AN ACT RELATING TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. PREKINDERGARTEN EDUCATION STUDY COMMITTEE
(a) There is created a prekindergarten education study committee to be made up of three senators not all from the same political party chosen by the committee on committees, three representatives not all from the same political party chosen by the speaker, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of the department for children and families, and one representative of the business community appointed by the governor. The committee may meet up to six times, and in addition shall conduct one information gathering meeting prior to January 15, 2007. The committee shall conduct an additional final meeting prior to January 30, 2007 to share findings and answer questions. The committee shall receive per diem and expenses pursuant to 2 V.S.A. § 406 and 32 V.S.A. § 1010, and shall receive staff services from the legislative council, the joint fiscal office, the department of education, and the agency of human services.
(b) The committee shall, at a minimum, gather the following information:
(1) How many private and public or publicly funded prekindergarten education services currently exist in Vermont.
(2) What kinds of services and educational programs are offered by existing prekindergarten education programs.
(3) The costs of existing prekindergarten education programs and how they are funded.
(4) Current department of education and agency of human services standards for prekindergarten education facilities.
(c) The committee shall, at a minimum, study and make findings regarding:
(1) What the research says about the effects of prekindergarten education.
(2) Whether prekindergarten education services should be offered at public expense and, if so:
(A) whether services should be provided by public schools, private providers, or both;
(B) the estimated costs of providing public prekindergarten programs and what public monies should be used to support them;
(C) what would be the mechanism for dispersing these monies; and
(D) what state agency or agencies should have responsibility for developing standards regarding the quality and content of prekindergarten education programs and for determining educator qualifications, and whether standards for public schools should differ from those for private providers.
(3) Which groups of children benefit academically and socially from receiving prekindergarten educational services.
(4) Whether all groups of prekindergarten children benefit from an inclusionary educational environment.
(5) Whether enrollment in a prekindergarten education program should be voluntary.
(6) Whether participation may take place outside the district of residence.
(7) Whether a community should conduct a needs assessment before starting or expanding a program, and if so, how private providers and school districts should be involved in the assessment.
(8) Whether publicly funded early education services are an effective economic development strategy.
(d) On or before January 30, 2007, the committee shall present the information it has gathered, its findings, and its recommendations to the senate and house committees on education, the senate committee on health and welfare, and the house committee on human services.
Sec. 2. INTERIM PROVISIONS
(a) In order to enable the legislative prekindergarten education study committee to accomplish its work and give the general assembly the time to consider and respond to the recommendations of the committee, the state board of education shall not change, repeal, or adopt any rules regarding provision of early childhood or prekindergarten education services prior to June 30, 2008.
(b) During the 2007–2008 school year, a school district which begins a new program of prekindergarten education shall contract with qualified early childhood education service providers in the school district unless it determines that it cannot efficiently and effectively provide quality services using these providers, or that no qualified programs exist in the district or no private programs are interested in providing the services in collaboration with the school district. In determining efficiency and effectiveness, school districts shall emphasize affordability, access, and high quality in early learning experiences. The commissioner of education shall determine whether a school district has met the requirements of this subsection, and a decision of the commissioner shall be final.
Sec. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect July 1, 2006.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street