On Tuesday, the Agency of Education’s (AOE) General Counsel walked the House Education Committee through AOE’s process and criteria for independent schools. There are multiple kinds of independent schools, the ones that are eligible to receive students on public tuitioning (what we call school choice here in Vermont) are Approved Independent Schools. There is another type of independent school called Recognized Independent School. This schools are not eligible to receive public dollars, but they do count for truancy purposes, so a student is not considered absent for attending one of these schools.
Approved Independent Schools are approved by the State Board of Education (SBE). On July 1st of this year, schools intending to take additional steps outlined in Act 173 to ensure access to special education. It is unclear at this point how many of the current Approved Independent Schools intend to take these additional steps.
The State Board of Education will rely on site reports from AOE or on accreditation reports from approved accreditors in their decision-making around independent school approval. These approvals are typically for 2-5 year periods and then schools mush re-apply for approval status.
Much of the committee discussion and questions were around rules preventing discrimination. There was also interest in the lack of a quality assurance process for independent schools. The Committee will begin to pull a bill together over the coming weeks to start putting some of their thoughts down on paper.