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ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007-2008

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NO. 154.  AN ACT RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL, FORESTRY, AND HORTICULTURAL EDUCATION; ANIMAL DISSECTION; THE REPEAL OF BURDENSOME REPORTS; STREAMLINING THE FORMATION OF UNION DISTRICTS; DISTRICTS THAT PAY TUITION FOR ALL STUDENTS; AND OTHER CHANGES TO EDUCATION LAW.

(H.711)

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

* * * Agricultural, Forestry, and Horticultural Education * * *

Sec. 1.  INTENT

It is the intent of Secs. 1–3 of this act to enhance the ability of regional technical centers and secondary schools in Vermont to teach and prepare students for careers in agriculture, forestry, and horticulture and to determine what steps are necessary to prepare the next generation for involvement in these sectors of Vermont’s economy.

Sec. 2.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds that:

(1)  Education and training are essential to meeting the goals of No. 38 of the Acts of 2007, pertaining to the viability of Vermont agriculture.

(2)  There is currently an absence of statewide oversight and coordination of agriculture, forestry, and horticulture (AF&H) education and training.

(3)  There is a teacher crisis in secondary and postsecondary AF&H education because the pool of applicants is not adequate to replace retiring faculty, some of whom have more than 40 years of experience.

(4)  Careers in the AF&H fields:

(A)  provide business opportunities while taking advantage of Vermont’s natural assets;

(B)  benefit local economies due to the multiplier effect of local investment; and

(C)  provide opportunities for young Vermonters to remain in the state.

(5)  In order for Vermont to capitalize on opportunities in the AF&H fields, comprehensive and effective postsecondary education and training are needed.

(6)  It is critical to understand the current system, methods, and curriculum of educating students in the AF&H fields before taking additional steps toward that end.

Sec. 3.  AGRICULTURAL, FORESTRY, AND HORTICULTURAL

             EDUCATION

(a)  The agency of agriculture, food and markets and the department of education shall jointly perform a needs assessment on AF&H education in secondary schools, regional technical centers, and the community high school of Vermont and provide recommendations for technical assistance for existing programs.

(b)  A report of the needs assessment required in subsection (a) of this section shall be delivered to the house and senate committees on agriculture and on education, the house committee on institutions and corrections, and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs by January 15, 2009.  The report of the needs assessment shall include discussion and recommendations relating to the following:

(1)  The ability of secondary schools, regional technical centers, and the community high school of Vermont to prepare students for AF&H careers.

(2)  The effectiveness of the organizational structures of secondary schools, regional technical centers, and the community high school of Vermont in providing AF&H education.

(3)  The reasons why some secondary schools, regional technical centers, and the community high school of Vermont do not provide AF&H education.

(4)  The opportunities for and barriers to AF&H career paths.

(5)  Options for providing statewide leadership on AF&H technical and curriculum support.

(6)  An assessment of postsecondary teacher degree and certification programs or opportunities at Vermont institutions of higher learning.

(7)  The role organizations such as FFA, the Vermont youth conservation corps, FEED (food education every day), Foodworks, NOFA (northeast organic farming association), and 4-H perform in support of AF&H education.

(8)  The opportunities to enhance AF&H education through collaboration of secondary and postsecondary educational institutions.

(c)  The secretary of the agency of agriculture, food and markets and the commissioner of education shall propose funding needed to support the intent of this act in their respective budgets for FY 2010.

(d)  Resources utilized in preparing the report required in subsection (b) of this section shall include:

(1)  current and retired instructors;

(2)  regional technical center directors and administrators of the community high school of Vermont;

(3)  secondary schools and regional technical centers with existing AF&H education programs;

(4)  postsecondary schools including Vermont Technical College

(5)  the workforce training council and the department of labor;

(6)  other northeastern states where similar efforts are being made and models have been created.

(7)  the department of corrections

(8)  the Vermont youth conservation corps

(e)  The report required in subsection (b) of this section shall also include a summary of the agency of agriculture, food and markets’ and the department of education’s efforts to implement the provisions of Sec. 4 of No. 201 of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006).

