New School Governance Bill Passed Committee, Your Input Please!!

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Apr 14, 2014 No Comments ››

I just received this from the chair of Ways and Means about the latest draft of the school governance bill.  I welcome your thoughts. The bill can be found on the committee’s home page. Please let me know if the links don’t work or if you have questions.

“Ways and Means voted the Education Governance bill (H.883) out 9-2 Friday afternoon.  The summary in the VSBA newsletter may be helpful.  Our committee spent many hours on the bill and came to agree with the House Education Committee that governance changes were needed but that we also need to proceed cautiously.  Most public hearings tell you what you already know.  The public hearing on H.883 was different.  Early in the week, we could not have gotten a bill out of our committee.  After the hearing, many members became convinced that, as difficult as it is, we need to grapple with a system that isn’t delivering equal educational opportunity in a cost-effective way.”

House Ways & Means Committee Passes Modified Governance Bill

For the past two weeks, the House Ways and Means Committee has been taking testimony on H.883, an act relating to expanded prekindergarten – grade 12 school districts.  Witnesses included the Secretary of Education, the chair of the State Board of Education, and several members of each of our associations.  On Wednesday of this week, the Ways and Means Committee hosted a joint public hearing with the House Education Committee at the State House.

At the hearing, witnesses in favor of the bill testified that it would create more educational equity, better cost efficiencies across districts, and conditions for more stable, high quality educational leadership.   Opponents expressed concerns about loss of local control, community connection to schools, and democratic participation in education.  Overall, there were more witnesses who testified in favor of H.883.  For a more in-depth summary of the hearing, read the VTDigger.org article.

The Ways and Means Committee spent much of Thursday and Friday evaluating changes that could be made to H.883 that would streamline the process and garner more support in the House.  On Friday afternoon, the committee voted 9-2-0 to pass amodified version of the bill, which would leave intact the provisions and incentives of Act 153 and 156 related to voluntary merger until July 1, 2017.    The Ways and Means version of the bill also creates a Design Team, which would have the authority to develop a statewide plan that would result in the creation of no fewer than 45 and no greater than 55 prekindergarten-grade 12 supervisory districts.

The Design Team would be charged with conducting no fewer than ten public hearings around the state and consulting with school board members and other interested individuals in order to inform its creation of the statewide plan.  It would then submit a preliminary plan to the General Assembly for their review on or before April 1, 2016.  The Design Team would then conduct further public hearings and consultation on the preliminary plan and make necessary adjustments so that it is able to submit a final plan to the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2017.

The final statewide plan submitted to the General Assembly will include a detailed process and timeline whereby the transition to prekindergarten-grade 12 districts will be complete by July 1, 2020.  Unless the General Assembly acts to “disapprove the plan,” it shall go into effect July 1, 2017.  The bill states that “to the extent feasible”, any district that forms a RED prior to July 1, 2017 shall not be realigned under the statewide plan.

The bill will now be moving to the House Appropriations Committee and then to the House Floor for consideration.