On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee took testimony from Dan French (Secretary of Education) and John Caroll (Chair, State Board of Education) on what the future role of the State Board of Education (SBE) should be. French and Carroll have been meeting to try and craft a joint vision for the future of the SBE. They have each come up with a list detailing areas of responsibility for various aspects of rulemaking.
French wants the SBE to do rulemaking when it comes to policy decisions, leaving the Agency of Education (AOE) to deal with rulemaking governing the running of the agency. Caroll agrees with this approach, however, there is some disagreement on what would fall into each respective jurisdiction of rulemaking. Caroll envisions giving AOE broader rulemaking authority over a wider area.
Senator Hardy was concerned with this, she wants to make sure AOE will have the staff needed to do this rulemaking. While not supportive of this broader approach, French noted the AOE would have the staff necessary to comply with these changes. He envisions a more limited role for AOE focusing simply on rulemaking around the direct implementation of policy not the crafting of it. In addition, he feels that the SBE is a more effective vehicle for policy rulemaking because it provides more opportunities for the public to weigh in.
Senator Baruth was appreciative of the work that both the AOE and the SBE has done around determining rulemaking authority. He is encouraging that they keep working towards agreement as both party’s proposals are very close. French and Caroll seemed skeptical that they would be able to bridge their final differences, but they nevertheless agreed to try.
Campaign for Vermont supports a comprehensive reorganization of the State Board of Education. A State Board of Education (SBE) should exist to serve as an unbiased liaison for education decision making, provide big picture thinking, articulate the long-term vision and needs of public education, and develop policy based on the best interests of the public and the young people of the State. In Vermont, however, the role of the SBE has become muddled and overcomplicated, and their authority and jurisdiction are largely undefined. As a non-elected entity, they operate with a limited degree of transparency and accountability to Vermonters. It is our position that a reorganization of the SBE must achieve the following priorities:
- Clearly define the boundaries of their authority.
- Limit their authority to the extent that it does not supersede local control. Further, the SBE could be used to counter-balance overreach from the Agency of Education, protecting local control.
- Clearly define specific roles, responsibilities, and boundaries.
- Direct members of the Board to prioritize public input in their rule-making process.
- Act as a public asset, creating more opportunities for the public to collaborate with the Board. The SBE could be re-imagined as the mechanism through which Vermonters can weigh-in on education policy.