Independent Schools Bill (H.483) - March 29, 2023

On Wednesday in the House Education Committee, Chairman Conlon asked Legislative Counsel to review if H.483 conflicted with the 2200 series rules. Legislative Counsel did not believe that there were any conflicts, however there are some provisions in the rules that are not in statute and vice versa.

Legislative Counsel noted that rules are often used where the Legislature either does not have time or expertise for the specificity required on a particular issue. In this instance they often ask a state agency to develop rules that meet the requirements. However, they warned that, in this case, it’s possible that the State Board of Education (SBE) might want to re-open the state rules, should this bill pass. It’s often best for Agency rules to mirror state statute where there is overlap. In this case, H.483 goes into further detail (in some areas) than the rules currently in place.

Representative Buss asked if all schools where aware they had to comply with both rules and statutes. Legislative Counsel pointed out that this is a common operating environment for all businesses. There was also a question about authority to enforce. Legislative Counsel pointed to the SBE as the enforcement mechanism in this case.

Switching gears, Conlon asked what the process was for a public school to accept a publicly tuitioned student. Legislative Counsel believed that, essentially, public schools are allowed (but not required) to receive tuitioning students in “any manner they deem best.” The only requirement is that the tuition paid go into the operating fund of the school. Admittedly, this is pretty broad language.

However, there are potentially other standards that school districts may be thinking about when making these decisions. For example, statutes that prevent discrimination based on a protected class.

Peter Burrows (Addison Central School District) spoke to this as well. The district has a long history of students coming from nearby tuitioning towns. Recently, some community members questioned whether the requirements were the same for tuitioning students and resident students. His understanding from their legal counsel is that, if a district chooses to take students from another district, they are required to accept all of them as long as they have space. Additionally, if they have to remove a student (expel, etc.), they would need to follow the same processes as if the student were a resident.

Representative Austin wondered what the receiving district owes to the sending district in terms of attendance and academic performance. Burrows was aware of an increased level of information exchange surrounding special education, because the sending district retains the Local Education Agency (LEA) status.

Austin followed with a question about how much of a time commitment it would be to send additional information around attendance, etc. to receiving districts. Burrows noted that it would be easy to set up a system for that, but questioned what the responsibility of the sending district was and if they could even do anything meaningful with that information.

Enrollment decisions are currently at the discretion of the family. If a “placement” was not successful, the district has little ability to force the family to change their enrollment decisions.

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