule for this week. You can still contact House Ed
if you have not done so yet.
* the original list was incorrect - this was updated 3/27
This could affect you if you are from: Baltimore, Belvidere, Bloomfield, Brunswick, Danby, Goshen, Granby, Granville, Hancock, Hubbardton, Ira, Kirby, Landgrove, Lemington, Londonderry, Maidstone, Mt Tabor, Norton, Peru, Pittsfield, Plymouth, St George, Sandgate, Searsburg, Stannard, Stratton, Victory, West Haven, Westmore, Weston, Winhall.* These 31 towns either tuition all their students, or tuition some plus have a union school affiliation for the others (essentially having two school districts)
For the most part, this bill modifies Act 153 (the school consolidation law from 2010). But the really important piece here is an addition to the bill that would provide Act 60/68 excess spending penalty relief to K-12 tuitioning towns. An example of a town this will affect is Pittsfield, where all of the students are tuitioned and the school budget was recently rejected due to a $2696 excess spending tax penalty PER STUDENT. Towns that tuition all students have no direct way to vote on the budgets of the schools their students choose.
Penalty relief has support from the Department of Education, and the Senate Education Committee. If you live in a K-12 tuitioning town, please email your Senators (contact info here) and Representatives (contact info here). Make sure they are aware of this addition to H.753, and ask them to support the language in the bill. This bill affects some of the SMALLEST towns in the state. Everyone that weighs in on this will really make an impact. Please share this information with your school board and select board members, and pass along my contact info (Angelique Lee - 802-746-9910 firstname.lastname@example.org). Here's a draft of the language that will be in the bill.
This bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee and the Full Senate and progressed to the House where it was referred to the House Education Committee.This bill originally proposed to give full public school choice to all elementary and high school students, and eventually include choice of independent schools. As often happens during the process, the realities of financing, and the desire to avoid unintended consequences caused the committee to greatly scale back the bill. The current form of the bill is basically an expansion of Act 150. Act 150 is the school choice law that created "choice districts" within Vermont and allows a certain number of students to move within those districts. You won't find much on Act 150 on this website because it is such a limited bill, and only 300 students have taken advantage of its offerings.This bill still needs parent support to make it through the House process and become law.Please go to our updated TAKE ACTION NOW page to help this bill on the second half of its journey.
S.201 would now:
- Do away with "choice districts" and allow students to choose public schools statewide.
- Allow a greater number (but still limited) of students to choose their public school.
- Implement a lottery if there are more students interested in transferring schools, than there are spaces available.
- Expand Act 150 choice to students in grades 7 - 12 (it was previously grades 9-12)
The Senate Education Committee will continue taking testimony on S.201. Ryan Noyes, a parent from Lyndonville, Emma Horowitz-McCadden, a student from Montpelier, and Mill Moore, Executive Director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association will testify.
S.201 clearly outlines a plan to expand public school choice to all communities. It also infers (and we're still trying to get an answer on what this really means) that independent schools will be included in the future.
From the bill's introduction: "In the 2015–2016 academic year, a sending district that maintains a school would pay tuition. In the 2016–2017 academic year and after, tuition payments to all private and independent schools would be amended."
We've heard nothing but good things about the content and delivery of the parents (and one student) who spoke before the committee on February 2. When parents share their individual experiences it is extremely powerful. There are always a range of situations, and they are real, not conjecture about what "could happen" they are about what really HAS happened to Vermont families and kids. A supporter who was able to attend the testimony is working on a summary, and we will put that out as soon as it is complete. Thank you for your patience. Please realize that we are all volunteers.
We're asking everyone who supports choice to write a few quick emails to their representatives and senators DETAILS HERE
and support the legislative efforts to expand public school choice.