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The House and Senate committees spent the week reviewing many of the bills that came over from the other chamber. For reference, here is a complete list of the education bills that made crossover and current committee assignments.
Senate bills that are currently in the House
S.139 - An act relating to nondiscriminatory school branding; now in House Education
S.162 - An act relating to the collective bargaining rights of teachers; now in House Education
S.197 - An act relating to the Coordinated Mental Health Crisis Response Working Group; now in House Education
S.219 - An act relating to ensuring compliance with the U.S. and Vermont Constitutions in the use of public funds for tuition and in the dual enrollment program; now in House Education
S.283 - An act relating to miscellaneous changes to education laws; now in House Education
S.286 - An act relating to amending various public pension and other postemployment benefits (on the floor on 4/1)
S.287 - An act relating to improving student equity by adjusting the school funding formula and providing education quality and funding oversight; now in House Ways and Means
House bills that are currently in the Senate
H.572 - An act relating to the retirement allowance for interim educators; now in Senate Government Operations
H.703 - An act relating to promoting workforce development; now in Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs
H.716 - An act relating to miscellaneous changes to education law (special education census grants/rules delay); now in Senate Education
H.727 - An act relating to the exploration, formation, and organization of union school districts and unified union school districts; now in Senate Education
H. 737 - Yield Bill; now in Senate Finance
H.740 - An act relating to making appropriations for the support of government (of particular note is the previously agreed upon language on p.158 that extends the deadline for adoption of a same shared school district data management system (SSDDMS) and eliminates the requirement that schools implement eFinance); now in Senate Appropriations
S. 287 - Pupil Weighting
Last week, House Ways and Means, and House Education began their work on S.287: an act relating to improving student equity by adjusting the school funding formula and providing education quality and funding oversight. Jim DesMarais, legislative counsel, prepared an overview of the bill as a helpful resource. The bill, as currently drafted, proposes to improve student equity by adjusting and adding pupil weights beginning in fiscal year 2024 with a five-year transition period. House Ways and Means, however, is considering a different approach, and instead of changing pupil weights would implement cost factor adjustments to improve student equity. They are also considering a shorter transition period, three years instead of five. Cost factor adjustments is another name for cost equity payments, which was an approach recommended by the Pupil Weighting Task Force and considered by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the session. Jim DesMarais provided the committee with this chart explaining how to calculate the homestead property tax rate using pupil weights versus using cost factor adjustments. Julia Richter, Joint Fiscal Office, also modeled the changes in equalized homestead rates district by district using pupil weights as compared to cost factor adjustments. (Weighting and CFA changes District by District). We will continue to closely monitor the work being done on this bill.
H. 329 - An act relating to amending the prohibitions against discrimination
On Wednesday, the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs continued its work on H.329, and reviewed draft 4.3 of the bill. VSBIT, VSBA, VSA, and VPA (through Attorney Heather Lynn) continue to advocate for revisions to the bill that would address our concerns about the effects of H.329 in schools. Attorney Lynn offered additional testimony in response to draft 4.1.
House Education took up three bills last week - S.100, S.219, and PCB Testing in schools (language to be added to S.283).
S. 100 - Universal School Meals Act
The House Education Committee dedicated the majority of their meeting time to universal meals. On Tuesday, the committee reviewed the most recent draft of the bill, draft 2.1, which removes the Task Force on Universal School Lunch (the task force met and issued its report late last year), adds universal school lunch (the bill as passed last year proposed universal breakfast only), and adds a section for potential revenue sources to be worked on by the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee will likely mark-up and vote on the bill on Tuesday.
S. 219 - Public Funds for Tuition
The House Education Committee began its work on S.219, an act relating to ensuring compliance with the U.S. and Vermont Constitutions in the use of public funds for tuition. On Wednesday, the committee walked through the bill and a section by section analysis with legislative counsel. S. 219 would create a new category of independent schools, an approved independent school that receives public funding. Under this bill, a school must do three things to be eligible to receive public tuition:
agree to not use the public dollars for religious instruction;
agree to comply with all anti-discrimination laws applicable to public schools; and
agree to accept students with IEPs if placement is made by the local education agency.
