On Friday, the House Education Committee heard from Mary Newman (Head of School at The Sharon Academy) about the Education Quality Standards (EQS) and why they are one of the only schools to pursue this certification. Students from up to 18 different towns choose to go to The Sharon Academy and almost 80% of their students are publicly funded.
Newman chose to go down the EQS path because they needed to increase tuition in order to continue to offer the quality of education that they wanted to offer their students. In many cases, public schools in their area were charging $2,000 more per student in tuition at the time.
She described the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) processes, which is a peer review assessment of the school with two separate site visits that include thoughtful feedback with a rigorous assessment. Getting a NEASC accreditation is one of the pathways to gaining approval status from the State Board of Education.
There were a number of questions from the Committee about how much tuition could be charged by the school and what cost-containment measures were in place. There was also a question from Chairman Conlon about whether there was anything preventing the ability for their teachers to organize. Newman said that being responsible members of the community prevented their tuition from growing out of step with other schools (also some of the competitive dynamics of school choice). She also indicated that there was nothing she was aware of that would prevent her teachers from organizing.
After Newman left, Conlon reviewed some of the options that a bill might contain. Some ideas included reviewing protections against discrimination, enforcing quality or accreditation standards on approved independent schools, limiting public funds to non-profit schools only, and preventing or limiting the out-of-state use of public tuitioning dollars. Designation was also brought up as an option. He is also going to have legislative counsel come in and present the bill the Senate worked on last year, S.219.