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H.731

Introduced by   Representatives LaVoie of Swanton and Errecart of Shelburne

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Education; public school choice

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to allow a parent to send a child to any public school and to provide that the district of residence shall pay a portion of a base education payment to the receiving district.

AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE

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

Sec. 1.  LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT

(a)  The general assembly finds that the education of Vermont’s children is a top priority for the people of this state.  The personal involvement of parents is critical to the success of any child’s education.  Different children have different needs and respond to different educational environments.  Parents should have primary responsibility for choosing educational programs for their children and should be free to choose those which they believe best suit the learning abilities and interests of their children and values of their families.

(b)  Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to strengthen education for all children by expanding opportunities for parents to choose the educational setting which they believe to be most beneficial for their children.

Sec. 2.  16 V.S.A. § 822(c) is amended to read:

(c)  The school board may both maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition to a public school as in the judgment of the board may best serve the interests of the pupils, or to an approved independent school if the board judges that a pupil has unique educational needs that cannot be served within the district or at a nearby public school.  Its judgment shall be final in regard to the institution the pupils may attend at public cost.

Sec. 3.  16 V.S.A. § 827 is amended to read:

§ 827.  DESIGNATION OF AN INDEPENDENT HIGH SCHOOL AS THE

            PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT

(a)  A school district not maintaining an approved public high school may vote on such terms or conditions as it deems appropriate, to designate an approved independent school as the public high school of the district.

(b)  When the board of trustees of such school votes to accept this designation, the school shall be regarded as a public school for tuition purposes and the school district shall pay tuition to the school only, until such time as the school district or the board of trustees of the school votes to rescind the designation.

(c)  A parent or guardian who is dissatisfied with the instruction provided at the school or who cannot obtain for his child the kind of course or instruction desired there, or whose child can be better accommodated in an approved high school nearer his home, may request the school board to pay tuition to another approved high school pay the full tuition charged to the designated school pursuant to section 824 of this title.  However, students in the school district may choose to attend any Vermont public school pursuant to section 1096 of this title.

(d)(c)  The school board may pay tuition to another approved independent high school as requested if in its judgment that will best serve the interests of the pupil.  Its decision shall be final in regard to the institution the pupil may attend requests made under this subsection.

Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 1096 is added to read:

§ 1096.  PARENTAL CHOICE

(a)  A Vermont resident who is a parent or guardian of a legal pupil, as defined in section 1073 of this title, may choose to send the pupil to any Vermont public school.

(b)  A Vermont public school shall accept pupils under this section on a nondiscriminatory basis and may not charge tuition to the pupil or the pupil’s parents.  Prior to accepting applications under this section, each public school board shall define its capacity to accept students and shall annually review and redefine its capacity limits.  The commissioner shall develop guidelines for consideration by the boards when they define capacity limits.  Guidelines may include limits based on the capacity of the program, class, grade, school building or measurable adverse financial impact.  Guidelines shall allow a school to accept nonresident pupils who are not applying under this section prior to determining whether a school has the capacity to accept students under this section.  If the school district then receives applications in excess of its defined capacity limits, it shall devise a nondiscriminatory lottery system for determining which students will be accepted.

(c)  If a student chooses under this section to attend a school other than a school in the district of residence, the district of residence shall pay tuition to the receiving district.  In this case:

(1)  The tuition shall be an amount equal to 90 percent of the base education payment for the year of attendance multiplied by the ratio of the statewide long-term average daily membership to the statewide long-term weighted average daily membership for a primary school student, and 90 percent of the general state support grant for the year of attendance multiplied by 125 percent of the ratio of the statewide long-term average daily membership to the statewide long-term weighted average daily membership for a secondary school student.  However, if the student attends only for a portion of the school year, the amount of tuition paid shall be prorated by semester.

(2)  If the student chooses to attend a technical center, the student shall be counted as a full-time equivalent student in the district of enrollment, and that district of enrollment shall be the sending district for purposes of payment of 87 percent of the base education payment under subsection 1561(b) of this title.  The tuition due to the technical center under section 1552 of this title shall be paid by the school district of residence.

(3)  The school district of residence shall be the local education agency responsible for establishing and carrying out the individualized education plan and for special education costs.  However, only actual special education costs or actual proportionate costs attributable to the student may be charged.  The state board shall apply rules adopted under subsection 826(d) of this title to these charges.

(d)  This section does not apply to parents and children residing in a school district which does not maintain a school which offers the grade level the child needs to attend and which is therefore subject to the tuition payment provisions of chapter 21 of this title.

