The Education Committee supported legislation creating a special group to recommend how to move forward with controversial private school rules and making various other changes to laws.
The debate over public funding of private schools includes whether they should have to educate all students, as long as there is room.
“Those communities are not crazy to think it is part of a philosophical push that has been in the air for some years,” said one lawmaker, harking back to failed legislation on public money for private education.
Proposed legislation would throw out the draft rules, give private schools a board seat and require members to hew to legislative intent in rulemaking.
Members agreed they need the Education Agency’s input, which they haven’t had since August. How to make that happen was a matter of some disagreement.
Private schools, with a few exceptions, don’t offer a full array of programs for students with disabilities.
Chairman Stephan Morse told three lawmakers, who alleged conflict of interest by board member William Mathis, that he doesn’t have the authority to take up the issue.
The three legislators point to William Mathis’ job with a national organization supported by teachers unions. But some others see the move as payback for the board’s new rules on private schools.
A spending cap that went bust, Act 46 mergers, private school rules and test scores.
Not only does Title 16 of the Vermont statute “enable” and “require” the State Board of Education to make such rules, but it says by the plain reading of the language it was also the Legislature’s intent that they do so.
State officials and education leaders said Tuesday that discussions will continue on revisions to allay concerns about what the rules would actually do.
The principles driving the proposed changes are proper accountability of the state’s funds, equality of opportunity, non-discrimination, and updating of language.
Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion, both Bennington County Democrats, say they were responding to rule changes the board is weighing for private schools. The senators would hand rulemaking over to the Education Agency.
Some 80 people wanted to address the State Board of Education on its proposed requirements for private schools receiving public tuition dollars. St. Johnsbury Academy already meets many of the qualifications.