The Senate Education Committee took up the 2200 rule series, which deals with independent school oversight, with Jennifer Samuelson (Chair, Vermont State Board of Education) and Sarah Buxton (Special Counsel, State Board of Education) on Wednesday.
In her presentation, Samuelson noted that some revisions to the rule series were necessary to maintain compliance with Act 1. She summarized the history of the legislation and highlighted that the requirements and highlighted that the requirements for independent schools were more stringent than for public schools.
Senator Gulick asked for examples of how robust the review process was for independent schools seeking approval to receive public funds. Buxton pointed to the 2226 section of the rules, where the enforcement ability of the State Board of Education (SBE) is laid out.
Senator Williams inquired about whether public schools were being held to the same standard as the 2226. Buxton was not prepared to say “whether they are more or less robust… they are just different.”
Gulick took the opportunity to say “it is a shame we have this bifurcated system with two separate levels of oversight.” It was noted that anyone in the state had the ability to lodge a complaint against an independent school and that the Agency of Education (AOE) reviewed the complaint first before presenting it to the SBE with recommendations.
Independent schools must seek re-approval from the AOE and SBE every five years, or when their approval status is challenged.
Senator Hashim asked if “every Approved Independent Schools [is] abiding by every 2200 Rule?” Buxton responded that “cannot also say that about every public school.” Samuelson added that there “are no pending complaints before the BOE”.
Gulick speculated about news reports of discrimination last summer but Campion observed they seem to have a good report system. However, he was open to exploring a more “streamlined” system. “Rules are only as good as their enforcement,” quipped Gulick.
NOTE: We have seen no attempt to force public schools to comply with state statute or rules or consequences when they do not. However, there are a few examples of accountability for independent schools when they do not live up to standards. While independent schools operate differently and the rules and oversight should reflect that, any school educating public students should be held accountable for the outcomes they produce.