(e)  A school is not required to provide services to a student during a period of suspension or expulsion imposed in another school district.

(f)  An enrolled nonresident student shall be permitted to remain enrolled in the nonresident school without renewed applications in subsequent years unless one of the following occurs:

(1)  The student graduates.

(2)  The student is no longer a Vermont resident.

(3)  The student is expelled from school in accordance with adopted school policy.

(g)  The state board of education may adopt rules as necessary to implement this section, including rules which describe procedures for applying for entry into a district which, at a minimum, shall include rules as follows:

(1)  Acceptance of applications through March 1 of the school year preceding the school year for which the student is applying.

(2)  Notification to the student of acceptance or rejection of the application by April 1 of the school year preceding the school year for which the student is applying.

(3)  A requirement that the student notify the sending and receiving schools of a decision to enter the receiving school district by April 15 of the school year preceding the school year for which the student has applied.  Following notification, the student may enter a school other than the receiving school only if the student, receiving school, and the school to which the student wishes to transfer agree.  However, if the student becomes a resident of a different school district, the student may enroll in the school of the new district of residence at the time of the move.

(4)  If a student notifies the school of residence by July 15 of the intent to return to that school the following school year, a student enrolled in a public school in a receiving district shall be permitted to return to the public school in the district of residence without acquiring agreement of the receiving district and the sending district.

Sec. 5.  TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

(a)  For a pupil choosing to attend an approved Vermont public school other than the school of residence, pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 1096, the tuition paid under subdivision 1096(c)(1) shall be:

(1)  in school years 2007 - 2008 and 2008-2009, 60 percent of the base education payment instead of 90 percent;

(2)  in school year 2009 - 2010, 70 percent of the base education payment instead of 90 percent;

(3)  in school year 2010 - 2011, 80 percent of the base education payment instead of 90 percent;

(4)  in school year 2011 - 2012 and each year thereafter, 90 percent of the base education payment.

(b)  A school board may limit the number of students who may transfer to another school under 16 V.S.A. § 1096 during school years 2007 - 2008 and 2008 - 2009 as described in this section.  If a board chooses to limit the number of students who may transfer, and more students than the allotted number wish to transfer, the board shall hold a nondiscriminatory lottery to determine which students may transfer.  Limits may be imposed as follows:

(1)  For school year 2007 - 2008, a school board may limit the number of students who may transfer to three and one‑half percent of enrollment in the school on October 1, 2006.

(2)  For school year 2008 - 2009, a school board may limit the number of students who may transfer to five percent of enrollment in the school on October 1, 2007.

Sec. 6.  COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION; REPORT

Annually, beginning in 2008, on or before January 15, the commissioner shall report to the senate and house committees on education on the implementation of this act.

(1)  However, the report due in January 2008 shall be delivered on or about November 15, 2007 and shall include:

(A)  an analysis of the financial impact of this act on school districts and recommendations for equitable financial arrangements between school districts that would not adversely affect any district;

(B)  a recommendation concerning whether, due to economies of scale, average daily membership weights should be added or subtracted as student enrollment numbers change; and

(C)  an evaluation of whether the quality of educational services has been maintained and of the impact of expanded educational opportunities on students.

(2)  In order to gather information for these annual reports, the commissioner shall develop and send to each public school board a form which requests specified information at a specific time.  Examples of information the commissioner may gather include:

(A)  Whether transportation needs presented a barrier to choice.

(B)  How many pupils exercised choice, and how many pupils wished to exercise choice but were unable to do so.

(C)  Reasons why students and parents made choice decisions.

(D)  How choice has affected the stratification of student populations with respect to social and economic factors.

(E)  How satisfied those students were who chose to attend a different school and those who remained in the assigned school.

(F)  How satisfied parents, teachers, administrators, and board members were with the choice system in their regions.

(G)  Whether special education students and other students with special needs are receiving equal access to choice, and whether their needs were accommodated.

(H)  The effect of the system on access to technical centers and transition to work programs.

(I)  Whether the quality of education is improving, decreasing, or unaffected in districts experiencing a net loss of students under the choice system.

(J)  Whether the choice system is affecting support for local school budgets.

(K)  Whether the choice system is affecting the amount of parental involvement.

(L)  How the system has affected small schools.

(M)  Whether there are any unintended outcomes.

(N)  The extent to which the implementation of this act adds administrative costs to school districts.

Sec. 7.  EFFECTIVE DATE; REPEAL

(a)  This act shall take effect for school year 2007 - 2008.

(b)  16 V.S.A. § 821(c) is repealed.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us