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NO. 182.  AN ACT RELATING TO MISCELLANEOUS CHANGES TO EDUCATION LAW.

(H.867)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  16 V.S.A. § 427 is amended to read:

§ 427.  GRAND LIST

(a)  The grand list of a town or incorporated school district shall consist of one percent of the listed value of the real and personal estate taxable therein.

(b)  This subsection shall apply only to the Underhill incorporated school district and the North Bennington graded school district.  If an incorporated school district includes more than one town within its district, or parts of more than one town within its district, the most recent equalized grand list shall be used to allocate the annual incorporated school district budget between the several parts of the incorporated district.  Once the budget is allocated, the grand lists of each of the several parts, which are made up by different boards of listers, shall be used to set an individual tax rate for each of the parts within the incorporated school district.  The commissioner of the department of taxes shall adopt all necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this subsection.

Sec. 2.  16 V.S.A. § 562(8) is amended to read:

(8)  Shall authorize at each annual school district meeting an amount of money from all revenue sources to be expended by the board for the support of public schools; and, except for one-time purchase items which the board warns as a separate article, the board shall determine how the authorized funds shall be expended;

Sec. 3.  16 V.S.A. § 563(11) is amended to read:

(11)  Shall prepare and distribute annually a proposed budget for the next school year according to such major categories as may from time to time be prescribed by the commissioner.  At a school district’s annual meeting, the electorate may vote to provide notice of availability of the school budget required by this subdivision to the electorate in lieu of distributing the budget.  If the electorate of the school district votes to provide notice of availability, it must specify how notice of availability shall be given, and such notice of availability shall be provided to the electorate at least 30 days before the district’s annual meeting.  The proposed budget shall be prepared and distributed at least ten days before a sum of money is voted on by the electorate.  Any proposed budget shall show the following information in a format prescribed by the commissioner of education:

(A)  all revenues from all sources and expenses, including as separate items any assessment for a union school district or a supervisory union of which it is a member, and any tuition to be paid to a technical center;

* * *


Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 835 is amended to read:

§ 835.  LEMINGTON, BLOOMFIELD, BRUNSWICK, MAIDSTONE,

            GRANBY; TUITIONING OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

The school boards of the towns of Lemington, Bloomfield, Brunswick, Granby, and Maidstone may provide for the elementary education of the pupils residing in their districts by paying tuition to public elementary schools in the state of New Hampshire.  Notwithstanding the provisions of section 823 of this title, school boards affected by this section shall pay the full tuition charged by a public elementary school in New Hampshire.

Sec. 5.  16 V.S.A. § 1756(b) is amended to read:

(b)  Each board of school directors or supervisory union board of directors shall insure against the liability imposed upon it by this section in any insurance company organized in this state or in any insurance company of another state authorized by law to write such insurance in this state, or through participation in an intermunicipal insurance agreement established under subchapter 6 of chapter 121 of Title 24, with minimum coverage in the form of a comprehensive general liability policy including liability for the operation of owned and nonowned motor vehicles and including the employees as additional insureds and with minimum limits of not less than $500,000.00 per person and $2 million per occurrence for bodily injury and for property damage.  The commissioner shall establish by rule minimum limits per person, per bodily injury, and per occurrence for property damage. 

Sec. 6.  16 V.S.A. § 1577(13) is amended to read:

(13)  To employ a public accountant at least once in every three-year period year to audit the financial statements of the regional technical center school district and the average daily membership count submitted by the center to the department of education.

Sec. 7.  16 V.S.A. § 2948(c) is amended to read:

(c)  Each school district shall receive an essential early education grant each school year.  Grants shall be distributed according to the estimated number of children from three through five years of age.  The state board by rule shall encourage coordination of services and may set other terms of the grant.  Each district shall be responsible for the remainder of the costs of providing necessary services under section 2956 of this title.  Annually, for each following fiscal year, the essential early education grant shall be increased by the most recent cumulative price index, as of December 1 November 15, for state and local government purchases of goods and services from fiscal year 2002 through that following fiscal year, as provided through the state’s participation in the New England Economic Project.