The bill also proposes some additional restrictions on the use of public tuition to approved independent schools. Under this bill, students would only be able to take public dollars to schools in states that border Vermont or are located in Quebec. An exception is made if a student has an IEP, is disabled, or has special needs. Finally, the bill proposes to make dual enrollment available to all Vermont students (public AND private) but imposes conditions on the courses the student can take to make sure that the public funds are not being used to support religious instruction. The House Education committee is expected to take additional testimony on the bill this week.
On Wednesday, the House Education Committee took up PCB testing in schools and reviewed draft testing language that will be added to the Senate miscellaneous education bill, S.283. The draft language proposes to amend Act 74, which was passed last year, to 1) push the PCB testing deadline back by two years to July 1, 2026); and 2) set out how testing will be conducted. The draft also proposes to amend Act 72 to 1) push the facilities inventory deadline back one year to October 1, 2023; and 2) push back the radon testing deadline to June 30, 2026. On Friday, Jeff Francis, Vermont Superintendents Association, provided testimony in the Senate Education Committee supporting the proposal to extend the PCB testing deadline that is currently under consideration in House Education, and asking the General Assembly to address the funding issues this session so that a funding source is in place at the start of the sampling implementation.
Senate Education took up several House bills last week including H.716, H. 727, and three military bills - S.104, S.105, and H.517.
H. 716 - An act relating to making miscellaneous changes in education law
The Senate Education Committee took a lot of testimony last week on H.716, which delays the implementation of State Board of Education rules 2362 and 2362.2.5. The committee heard from witnesses in support of and opposed to the rules delay, and will continue its work on the bill this week. To review the full list of testimony provided, please link here.
H. 727 - An act relating to the exploration, formation, and organization of union school districts and unified union school districts
Last week, the Senate Education Committee walked through H.727 with legislative counsel; legislative counsel also provided the committee with this outline of the bill. The committee finished their walk through of the bill on Thursday and will likely take it up again this week.
S.104, S.105, and H.517
On Friday, the Senate Education Committee took testimony on three related bills:
S.104, an act relating to the education of military families, proposes to allow a child whose parent is transferring to Vermont on military orders to be remotely enrolled in public schools. This bill also provides that the spouse and dependent child of any person who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and stationed in this State pursuant to military orders be considered a resident for in-state tuition purposes and does not lose that status if the member transfers out of State on military orders.
S. 105, an act relating to purple star school programs, proposes to permit a school district to qualify for the designation of a Purple Star Campus.
H.517, an act relating to the Vermont National Guard Tuition Benefit Program, does three things - 1) changes the current statute and adds a pilot program, the Vermont National Guard Tuition Benefit Program, which allows a resident or nonresident to receive tuition benefits if eligibility criteria are met; 2) permits an individual to receive more than one undergraduate certificate or other credential recognized by VSAC under the tuition benefit program, provided that the cost of all certificates and credentials received by the individual under the program does not exceed the full-time in-state tuition rate charged by NVU for completion of an undergraduate baccalaureate degree; and 3) expands the tuition program to include a graduate degree or a second undergraduate degree if the first was not funded by the tuition benefit program.
If the committee moves forward with these bills, they will add the provisions in S.104 and S.105 as amendments to H.517.
Senate Government Operations
H. 572 - An act relating to the retirement allowance for interim educators
On Tuesday, the Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on H.572, which would allow retired teachers to come out of retirement to teach for one-year while still collecting their pension payments. State Treasurer Beth Pearce continues to raise concerns with the bill, as provided in her testimony on Tuesday. We continue to support this bill and see it as a critical piece of legislation that will help to immediately address statewide educator workforce shortages. The committee will take the bill back up on Tuesday.