On Wednesday morning, the Senate Education Committee reviewed their 2023 bills with Legislative Counsel. Bills that were passed but not signed into law were looked at as possible priorities. These included S.133 (miscellaneous) and S.134 (school construction).
Senator Gulick reminded the Chairman Campion that they spoke together about the Home Study Program and her concerns around that. Campion agreed, noting that the Agency of Education claimed that they were “streamlining” oversight, but in appeared to him that they were perhaps “pulling away from standards that are required.
Gulick suggested they seek an update on how the changes are being implemented.
Legislative Counsel brought them back to a list of reports they should be expecting to review in the next month or so. Act 29 required Options Based Response Drills adoption and hazard planning process for all Supervisory Unions and independent schools. All schools are required to create Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams (BTATs). The AOE is supposed to be providing an update on the status of these. Gulick was concerned about the rollout of BTAT, hearing about in inconsistencies across Supervisory Unions. Campion suggested they hear from the VT-NEA about this.
Last year the Legislature created a working group on student protections from harassment and Discrimination. A report was required on December 1, 2023, but Legislative Counsel has yet to see it. Campion requested they seek out the report.
Act 76 (Universal Pre-K) required a pupil weighting report on December 1st and AOE was supposed to share the data with the Joint Fiscal Office in August for review. Legislative Counsel suggested they have representatives from both AOE and JFO in to testify on these.
The H.461 from last year contained provisions on PCB testing, school construction funding (a report on this is coming out later this month), summer learning funds from the cannabis tax, and a moratorium on new independent schools.
Campion then looked around the room and asked for each member’s priorities.
Gulick mentioned the literacy screening bill, saying that screening should begin in pre-K to allow for interventions. She also pointed to the State Board of Education appointment process and how she would like more control and/or input from the Legislature.
Additionally, she also wanted to see the resurrection of a bill that restricts school choice opportunities by restricting the applications process and requiring “attestations for Approved Independent Schools, to see that admissions aren’t discriminatory.”
NOTE: Independent schools are already required by state rules to be non-discriminatory in their admissions process. They can lose their approval status for violating this.
Campion noted that he recalled the VT-NEA being the primary roadblock on the literacy screening bill. He suggested they come in and testify along with other witnesses Gulick suggested.
Senator Williams has a draft bill proposing a ban on social media and personal digital devices in schools. Gulick seemed supportive, mentioning a NYT article as well as a new policy in her school which requires devices be in lockers and definitely not in the classrooms. Senator Weeks also agreed.
Weeks pointed to school construction, PCBs, and administrative consolidation as his priorities.
Campion mentioned a bill he co-sponsored which would make Career and Technical Education Centers (CTEs) accessible to lower grade levels, such as 7th and 8th grade students.
Weeks added that they “owe it to constituents to review budget increases.” He commented that he has not seen any increases less than 10%.