Sec. 8.  16 V.S.A. § 4001(1) is amended to read:

(1)  “Average daily membership” of a school district, or if needed in order to calculate the appropriate homestead tax rate, of the municipality as defined in 32 V.S.A. § 5401(9), in any year means:

(A)  the full-time equivalent enrollment of pupils, as defined by the state board by rule, who are legal residents of the district or municipality attending a school owned and operated by the district, attending a public school outside the district under an interdistrict agreement, or for whom the district pays tuition to one or more approved independent schools or public schools outside the district during the annual census period.  The census period consists of the first 40 days of the school year in which school is actually in session; and

* * *

Sec. 9.  24 V.S.A. § 1523(b) is amended to read:

(b)  When a school district at the end of the fiscal year contemplated by section 1683 of this title has a deficit, unless the voters have voted to borrow funds to repay the deficit over a term of three years or less, or unless the deficit has been refunded pursuant to chapter 53 of this title, the school board shall add an amount sufficient to pay the deficit to its next adopted budget and report the total to the commissioner of education for purposes of calculating local education spending.

Sec. 10.  32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) is amended to read:

(12)  “Excess spending” means:

(A)  the per-equalized pupil amount of:

(i)  the district’s education spending, plus any amount required to be added from a capital construction reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804(b); minus

(ii)  the portion of education spending which is approved school capital construction spending or deposited into a reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804 to pay future approved school capital construction costs, including that portion of tuition paid to an independent school designated as the public high school of the school district pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 827 for capital construction costs by the independent school which has received approval from the state board of education, using the processes for preliminary approval of public school construction costs pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 3448(a)(2);

(B)  in excess of 125 percent of the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil in the prior fiscal year, as determined by the commissioner of education.

Sec. 11.  32 V.S.A. § 5402(b)(3) is amended to read:

(3)  If a district has not voted a budget by June 30, an interim homestead education tax shall be imposed at the base rate determined under subdivision (a)(2) of this section, divided by the municipality’s most recent common level of appraisal, but without regard to any district spending adjustment.  Within 30 days after a budget is adopted and the deadline for reconsideration has passed, the commissioner shall determine the municipality’s homestead tax rate as required under subdivision (b)(1) of this subsection.

Sec. 12.  32 V.S.A. § 5402(e)(2)(C) is amended to read:

(C)  determine a combined homestead tax rate by calculating the weighted average of the rates determined under subdivisions (A) and (B) of this subdivision (2), with weighting based upon the ratio of union school equalized pupils from the member municipality to total equalized pupils of the member municipality; and the ratio of equalized pupils attending a school other than the union school to total equalized pupils of the member municipality.  Total equalized pupils of the member municipality is based on the number of pupils who are legal residents of the municipality and attending school at public expense.  If necessary, the commissioner may adopt a rule to clarify and facilitate implementation of this subsection.

Sec. 13.  Sec. 2 of No. 64 of the Acts of 2003, as amended by Sec. 2 of No. 114 of the Acts of 2004 is amended to read:

Sec. 2.  COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS; MEASURING

             ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS TOWARD ACHIEVING

             STATE STANDARDS; CONSEQUENCES

16 V.S.A. § 165 authorizes the commissioner of education to determine how well schools and students are meeting state standards every two years and to impose certain consequences if schools are failing to meet standards after specific time periods.  Notwithstanding the provisions of that section, in order to comply with the provisions of Public Law 107-110, known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, during school years 2003–2004 through 2005-2006 2006–2008, the commissioner is authorized to determine whether schools and school districts are meeting state standards annually and the state board of education is authorized to impose on schools and school districts consequences allowed in state law and required by the Act within the time frame required in the Act.  However, consistent with Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, Sec. 9527 of the No Child Left Behind Act, neither the state nor any subdivision thereof shall be required to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under the Act in order to comply with the provisions of the Act.  The state or any subdivision thereof may expend other funds for activities they were already conducting consistent with the Act, or for activities authorized in a state or local fiscal year 2004 budget.  It is the intent of the general assembly to continue to study the provisions of the federal law and to seek guidance from the federal government in order to determine permanent changes to Title 16 that will be necessary to comply with federal law and to avoid having federal law cause state and local governments to absorb the cost of unfunded mandates.

