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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Vermont Education legislative Update

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January 14, 2020
2020 Issue #1


Education Priorities Taking Shape In Committees

In the first week of this legislative session, there were displays of collegiality among committee members and discussion about the need to improve upon the complex initiatives currently underway. While school boards and school district personnel were hoping for a review of and necessary adjustments to existing initiatives, several new educational topics have been added to the legislative agenda. Below is a summary of some educational topics being discussed. It is difficult to predict at this point which will result in bill introduction and/or follow-up action:
  • Act 173 - Legislators are interested in understanding professional development for the implementation of Act 173, even as they grapple with a complex, yet very informative Weighing Study
  • Tax Structure - Declining enrollment and an aging population are two factors affecting the stability of Vermont's tax structure.
  • Education Funding - Education funding is a perennial interest of the General Assembly and the work of the Tax Structure Commission in combination with the release of the Weighting Study, Vermont’s changing demographics and the rising cost of education all may contribute to an interest in continuing a review Act 166 - Legislators will hear about the EDC’s Prekindergarten Education Study and aims to make minor adjustments to address persistent challenges of Universal Prekindergarten.  REL report on UPK enrollment in VT (2016-17) can be found here.
  • Literacy -  In addition to suggestions in the DMG report, NAEP scores are precipitating conversations on effective literacy instruction.
  • Proficiency-Based Learning - Legislators are interested in the successes and challenges of implementation across the state: as well as the effect on college acceptance.
  • AOE Capacity - Secretary Dan French presented testimony, detailing shifts from a shallow, yet wide organization to a deeper and more narrow organization.  The goal is for increased internal cross-training and capacity-building, yet many positions remain vacant, including a state-wide Literacy Specialist position.
  • School Construction - A moratorium on school construction, deferred maintenance, and buildings constructed during the industrial age has resulted in many schools needing repair. 
  • State Board of Education - Legislators are reviewing proposals to shift some current SBE responsibilities to the Agency of Education.
  • Universal Afterschool Opportunities - The Governor has requested the establishment of a task force to analyze the cost and administration of a proposed universal afterschool program of the Education Funding System.
  • School Meals - S223 is a bill to require all public schools in Vermont to make available school breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.