Cooperative Education Services (H.630) - March 20, 2024

Legislative Counsel began the House Ways & Means Committee meeting on Wednesday with a discussion regarding the inclusion of Career and Technical Education centers (CTEs) in the Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) model that in H.630

Representative Beck pointed out the St. Johnsbury Academy is considered a “Comprehensive High School” and can attain contracted services on their own terms. He wondered if it would be eligible to join. There was no clear answer.

Continuing with the bill walk-through, Legislative Counsel noted that there is the potential for a BOCES to receive up to $10K to cover startup costs.

Representative Branagan asked about the cap of seven regional BOCES. Legislative Counsel confirmed that the maximum is still set at 7. It was noted that there could be a single statewide BOCES but any supervisory union is limited to membership in only one BOCES.

Kornheiser was excited about the “increase in extraordinary Special Education costs… is a really great path to meet those needs particularly... the shared buying plans is really great but if nothing else comes from this I really hope that does.”

Representative Taylor does not like the idea of appropriating anything else from the Education Fund. Kornheiser agreed, suggesting that “this is an education cost that should drive possible savings.”

Julia Richter (Senior Fiscal Analyst, Joint Fiscal Office) shared a fiscal note with the Committee. The direct fiscal impacts are not able to be assessed except for the direct appropriation of $70K from the Education Fund for the Agency of Education.

Beck explained he will support the bill today but will not vote favorably in the future because “it will come back to us changed.” He continued to say that “the savings projected here… there is nothing here… It is just like every other savings plan we have had in the past, and we never capture any of it because the way we define education spending and how we set the Yield, that money is so expensive that it never comes back to us as savings and just get turned into a new program or position… In my opinion there is no savings in this bill unless we fix the funding formula.”

Kornheiser thanked him and commented that “one of the hardest things is we will have about ten different bills that all are addressing this issue and how do we actually have them all come together do that comprehensively.”

Representative Masland also appreciated Beck’s comments, but he feels the BOCES has potential. However, he conceded that some initiatives in the past have shown his point to be true.

Branagan pointed out she cannot see how an added layer of bureaucracy will allow for savings given what we already are doing.

Kornheiser stated that the Education Committee believes that districts will achieve some efficiencies of consolidation without actually consolidating.

The vote on the bill was 8-3-1.

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