On Wednesday, the House Education Committee heard from Jennifer Samuelson, Chair of the State Board of Education (SBE), on the 2200 rule series that governs independent schools and Vermont’s public tuitioning program. The board just finished rulemaking on the 2200 series last fall and there were two main categories of changes:
- Approved independent schools eligible to receive public tuition dollars must accept students requiring special education services.
- Approved independent schools eligible to receive public tuition dollars must provide special education services to any students attending.
Additional rules, not related to Act 173, that the board put forward include:
- Established more robust investigations for complaints.
- Recognized the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) as accrediting agencies for Approved Independent Schools.
- Requires that Approved Independent Schools to comply with the Vermont Public Accommodations Act and the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act.
- Required schools operating boarding programs to be accredited by an approved external accreditor unless they are licensed by DCF.
- Required anti-discrimination in enrollment and admissions policies at independent schools.
The most concerning civil rights issue that the Agency of Education was trying to address was students already on IEP’s that were previously receiving special education services from a public school, but then has to choose a tuitioning option where there may not be a convenient or preferable choice that provides those services.
The new process is a “blind” application process, meaning that a special need is not disclosed to the independent school during the initial application process. After a student is accepted, the supervisory union engages with the independent school to come up with a plan for providing those services to the student.