Representative Graning introduced the House Education Committee to her bill, H.258, which she claims is to support high quality public education. The bill effectively restricts public tuition to the four traditional academies, which essentially removes school choice for students that reside in districts that do not operate a school. She admitted that this bill was about stopping the “siphoning of money” away from public schools.
Chairman Conlon questioned how the bill defined a therapeutic school.
Representative Brady wondered if designated schools don’t meet the needs of students. It’s not clear what the bill would do for this. As Graning put it, this bill sets up a “framework” for schools who are in the system to continue operating in the system.
Eighth grader Chloe Evans of the Sharon Academy, shared that she believes independent schools are often misunderstood. She was harassed and bullied at her last public school because of her race. The Sharon Academy was a welcoming environment for her and she believes that public schools may work for many students, but not all of them. She also shared that she really felt like the teachers and students genuinely care about her emotional wellbeing.
Representative Buss wondered what happens at her school when kids get out of line and how that is handled compared to the public school. She believes that if kids at Sharon Academy behaved in the way that the public school kids did that it would not be ignored and there would be consequences.
Buss also asked about extra-curricular groups at the school. There are several sports teams as well as a homework club and a D&D group.
Later in the day, the Committee did a quick walk-through of H.258 with legislative counsel. The bill would do away with public tuitioning (school choice!) and force districts that do not operate a school to designate up to three schools to serve as the schools for their district. Eligible schools under this system would include:
- Public schools within Vermont
- Public schools outside Vermont
- Independent schools that meet three out of the four of the following:
- Serves as a regional CTE center
- Was established through the granting of charter
- Meets the legal definition of a public school
- Teachers of the school be members of the state teachers retirement system
Conlon asked if this would effectively limit eligible independent schools to the four historic academies. Legislative counsel thought that it would.