Introduced by Senator Shepard of Bennington District, Senator Maynard of Rutland District, Senator Mullin of Rutland District and Senator Wilton of Rutland District
Subject: Education; state aid; state funding of all special education; core education; public and private school choice
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to define core education for the purposes of:
1. preparing our children for success in life;
2. ensuring maximum predictability and sustainability of education funding;
3. controlling the cost of public funding of education;
4. protecting and maximizing local and parental input and control in the education of our youth; and
5. encouraging regional program options for special education situations where a regional program may provide a more effective education option.
Section 1: A case for defining state‑funded education.
1. Since 1997, education funding in the state of Vermont must comply with the Brigham decision.
2. The Brigham decision states, “… the right to education is so integral to our constitutional form of government, and its guarantees of political and civil rights.”
3. Given that all life experiences are educational and the Brigham decision speaks of “the right to education,” the court left it to the legislature to define the education which would satisfy Brigham.
4. For state government to raise reliably the funds needed for a program, the program must be defined. Sustainable funding requires definition.
Section 2: Defining state‑funded education.
To meet Brigham:
1. In the Brigham context, “political and civil rights” is used to mean that children have the right to an education which will give them substantially equal access to the tools needed to participate in the civil and political arenas.
2. For the purposes of this bill, this scope of education is referred to as “core education.”
3. Using Brigham, if a particular educational program is a right, that program must be available to every student. If our current system complies with Brigham, only those programs of education which are universally available throughout the state can possibly fall under the Brigham definition of education. Educational programs that do not have substantially equal access throughout the state are not a right under Brigham. The state is not obligated to fund, under Brigham, programs that are not a right under Brigham.
4. For the purposes of this bill, core education consists of the educational curriculum that would be considered a right under Brigham. Core education is that education that will give citizens the tools most necessary to participate in the civil and political arenas.
To insure a healthy and prosperous future for Vermont:
1. An education which equips our citizens with the tools needed to participate in our civil and political arenas is necessary to ensure freedom and prosperity in our republic.
2. It is in the best interest of Vermont to have a system of education which provides the tools needed for each citizen to participate and prosper in our civil and political arenas.
3. All of life’s experiences are education; however, there are certain subjects which are essential in the preparation for participation in the civil and political arenas. The state is committed to providing substantially equal access to these subjects for students in grades K-12.
4. Education at the early years is particularly effective.
5. The need to define critical subjects is for the following:
a. To improve education quality in the areas most important for lifelong success and prosperity.
b. To identify what it is that the state is funding so adequate financial resources can be raised and allocated. The state cannot reliably fund an ill-defined program.
Specific guidelines for state-funded education:
1. The state will issue a block grant for each Vermont student for the purpose of teaching core subjects in grades K-12. All accepted educational programs shall teach these core subjects, and nationally‑recognized standardized tests will be used as tools to determine the effectiveness of each educational program.
2. The subjects required for the core education are reading; spelling; English grammar; communications – written and oral; history; geography; civics; a foreign language; mathematics; sciences; physical and nutritional education; and using computers.
3. Technical education which integrates core education subjects in the curriculum shall be paid for through a block grant.
Section 3: Cost to the state.
1. In determining the cost of such an education, the legislature needs to use the average student as a basis. The exceptions, both at the low and high ends, should be treated as exceptions and not as the basis for determining the cost. Extra funding can be allocated for the exceptions.
2. Realizing that one size does not fit all, the funds needed to teach effectively these core subjects will be a block grant from the state, which will follow the student to any school chosen by the student’s parents or legal guardians.
3. Educational programs need to verify that the block grant is used only for the core subjects identified as required by the state. If the costs associated with teaching these core subjects are less than the block grant, the state will cover only the cost of teaching the required core subjects.
4. The legislature encourages public, private, and home educational programs to go beyond the required subjects of the defined core education, but the state is not obligated to cover costs beyond the core programs except special education costs, which are completely state funded.
5. The costs for programs beyond the core educational programs may be paid for by local communities, for public education services, and by those paying for private or home education.
6. This bill does not restrict the state from funding education programs beyond the core in any manner as determined by the legislature; however, those programs shall not be confused with or connected to the funding of the core education which all Vermont students have substantially equal opportunity to participate in, satisfying Brigham.
7. Communities are free to provide additional resources for resident students to participate in private or home education. That is a local community decision.
AN ACT RELATING TO STATE FUNDING OF CORE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND PARENTAL CHOICE
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
(TEXT OMITTED IN SHORT-FORM BILLS)
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street