* * * Animal Dissection * * *

Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 912 is added to read:

§ 912.  PUPIL’S RIGHT OF REFUSAL; ANIMAL DISSECTION

(a)  A student in a public elementary or secondary school or an approved independent school shall have the right to be excused from participating in any lesson, exercise, or assessment requiring the student to dissect, vivisect, or otherwise harm or destroy an animal or any part of an animal, or to observe any of these activities, as part of a course of instruction.

(b)  Each school district and approved independent school shall adopt and implement policies regarding a student’s right to be excused under this section, which shall include:

(1)  Procedures by which the school shall provide:

(A)  Timely notification to each student enrolled in the course and to the student’s parent or guardian of the student’s right to be excused from participating in or observing the lesson; and

(B)  The process by which a student may exercise this right. 

(2)  Alternative education methods through which a student excused under this section can learn and be assessed on material required by the course.

(3)  A statement that no student shall be discriminated against based on his or her decision to exercise the right to be excused afforded by this section.

(c)  As used in this section, the word “animal” means any organism of the kingdom animalia and includes an animal’s cadaver or the severed parts of an animal’s cadaver.

Sec. 5.  PUPIL’S RIGHT OF REFUSAL; ANIMAL DISSECTION

On or before August 15, 2008, each school district and approved independent school shall develop and implement procedures pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 912(b), created in Sec. 4 of this act, which shall be adopted as policy within the district or approved independent school no later than November 1, 2008. 

* * * Unnecessary, Duplicative, and Burdensome Reports; Repeal * * *

Sec. 6.  REPEAL; MANDATED REPORTING 

The following are repealed:

(1)  16 V.S.A. § 164(8) (state board of education’s biennial report to the legislature regarding its activities and including the commissioner’s report).

(2)  16 V.S.A. § 216(c)(2) (commissioner’s annually updated and published list of school and community programs that have the potential to improve childhood wellness).

(3)  16 V.S.A. § 1165(f) (school district’s annual report to the commissioner regarding alcohol and drug abuse in the district). 

(4)  16 V.S.A. § 1165(g) (commissioner’s annual report to the alcohol and drug abuse council regarding the progress of alcohol and drug abuse education in the schools). 

(5)  16 V.S.A. § 1422(d) (superintendent’s annual report to the department regarding results of hearing and vision tests). 

(6)  Sec. 121a(d) of No. 71 of the Acts of the 1997 Adj. Sess. (1998) (annual report from the department and others to the legislature regarding the status of technical education pilot projects).

(7)  Sec. 3(b) of No. 150 of the Acts of the 1999 Adj. Sess. (2000) as amended by Sec. 21 of No. 182 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) (commissioner’s report concerning initial implementation of regional high school choice).

(8)  Sec. 156(c) of No. 152 of the Acts of the 1999 Adj. Sess. (2000) (department’s annual report regarding special education cost-containment initiatives). 

(9)  16 V.S.A. § 2177(d) (the Vermont state colleges’ biennial report to the legislature regarding its activities).

(10)  16 V.S.A. § 2281(c) (the university of Vermont president’s biennial report to the legislature regarding the activities of the university and the state agricultural college).

(11)  16 V.S.A. § 2322 (the state agricultural college dean’s biennial submission of the estimated budget for the college’s research station and a statement of federal and other available funding).

(12)  16 V.S.A. § 2536 (the university of Vermont and state agricultural college trustees’ annual report to the legislature and the governor concerning the work of its units, including receipts, disbursements, resources, and liabilities).

(13)  16 V.S.A. § 2856(g) (adjutant general’s annual report to the legislature regarding educational loan programs for national guard members).

(14)  Sec. 90 of No. 60 of the Acts of 1997 as amended by Sec. 33 of No. 49 of the Acts 1999 (repeal of legislative oversight committee on restructuring education and assumption of the committee’s duties by standing legislative committees).