Sec. 14.  Subsections (b), (c), and (e) of Sec. 3 of No. 64 of the Acts of 2003, as amended by Sec. 2 of No. 114 of the Acts of 2004 are amended to read:

(b)  Notwithstanding the provisions of 16 V.S.A. §§ 1075(e), 1093, and 1128(b) which stipulate that a child of parents who become homeless shall be educated in the school district in which the child is found and that a school district may choose not to accept nonresident pupils, in order to comply with the provisions of Public Law 107-110, known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the provisions of this section shall apply to children who are homeless during school years 2003–2004 through 2005-2006 2006–2008.  It is the intent of the general assembly to continue to study the provisions of the federal law and to seek guidance from the federal government in order to determine permanent changes to Title 16 that will be necessary to comply with federal law.

(c)  If a child becomes homeless during school year 2003-2004, 2004-2005, or 2005–2006, 2006–2007, or 2007–2008 the child shall either be educated:  in the school of origin for the duration of the homelessness or for the remainder of the academic year if the child becomes permanently housed outside the district of origin; or in the school district in which the child is actually living.  The determination as to which school the child shall attend shall be made by the school board of the school district in which the child is living according to the best interests of the child. 

(e)  Notwithstanding the provisions of 16 V.S.A. § 4001(1)(A) which stipulate that a pupil must be a legal resident of the district attending a school owned and operated by the district in order to be counted in the average daily membership of the district, during the 2003–2004 through 2005‑2006

2007–2008 school years, a child who is homeless during the census period shall be counted in the school district or districts in which the child is enrolled.  However, if at any time a homeless child enrolls, pursuant to this section, in a school district other than the district in which the child was counted, the district in which the child is enrolled shall become responsible for the education of the child, including payment of education services and, if appropriate, development and implementation of an individualized education plan.

Sec. 15.  PREGNANT AND PARENTING PUPILS; PAYMENT OF

               EDUCATION COSTS; STUDY

(a)  The commissioner of education and the secretary of human services shall develop and analyze options for payment of education costs for a pregnant or parenting pupil attending an approved public school in Vermont or an adjacent state, an approved independent school in Vermont, or other educational program, other than a 24‑hour residential facility, approved by the state board of education pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 1073(b). 

(b)  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner and secretary shall determine which of the options should be adopted by the general assembly and shall transmit their recommendation and analysis to the senate and house committees on education.

(c)  A school district shall pay between 75 and 85 percent of the base education payment for the year of attendance for a pregnant or parenting pupil who is enrolled in the school district, attending a teen parent education program recognized by the department for children and families, and taking academic courses at the teen parent education program which are the substantial equivalent of the courses required by the school district to obtain a high school diploma.  The payment shall be made to the teen parent education program and shall be prorated based on the pupil’s full-time equivalent enrollment, as defined by the state board by rule, in academic courses at the teen parent education program.  In the event of a dispute, either party may request a ruling from the commissioner which shall be final.

Sec. 16.  RIVER VALLEY TECHNICAL CENTER GOVERNING BOARD;                                   SUNSET EXTENDED

The governing board of the River Valley Technical Center, which was authorized as a pilot project pursuant to Sec. 121a of No. 71 of the Acts of the 1997 Adj. Sess. (1998) and Sec. 18 of No. 138 of the Acts of the 1997 Adj. Sess. (1998); authorized to be the planning committee for purposes of planning a technical center region pursuant to Sec. 4 of No. 33 of the Acts of 2001; and extended until July 1, 2006 under Sec. 19 of No. 107 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004), is hereby authorized to continue as the governing board of the River Valley Technical Center and the planning committee for a technical center region until July 1, 2007.

