COVID Relief, Pupil Weighting Factors, Yield Bill, Employee Health Benefits, Meals for All, and more
H.315, an act relating to COVID-19 relief, passed in the Senate with a proposal of amendment on March 24th. The House will be considering the Senate’s proposal of amendment tomorrow. This bill includes:
Reallocation of $15 million for the School Indoor Air Quality Grant Program
$3 million for Literacy Training
$500,000 to focus on Student Mental Health
$1 million to address Truancy
$4 million for Afterschool and Summer Programs
$5.5 million to provide Summer Meals (in FY21 and carried forward)
$2.8 million in funding to the AOE to provide technical assistance to schools in their utilization of federal relief funds
S.13, an act relating to the implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report, passed in the Senate on March 25th. This bill creates a 6-member Task Force on the Implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report, supported by the AOE, JFO, and the Office of Legislative Counsel. This Task Force would collaborate with the Vermont Superintendents Association, the Vermont School Boards Association, the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators, the Vermont Principals’ Association, and the Vermont-National Education Association.
The bill includes an appropriation for the Task Force to retain a consultant, who would have expertise and experience in providing advice on Vermont’s education funding and tax system and would be nationally recognized in the field of education funding and tax systems. A report to the General Assembly would include an action plan and proposed legislation to ensure that all public school students have equitable access to educational opportunities. As passed by the Senate, this bill was amended to include Vermont Independent Schools among the list of organizations that would collaborate with the Task Force. The bill was also amended to state that the Task Force shall be a legislative Task Force and membership would include (1) the Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance or designee; (2) the Chair of the Senate Committee on Education or designee; (3) the Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means or designee; (4) the Chair of the House Committee on Education or designee; (5) the Secretary of Education or designee; and (6) the Chair of the State Board of Education or designee.
H.152 (the yield bill) passed in the House on March 25th. As reported last week, this bill aims to address four issues:
Sets the uniform nonhomestead property tax rate, the property dollar equivalent yield, and the income dollar equivalent yield for FY2022:
property dollar equivalent yield = $11,317.00
the income dollar equivalent yield = $13,770.00
nonhomestead property for fiscal year 2022 = $1.612 per $100.00 of equalized education property value
Excludes spending on eligible school construction projects from the determination of “excess spending” if the project has received preliminary approval from the Agency of Education.
Provides that no school district’s equalized pupil count shall be less than 96.5% of the actual number of equalized pupils in the school district in the previous year.
Extends eligibility for merger support grants to all school districts including those districts that were not required to merge or were merged by the State Board of Education.
H.81 a bill addressing statewide school employee health benefits, was read a third time and passed on March 26th in the Senate. The Senate did not make any changes to H.81 as passed by the House. The bill removes the requirement in current law that the premium responsibility percentages and out-of-pocket expenses for each plan tier shall be the same for all participating employees. Language that the VSBA supported, requiring an arbitrator to balance appropriate access to health care benefits with reasonable cost containment to ensure the financial sustainability of the plan, is not in the bill.
S.100, which would be named “The Meals for All Act,” was taken up in the Senate last week. The Senate voted to pass over the bill and take it up on April 1st due to concerns about the sources of funds and funding mechanics. The proposal will result in $24-40 million of new education expenditures.
This week, the House Education Committee will take testimony on S.115 (the Senate Miscellaneous Education bill) and S.16 (the creation of the Task Force on School Exclusionary Discipline Reform).