Cooperative Educational Services (H.630) - March 26, 2024

H.630 reached the House floor on Tuesday. Representative Beck of St. Johnsbury offered an amendment on behalf of the Committee on Ways and Means. They recommended passing the bill along with an amendment that appropriated $70k for the Agency of Education to administer a grant program to support the formation of Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

Representative Buss pointed to cost containment as the main vision of this bill, and explained what a BOCES system is (essentially a buying group). She believes these cost savings will come from purchasing materials, cooperative services (such as grant writing), coaching for expanding core, and advanced academic offerings, etc. There is also great potential for Special Education placement and consolidated services and contracting. The bill would create seven regions where BOCES could be implemented by supervisory unions working together.

The Committee amendments were agreed to on an overwhelming voice vote. Representative Chestnut Tangerman asked about the adaptability of the seven regions with respect to possible future consolidations or school closures? Buss gave some examples and suggested it will be “very adaptable.”

Representative Peterson asked why “another bureaucracy is necessary” for the types of cooperation between supervisory unions that this bill is seeking. “Predictability” was the response. Also, if services are offered at the BOCES level they can be contracted out with various supervisory unions and school districts within the region.

A Burlington Representative wondered if the BOCES employees would be eligible for public sector collective bargaining laws in the state. A brief recess was needed to consult with Legislative Counsel to pinpoint the statute, but the answer was yes, they would.

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