Sec. 17.  SPECIAL PROGRAMS; FINANCIAL IMPACT; REPORT BY                                         COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner of education shall report to the senate and house committees on education regarding the financial impact of a special program providing services for students with a specific disability, such as autism, an emotional disability, or deafness, on a school district in which the program is located and on a school district which is obligated to pay for the services of the special program.

Sec. 18.  16 V.S.A. § 254(c) and (d) are amended to read:

(c)  A request made under this section shall be accompanied by a release signed by the person on a form provided by the Vermont criminal information center, a set of the person’s fingerprints, and a fee established by the Vermont criminal information center which shall reflect the cost of obtaining the record.  The fee shall be paid by the applicant.  The release form to be signed by the applicant shall include a statement informing the applicant of:

(1)  the right to challenge the accuracy of the record by appealing to the Vermont criminal information center pursuant to rules adopted by the commissioner of public safety; and

(2)  the commissioner’s policy regarding maintenance and destruction of records and the person’s right to request that the record or notice be maintained for purposes of using it to comply with future criminal record check requests made pursuant to section 256 of this title.

(d)  Upon completion of a criminal record check, the Vermont criminal information center shall send to the commissioner either a notice that no record exists or a copy of the record.  The If a copy of a criminal record is received, the commissioner shall forward a copy of the notice or record received it to the person and shall inform the person in writing of:

(1)  the right to challenge the accuracy of the record by appealing to the Vermont criminal information center pursuant to rules adopted by the commissioner of public safety,; and

(2)  the commissioner’s policy regarding maintenance and destruction of records and the person’s right to request that the record or notice be maintained for purposes of using it to comply with future criminal record check requests made pursuant to section 256 of this title.

Sec. 19.  16 V.S.A. § 2959a(e) is amended to read:

(e)  School districts shall utilize funds received under this section to pay for reasonable costs of administering the Medicaid claims process, and for prevention and intervention programs in grades pre-K through 12.  The programs shall be designed to ensure all students achieve rigorous and challenging standards adopted in the Vermont framework of standards and learning opportunities or locally adopted standards.  A school district shall provide an annual written justification to the commissioner of education of the use of the funds.  Such annual submission shall show how the funds’ use is expressly linked to those provisions of the school district’s action plan that directly relate to improving student performance.  A school district shall include in its annual report the amount of the prior year’s Medicaid reimbursement revenues and the use of Medicaid funds consistent with the purposes set forth in this subsection.

Sec. 20.  ACT 130 IMPLEMENTATION; EXCESS SPENDING PENALTY;

               CALCULATION OF EDUCATION SPENDING; STUDIES;

               COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

(a)  Calculation of an equalized pupil count for union school districts for the purpose of enabling the setting of a union school district tax rate in the member districts has shown that weighting for secondary and elementary students may need to be adjusted to reflect actual differences in costs of educating these students.  Therefore, the commissioner of education shall work with education administrators to study the actual costs of providing services to elementary and secondary pupils and, on or before January 30, 2007, shall make a recommendation to the general assembly regarding weighting of these pupils.

(b)  Notwithstanding the provisions of No. 130 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004) and No. 54 of the Acts of 2005, which direct the commissioner of education to begin calculating two tax rates for member districts of a union school district in fiscal year 2008, one to reflect the school district budget and one to reflect its share of the union district budget, in order to enable the commissioner to study the potential need to readjust pupil weighting amounts and the general assembly time to respond to the commissioner’s recommendation, in fiscal year 2008, municipalities shall be taxed under the system described in No. 54 for fiscal year 2007.  In fiscal year 2009, tax rates in municipalities shall be calculated pursuant to the provisions of No. 130 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004).

(c)  The commissioner of education shall study the effect of the provisions of 32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) and (13), relating to excess spending in school districts and district spending adjustment, on various types of school districts such as those that provide for the education of a significant portion or all of their students through paying tuition and those that have a small number of students.  As part of the study, the commissioner shall consider the effect of removing the portion of secondary technical education tuition which is in excess of the district’s equalized per pupil spending from the calculation of excess spending, and the effect of removing interest payments made on funds borrowed in anticipation of capital construction aid from the calculation of district spending adjustment.  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner shall report the results of the study to the general assembly.

