On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee heard from the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) about their priorities for the 2023 legislative session.
Prior to the discussion, Senator Hashim pointed to availability of teachers, healthcare, and incentives for people to enter the trades as areas of concern for him.
He is also favorable towards universal school meals, civics education, and matched savings plans for students. Chairman Campion favors public-private partnerships in policy areas like these.
Senator Weeks would like to focus on financial literacy and pensions issues.
Senator Williams added declining scores as a priority. He thinks the state should be weeding out bad teachers and that disciplinary firing should be discussed.
Senator Hashim addressed the differences licensed requirements between independent and public schools. He wondered if independent schools have the ability to “choose their own way.” Campion said they will have folks in and get more clarity on these points.
NOTE: Similar questions came up in the House Education Committee this week. It does not appear that public schools have specific licensing requirements, whereas independent schools who receive public tuitioning dollars do.
Senator Gulick didn’t voice any specific priorities but is concerned about adding more mandates on schools.
She touted VSBA by saying that “to serve on a school board is to uphold the great American tradition of a free, public education for all. This tradition forms the foundation of our democracy: a well-informed citizenry. It is extremely important that students develop critical and independent thinking skills and that they understand how history can impact the future.”
After reviewing all the initiatives that VSBA is pursuing, Ceglowski moved on to her priorities. She talked about equity policies and also their model policy on curriculum to analyze achievement data and outcomes. Ceglowski asked about the “rural-urban” outcome discrepancy and whether it is real or more complex than that. Ceglowski “wants to see data on that” before she weighs in. However, she suggested that the new weighting factors may address any discrepancies that might exist.
Williams argued that changing definition of equity since Act 60 has not helped.
Pivoting back to VSBA priorities, Ceglowski highlighted that the school facility funds moratorium (which has been in place since 2007) has led to inequities in school facilities, and possibly even outcomes. She would also like to see some of the Education Fund surplus be used for mental health.
Finally, Ceglowski announced that VSBA would “advocate for ensuring educational equity in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Carson v. Makin.”
The most recent VSBA resolution related to this topic passed in October 2022 at their annual meeting. The resolution calls for “public funds accountability” and advocates that “all rules, regulations, policies, quality standards, reporting requirements and laws regarding public schools in Vermont must apply to any school that receives funds from the statewide education fund, for any reason or for any purpose.”
Senator Gulick praised VSBA as a “high functioning, and student focused and student centered” group. She is a school board member and speaks from experience and appreciation for their resources and trainings.