Week 6: 2/8/22-2/11/22

Updated: Feb 15

Podcast


Pupil Weighting

Senate Finance continued its work on the implementation of the Pupil Weighting Task Force Report and on Thursday reviewed draft committee bill 22-0593. This bill:

  1. Adjusts pupil weights as identified in Model 4 (Table 1) in Dr. Tammy Kolbe’s memo dated October 28, 2021 (NOTE: funding for English Language Learners (ELL) is not addressed in this draft of the bill because the Senate Finance Committee is waiting to hear from Senate Education on whether they think that ELL needs are best met through weights or a new categorical aid program).

  2. Includes a five-year transition period, beginning in FY24.

  3. For FY24, FY25 and FY 26, the number of equalized pupils in a school district will be determined by averaging the equalized pupil count for the year of calculation with the equalized pupil counts for the preceding four fiscal years.

  4. For FY27, the number of equalized pupils in a school district will be determined by averaging the equalized pupil count for the year of calculation with the equalized pupil counts for the preceding three fiscal years.

  5. For FY28, the number of equalized pupils in a school district will be determined by averaging the equalized pupil count for the year of calculation with the equalized pupil counts for the preceding two fiscal years.

  6. Changes the way we determine whether a student is from an economically deprived background for the poverty weight. The General Assembly will determine a new measurement, not lower than 185% of the 2021 Federal Poverty Level, with data collected from a universal income declaration form. AOE will form a working group by Oct 1, 2022 to develop a new form to be implemented for FY24.

  7. Suspends the excess spending penalty through FY28.

  8. Suspends the hold harmless provision through FY28.

  9. Maintains the merger support grant for districts who voluntarily merged, and provides that districts who involuntarily merged and who received a small schools grant in FY20, will continue to receive that grant, renamed as a merger support grant.

  10. Creates the Education Fund Advisory Committee to monitor Vermont’s education financing system, conduct analyses, recalculate and recalibrate the pupil weights and categorical aid amounts as necessary, and to make annual recommendations reporting its findings to the General Assembly.

  11. Changes the authors of the December 1 tax letter from the Commissioner of Taxes to the Education Fund Advisory Committee.

  12. Requires that the State Auditor conduct a performance audit, conducted under Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, that identifies the successes and failures of the implementation of this proposal.

  13. Adds six Agency of Education staff positions to support school districts in the provision of English Language Learner services, improve school district educational standards, and support the Education Fund Advisory Committee.

  14. Repeals the updated weights if, on or before July 1, 2027, the General Assembly has not revised the weights to reflect changes in cost factors from which the weights are derived after receiving a recommendation from the Education Fund Advisory Committee.

Committee members raised some concerns with the bill and will continue to take testimony and discuss the bill this week.


Senate Education


Public School Mascots, Nicknames, Logos, Letterhead, and Team Name

S.139: an act relating to public schools’ team mascots received a lot of attention in the Senate Education Committee last week. The committee discussed draft 2.1 and heard testimony from a number of witnesses.


Testimony on S.139 and resources on this topic from last week:


Collective Bargaining Rights of Teachers

On Wednesday, February 9, the Senate Education Committee took testimony on S.162: an act relating to the collective bargaining rights of teachers. This bill gives all teachers a period during which they could break teaching contracts without consequences (from issuance of the contract up until June 15 of each year), makes the suspension and termination provisions that apply to teachers under State law subject to the teacher’s collective bargaining agreement, and protects a teacher from discipline by the teacher’s employer for testifying before the General Assembly or the State Board of Education. The committee heard from several school leaders who expressed concern that the proposed bill is extremely disruptive to the hiring and planning process and disadvantages rural school districts that are competing for teachers with better resourced school districts. To read the written testimony on this bill, please see links below.


S.283 Miscellaneous Education Bill

The Senate Education Committee has been discussing draft 1.1 of S. 283, which is an act relating to miscellaneous changes to education laws. The bill extends the determination of residency for tuition purposes for the Community College of Vermont to include refugees; extends the provision limiting the use of suspension or expulsion of public school students under the age of eight to include approved independent schools, or prequalified private pre-K programs; orders the Agency of Education to issue a written report on the impact of standardizing the entrance age threshold for public school kindergarten attendance; orders the Agency of Education to also issue a written report on the impact of creating a statewide uniform school calendar and to include any recommendations for legislative action; and orders the Agency of Education to issue a written report with recommendations for a statewide remote learning policy. The committee hopes to move this bill out next week. Testimony last week included:


House Education


Title 16, Chapter 11 Rewrite - Withdrawals

Last week the House Education Committee continued its work on the Title 16, Chapter 11 rewrite. Committee members heard from communities who are currently pursuing a withdrawal from their unified school district. Those towns and the State Board of Education are looking for language that will help guide their unique process. Last week, the State Board of Education proposed some language that would address those towns who are in the midst of a withdrawal (draft language). Going forward, towns who would like to withdraw from their unified union school district would follow the process laid out in this draft bill. The committee will continue its work on withdrawals this week.


Senate to return to the State House on March 8

Last week the Senate Rules Committee informally agreed to return to the State House after the town meeting recess. The Senate Rules Committee has yet to take any formal action, but will likely meet early next week to formalize the decision. We will continue to keep you updated on how you can view committee meetings and floor activity.


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