(d)  The commissioner of education shall study alternatives for computing education spending, including alternative methods for counting the average daily membership.  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner shall report the results of the study to the general assembly.

(e)  The commissioner of education shall work with Vermont educators and the state board of education to study the quality of Vermont public schools and independent schools which receive public funds and to study and analyze methods to reduce costs.  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner shall deliver the results of the analysis and recommendations for legislative action to the senate and house committees on education.

(f)  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner of education shall report to the senate and house committees on education regarding recommendations, if any, for amendments to Title 16 provisions addressing school district auditing requirements, including the frequency and scope.  In developing the recommendations, the commissioner shall confer with the state auditor of accounts and with representatives of the Vermont association of school business officials, the Vermont superintendents association, and the Vermont school boards association.

(g)  The commissioner of education shall consult with high school principals and other appropriate people to consider whether the scholastic aptitude test or the American college test should be used to assess student academic progress in the high school grades.  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner shall report to the senate and house committees on education as to whether either or both of the tests should be used as a statewide assessment.

(h)  The commissioner of education shall gather information which will facilitate discussion during the next legislative session about increasing the compulsory education age to 18, and present the data to the senate and house committees on education during January, 2007.  Information gathered shall include the number of young people who have dropped out of school in each of the last 10 years, the types of facilities and programs that are available to help young people at risk of not completing school to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent, costs of services alternative to the public school system, and other information which will inform the discussion.


Sec. 21.  PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE IN GRADES 9–12; REPEAL OF

               SUNSET

Sec. 4 of Act No. 150 of the Acts of the 1999 Adj. Sess. (2000), which repeals No. 150 on July 1, 2007, is repealed.

Sec. 22.  16 V.S.A. § 2963a(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The commissioner of education, in place of reimbursement under section 2963 of this title, shall reimburse a school district for 80 percent of the following expenditures:

(1)  costs not eligible for reimbursement under section 2962 of this title for each student causing the school district to be eligible for extraordinary services reimbursement pursuant to that section.  However, in order for a school district to be eligible for reimbursement under this section, the total costs of the district eligible for extraordinary services reimbursement must equal or exceed 15 percent of the total costs eligible for state assistance under sections 2961, 2962, and 2963 of this title; and

(2)  the costs incurred by the school district in placing and maintaining a student in a program operated by the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  However, such expenditures do not include costs incurred for up to two such students by a school district with an average daily membership of fewer than 1,000 and for up to three such students by a school district with an average daily membership of 1,000 or greater.

Sec. 23.  REPEAL EXTENSION

16 V.S.A. § 711b shall remain in effect until July 1, 2008, notwithstanding the provisions of Sec. 15(4) of No. 130 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004) which repeals the section effective July 1, 2006.

Sec. 24.  16 V.S.A. § 706 is amended to read:

§ 706.  FORMATION OF PLANNING COMMITTEE

When it appears to the boards of school directors of two or more school districts that a planning committee should be established to study the advisability of forming a union school district, or if petitioned to do so by five percent of the voters eligible to vote at the last annual or special school district meeting, each of the boards of school directors shall meet with the superintendent of schools for each participating district and with his or her advice establish a budget, and fix the number of persons who will serve on the planning committee, for the purpose of preparing the report required by this subchapter.  Each participating district shall share in the budget, and as nearly as possible be represented on the planning committee, in that proportion which the average daily membership equalized pupils (as defined in section 4001 of this title) of the district bears bear to the total average daily membership equalized pupils of all school districts which participate in the study.  It is not necessary that each participating district vote to establish a union school district planning committee on the same date.  Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit informal exploration between and among school districts prior to the formation of a planning committee established pursuant to this section.