(15)  Sec. 71(f) of No. 68 of the Acts of the 2002 Adj. Sess. (2003) as amended by Sec. 1 of No. 4 of the Acts of 2005 of No. 4 of the Acts of 2005 (annual report of the council on education governance to the legislature regarding its progress and any recommendations for legislation necessary to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act).

(16)  Sec. 168a(c) of No. 71 of the Acts of 2005 (commissioner issues a request for proposals, chooses grant recipients, determines the amounts to be awarded to each recipient, and monitors the progress of each grant recipient for fiscal year 2006; annual report by the council on education governance to the legislature regarding its progress and recommendations for legislative change).

Sec. 7.  16 V.S.A. § 165(a)(2) is amended to read:

(2)  The school, at least annually, reports student performance results to community members in a format selected by the school board.  In the case of a regional technical center, the community means the school districts in the service region.  The school report shall include:

(A)  information indicating progress toward meeting standards from the most recent measure taken;

(B)  information about the health and social well-being status of children in the school district;

(C)  information indicating progress toward meeting the goals of an annual action plan;

(D)  any other statistical information about the school or community that the school board deems necessary to place student performance results in context;

(E)  information about early reading instruction provided under subsection 2903(c) of this title;

(F)  early care and education opportunities available to children;

(G)  community support available to families;

(H)  a description of how the school ensures that each student receives appropriate career counseling and program information regarding availability of education and apprenticeship program offerings at technical centers;

(I)  if the school is a secondary school, data describing student participation in technical education, regional job opportunities and the number of graduates from the previous year who have entered postsecondary education, the military and the job market; 

(J)  if the school is a secondary school, information and supporting data presented in a manner designed to protect student confidentiality on the following:

(i)  student attendance, including unexcused absences;

(ii) student discipline; and

(iii)  if the school is a secondary school, the dropout and graduation rates; and

(K)  data provided by the commissioner which enable a comparison with other schools, or school districts if school level data are not available, for cost-effectiveness.  The commissioner shall establish which data are to be included pursuant to this subdivision and, notwithstanding that the other elements of the report are to be presented in a format selected by the school board, shall develop a common format to be used by each school in presenting the data to community members.  The commissioner shall provide the most recent data available to each school no later than October 1 of each year.  Data to be presented may include student-to-teacher ratio, administrator-to-student ratio, administrator-to-teacher ratio, and cost per pupil.

Sec. 8.  16 V.S.A. § 909(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The department of education shall:

(1)  provide for pre-service and in-service training programs for school personnel on alcohol and drug abuse prevention and on the effects and legal consequences of the possession and use of tobacco products.  At least one training program shall be made available in electronic format.  Each superintendent shall determine the content, duration, and frequency of training on issues concerning alcohol and drug abuse for the districts in his or her supervisory union;

* * *

Sec. 9.  16 V.S.A. § 2177(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The books and accounts of the corporation shall be audited annually as of June 30 under the supervision of the auditor of accounts who shall publish the audit report in detail


Sec. 10.  16 V.S.A. § 2281(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The books and accounts of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College shall be audited annually as of June 30, under the supervision of the auditor of accounts. The report of such audit shall be published in detail by the auditor of accounts. 

Sec. 11.  24 V.S.A. § 5261 is amended to read:

§ 5261.  ANNUAL REPORT; AUDIT

On or before March 31 of each year, the authority shall report on its activities for the preceding calendar year to the governor and to the general assembly.  Each report shall set forth a complete operating and financial statement covering its operations during the year.  The authority shall cause an audit of its books and accounts to be made at least once in each year by certified public accountants and the cost thereof shall be considered an expense of the authority and a copy thereof shall be filed with the state treasurer. 

