H.483 is a bill designed to add regulatory hurdles that will make it more difficult for publicly-tuitioned students to access Vermont’s Independent Schools. This bill is unnecessary and unkind. A majority of this committee seems sympathetic to the independent schools and Vermont students, but they need to hear from YOU to counter the pressure coming from the public school special interests.
Please CALL or EMAIL them TODAY.
The bill does several problematic things:
Admissions - The bill prohibits independent schools from interviewing students or even seeing academic records before enrolling students. This handicaps the ability for independent school's to meet students where they are create an education plan that meets their needs and sets them up for success. The worst part? The bill does not place the same restrictions on public schools accepting publicly-tuitioned students.
Tuition - The bill prohibits independent schools from charging higher tuition to publicly-tuitioned students, even if those students cost more to educate. Further the language used in this bill could prevent independent schools from offering scholarships to private-pay students who do not live in school choice towns. This could increase tuition costs for families that would otherwise be eligible for income-based assistance. Finally, this provision of the bill would prevent academic fees (such as lab fees) from being charged to families of publicly-tuitioned students. This would make sense, except because of the other tuition cap they also could not be accounted for in the public tuition payment without also rolling those fees into the tuition for private-pay students. This would again raise the cost of tuition for families paying out of pocket
Boundaries - The bill sets boundaries for how far out of state families may choose to take their tuition dollars. The bill proposes a 25-mile limit and ban schools in Quebec which would limit families' choices in finding the right educational fit for their students. One major concern here is that boarding schools in neighboring states, many of which have specialized services, would suddenly become unavailable to families who couldn't afford them without public tuition.
Ban on new schools - The bill would place a moratorium on the approval of new independent schools who could accept public tuition dollars. The argument here is that Vermont's public tuition system is not meant to be a "growth industry," however limiting the option for new and innovative schools to emerge that could serve Vermont students does not further education quality for Vermont students.
- Rulemaking - The bill would seek to "codify" many of the new State Board of Education rules around anti-discrimination into statute. While preventing discrimination against Vermont students is important, this is a bad idea for two reasons. First, it ties the hands of the State Board of Education and the Agency of Education in adapting to changing conditions and needs on the ground. Not all situations can be predicted ahead of time and these decisions are best left to the education experts in the field. Second, while early indications are that the new rules are working, they have only just gone into effect this year and would be prudent provide time for them to work before making further changes.
While H.483 may have good intentions, the outcome will be limiting choices for Vermonters who live in school choice districts. Further, it will create an unfair regulatory environment for independent schools that will have a negative effect on Vermont's education system.
Please ACT NOW to stop this bill!
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