Sec. 25.  16 V.S.A. § 563(27) and (28) are added to read:

(27)  May make available school facilities and equipment for specified public purposes if such purposes appear, in the judgment of the board, to be in the best interests of the district and are an efficient, economical, and appropriate use of the facilities and equipment.

(28)  Subject to the requirements of section 571 of this title, may enter into contracts with other school boards to provide joint programs, services, facilities, and professional or other staff.  Nothing herein shall be construed to permit the designation by a school district that does not maintain a secondary school of another school district’s secondary school as the secondary school of the district.

Sec. 26.  GRANDFATHER; REPEAL

(a)  Notwithstanding the provisions of 16 V.S.A. § 428(b) which requires a vote of the electorate in order for a school district to vote its budget by Australian ballot, a regional technical center school district which was formed prior to January 1, 2006 and which established voting by Australian ballot as the process for approval of its annual budget in the final report submitted to the voters pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 1573 shall continue to vote its budget by Australian ballot pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 428(b) unless the electorate votes to discontinue the practice pursuant to law.

(b)  16 V.S.A. § 562(11) is repealed.

Sec. 27.  HAZING, HARASSMENT, BULLYING, SUICIDE, AND

              SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION TRAINING

Prior to each September, the commissioner of education shall request that schools submit the names of organizations and individuals who have provided effective hazing, harassment, bullying, suicide, or substance abuse prevention training for staff or students, or both.  In addition, the commissioner shall consult with the commission on human rights and other relevant organizations regarding organizations and individuals who may not yet have been invited into a school but who are qualified to provide the training.  The commissioner shall compile the information and make it available to schools throughout the state either on the department’s website or in another form in a format he or she determines to be most appropriate.  The intent of this listing is to offer schools a broad set of programs for prevention training which will be periodically updated based on feedback from schools. 

Sec. 28.  TOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT; AUTHORIZED TO PAY TUITION

Notwithstanding the restrictions of 16 V.S.A. § 822(c), a town school district which is a member of a union school district and which has historically paid tuition for resident grade 7–12 students attending public and independent schools outside the union high school district, as authorized by the attorney general’s opinion No. 13 of July 30, 1954 and section 4339, V.S. 1947, may continue to do so in accordance with the provisions of 16 V.S.A. § 824.  The town school district shall pay a tuition amount which does not exceed the average announced tuition of Vermont union school districts for grades 7 and 8 or grades 9–12 as appropriate.  It is the intent of the general assembly to authorize a town school district which has historically both belonged to a union school and provided for education of its students by paying tuition to continue the practice and not to authorize the practice in other school districts.

Sec. 29.  16 V.S.A. § 15 is added to read:

§ 15.  COUNCIL ON CIVICS EDUCATION

(a)  The commissioner of education or designee shall convene and chair a council on civics education to strengthen civics education opportunities for all Vermonters.

(b)  The council shall consist of the secretary of state or designee and one person chosen by each of the following organizations:  the Vermont league of women voters, the Vermont bar association, the Vermont humanities council, the Vermont principals association, the Snelling Center for Government, a teacher from the Vermont alliance for social studies, a teacher from the Vermont national education association, the Vermont school boards association, and the Vermont superintendents association.  Any interested member of the house or senate committee on education may attend council meetings as a nonvoting member.

(c)  The council shall:

(1)  continually assess the status of civics education in Vermont schools at all education levels, including higher education;

(2)  make recommendations to enhance civics education;

(3)  make recommendations regarding benefits of increasing civics coordination services at the state house;

(4)  maintain an inventory of civics and service education opportunities available for Vermont students;

(5)  assess and recommend best practices in civics education;

(6)  build and maintain a network of civics education professionals to share information and strengthen partnerships;

(7)  support and help coordinate an alignment of civics education curricula at all education levels, including higher education;

(8)  prepare an annual report of its activities.

Sec. 30.  EFFECTIVE DATES; SUNSET

(a)  Sec. 15(c) of this act shall take effect on July 1, 2006 and shall remain in effect until July 1, 2007.

(b)  The remainder of this act shall take effect on July 1, 2006.

Approved:  May 24, 2006



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us