Sec. 12.  Sec. 7 of No. 43 of the Acts of 2005 is amended to read:

Sec. 7.  UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT

The sum of $1,700,000 is appropriated to the department of buildings and general services for the University of Vermont to assist with construction, renovation, and major facility maintenance to the university campus that advances the mission of the university to prepare the students to lead productive lives and to interpret and share knowledge for the benefit of Vermont and for society as a whole.  The university shall file with the general assembly an annual report, on or before January 15, that details the status of capital projects funded in whole or in part by state capital appropriations.

(Total appropriation – Section 7                                                        $1,700,000)

Sec. 13.  Sec. 8 of No. 147 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) is amended to read:

Sec. 8.  UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT

The sum of $1,800,000 is appropriated to the University of Vermont to assist with construction of the plant sciences building and with major facility maintenance to the university campus.  The university shall file with the general assembly an annual report, on or before January 15, that details the status of capital projects funded in whole or in part by state capital appropriations.

(Total appropriation – Section 8                                                        $1,800,000)

Sec. 14.  Sec. 9 of No. 147 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) is amended to read:

Sec. 9.  VERMONT STATE COLLEGES

The sum of $1,800,000 is appropriated to the Vermont state colleges for major facility maintenance.  The state colleges shall file with the general assembly an annual report, on or before January 15, that details the status of capital projects funded in whole or in part by state capital appropriations.

(Total appropriation – Section 9                                                        $1,800,000)

Sec. 15.  Sec. 4(c) of No. 192 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) is amended to read: 

(c)  On or before January 15, 2007, and on or before January 15 for five years thereafter, the task force shall report on its activities during the preceding year to the house and senate committees on education and judiciary.  The task force shall cease to exist after it files the report due on January 15, 2012.

Sec. 16.  Sec. 9 of No. 52 of the Acts of 2007 is amended to read:

Sec. 9.  UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT

The sum of $1,600,000 is appropriated to the University of Vermont for construction, renovation, or maintenance projects.  The university shall file with the general assembly an annual report, on or before January 15, that details the status of capital projects funded in whole or in part by state capital appropriations.

(Total appropriation – Section 9                                               $ 1,600,000)

Sec. 17.  Sec. 10 of No. 52 of the Acts of 2007 is amended to read:

Sec. 10.  VERMONT STATE COLLEGES

The sum of $1,600,000 is appropriated to the Vermont State Colleges for major facility maintenance.  The state colleges shall file with the general assembly an annual report, on or before January 15, that details the status of capital projects funded in whole or in part by state capital appropriations.

(Total appropriation – Section 10                                             $ 1,600,000)

* * * Special Education Audits * * *

Sec. 18.  SPECIAL EDUCATION AUDITS

(a)  The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont council of special education administrators, and the Vermont association for school business officials, shall examine the process by which the department audits special education expenditure reports submitted for reimbursement under chapter 101 of Title 16. In addition, the commissioner shall consider whether certified public accountants who are auditing school districts for other purposes could also conduct special education expenditure audits with departmental supervision.  The commissioner shall make recommendations to improve the timeliness and efficiency of the audit process that, at a minimum, include provisions to ensure that:

(1)  Each audit is completed and provided to the district within one year after the district submits its expenditure report.

(2)  The department provides clear guidelines to districts regarding the type of records that will be audited and how to maintain those records in the most efficient way.

(3)  Each audit report provides recommendations to a district to help it correct any deficiencies in its system for making special education reimbursement claims.

(b)  The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont council of special education administrators, and the Vermont association for school business officials, shall also consider and make recommendations to amend the special education funding provisions of chapter 101 of Title 16 in order to streamline the process by which districts document costs and submit claims for reimbursement. 

(c)  The commissioner shall submit the recommendations required in subsections (a) and (b) of this section to the house and senate committees on education by January 15, 2009.

(d)  The department shall not conduct audits of any special education expenditure report submitted for reimbursement in connection with the
2007–2008 school year; provided, however, the superintendents of districts submitting those reports shall certify to the commissioner that:

(1)  Appropriate supporting documentation for eligible expenditures, such as invoices and tuition bills, have been received and are on file. 

(2)  Time studies as described in the Technical Guide for Special Education Staff Documentation have been conducted and are on file for all staff time for which reimbursement is sought. 

* * * Union School Districts; Streamlining Process * * *

Sec. 19.  16 V.S.A. § 701 is amended to read:

§ 701.  POLICY

It is declared to be the policy of the state to provide equal educational opportunities for all children in Vermont by authorizing two or more school districts, including an existing union school district, to establish a union school district for the purpose of owning, constructing, maintaining, or operating schools and to constitute the district so formed a municipal corporation with all of the rights and responsibilities which a town school district has in providing education for its youth.

Sec. 20.  16 V.S.A. § 701b is amended to read:

§ 701b.  APPLICATION OF CHAPTER

(a)  Whenever referred to in this subchapter, the term “school district” shall include a “town school district,” “incorporated school district,” “union school district,” or “city school district,” and this subchapter shall accordingly apply to the organization and operation of a union school district of which any school district is a member or prospective member.  The provisions of this subchapter shall apply and take precedence in the event of any conflict between those provisions and the provisions of the charter of a municipality which is a member or prospective member of a union district.  Upon the organization of a union district under this subchapter, any charter of a member municipality is considered to be thereby amended accordingly without further action. 

(b)  If a union school district votes to participate in a planning committee pursuant to section 706 of this title, its member districts shall not participate on the study committee.  If the participating union school district votes to join another union school district that is successfully formed, any conflicting terms of its articles of agreement are repealed in favor of the terms of the articles of agreement of the newly formed union school district.  If the proposed union school district is to be a unified union school district, however, only town districts and incorporated districts may participate in the joint study and vote on its formation.  A successful vote to form a unified union school district dissolves any preexisting union school district within its borders, and any assets or liabilities held by that union school district shall be transferred to the new unified union district.

Sec. 21.  16 V.S.A. § 706 is amended to read:

§ 706.  FORMATION OF PROPOSAL TO FORM PLANNING COMMITTEE

When it appears to the boards of school directors of two or more school districts believe 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 petition the board of their respective school districts to do so, each of the boards of school directors shall meet with the superintendent of schools for each participating district and with his or her. With the advice of the superintendent, the boards shall establish a budget, and shall fix the number of persons who will to serve on the planning committee, for the purpose of preparing that prepares the report required by this subchapter.  Each The boards’ proposal shall ensure that each participating district shall share in the committee’s budget, and as nearly as possible be represented on the planning committee, in that proportion which the equalized pupils (as defined in section 4001 of this title) of the district bear to the total equalized pupils of all school districts which intending to participate in the committee’s study.  It is not necessary that each participating district vote to establish a union school district planning committee on the same date.  Nothing herein in this section 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. 22.  16 V.S.A. § 706a is amended to read:

§ 706a.  APPROVAL OF PLANNING BUDGET; APPOINTMENT OF PLANNING COMMITTEE

When the budget is established, participating district shares calculated, and the number of persons to serve on the planning committee is fixed, the 

(a)  If the proposed budget established in section 706 of this chapter exceeds $25,000.00, then:

(1)  The voters of each participating district shall be warned to meet at an annual or special school district meeting to vote on the following question a question in substantially the following form: “Shall the school district of ............................... appropriate $ ............................... as funds necessary to support the district’s financial share of the district in order to finance the a study of to determine the advisability of forming a union school district with some or all of the following school districts: ............................... and………….., and the school directors be authorized to appoint a planning committee for that purposeIt is estimated that the district’s share, if all the above-listed districts vote to participate, will be $........................................  The total proposed budget, to be shared by all participating districts, is
$..........
”  It is not necessary for the voters of each participating district to vote on the same date to establish a union school district planning committee. 

(2)  If the vote is in the affirmative in two or more districts, the board of school directors of each participating district boards of the participating districts shall appoint a planning committee consisting of the number of persons previously fixed.  At least one school director from each participating district shall be on the committee.  A district board may appoint residents to the committee who are not school directors. 

In the event the district votes to join the union school district, any

(3)  The sums expended by it for planning purposes under this section, shall be considered a part of the approved cost of any project in which the district participates in pursuant to sections 3447 to through 3449 of this title. 

(b)  If the proposed budget established in section 706 of this chapter does not exceed $25,000.00, then the boards of the participating districts shall appoint a planning committee consisting of the number of persons previously fixed.  At least one school director from each participating district shall be on the committee.  A district board may appoint residents who are not school directors to the committee.  The sums expended for planning purposes under this section shall be considered a part of the approved cost of any project in which the district participates pursuant to sections 3447 through 3449 of this title. 

Sec. 23.  16 V.S.A. § 706b is amended to read:

§ 706b.  PLANNING COMMITTEE; CONTENTS OF PLANNING COMMITTEE REPORT

(a)  Planning committee.  When a planning committee is appointed, its chairman the members shall elect a chair who shall notify the commissioner of education, who of the appointment.  The commissioner shall then cooperate with the planning committee and may make available the department staff of the department of education in the conduct of a available to assist in the study of the proposed union school district.  The committee is a public body pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 310(3).  The committee shall cease to exist when the clerk of each district voting on a proposal to establish a union school district has certified the results of the vote to the commissioner of education pursuant to section 706g of this chapter. 

(b)  Decision and report.  The planning committee shall may determine that it is inadvisable to form a union school district or it may prepare a report in the form of an agreement between member districts for the government of the proposed union school districtThe In making its determination, the committee may contact additional school districts it believes may be advisable to include within a new union school district.  If the committee decides to recommend formation of a union school district, its report shall specify:

(1)  the names of school districts the committee considers necessary to the establishment of the proposed union; provided, however, only districts named in the warning for the vote under section 706a of this chapter may be identified as necessary;

(2)  the names of additional school districts the committee considers advisable to be included include in the proposed union school district;

(3)  the class of schools grades to be operated by the proposed union school district;

(4)  the cost and general location of any proposed new schools to be constructed and the cost and general description of any proposed renovations;

(5)  a plan for the first year of the union school district’s operation for the transportation of students, teaching the assignment of staff, and curriculum to be provided that is consistent with existing contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or other provisions of law.  The board of the union school district shall make all subsequent decisions regarding transportation, staff, and curriculum subject to existing contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or other provisions of law;    

(6)  the indebtedness of proposed member districts which that the union school district shall assume;

(7)  the specific properties pieces of real property of proposed member districts which that the union is to shall acquire, their valuation, and how the union school district shall pay for them;

(8)  the allocation of capital and operating expenses of the union school district among the member districts;

(9)  consistent with the proportional representation requirements of the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the United States, the method of apportioning the representation which that each proposed member district shall have on the union school board.  The union school board shall have no more than eighteen 18 members, and each member district shall be entitled to at least one representative;

(10)  the term of office of directors initially elected shall, to be arranged so that one-third expire on the day of the second annual meeting of the respective districts, one-third on the day of the third annual meeting of the respective districts, and one-third on the day of the fourth annual meeting of the respective districts, or as near to that proportion as possible;

(11)  the date on which the union school district proposal will be submitted to the voters; and

(12)  the date on which the union school district will begin operating schools and providing educational services; and

(13)  any other matters which that the committee considers pertinent, including whether votes on the union school district budget or public questions shall be by Australian ballot.

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

§ 706c.  APPROVAL BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

The If a planning committee prepares a report under section 706b of this chapter, the committee shall transmit the report to the commissioner who shall submit the report with his or her recommendations to the state board of education.  That board after notice to the planning committee and after giving the committee an opportunity to be heard shall consider the report and the commissioner’s recommendations, and decide whether the formation of such union school district will be for the best interest of the state, the students, and of the school districts proposed as to be members of the union.  The board may request the commissioner and the planning committee to make further investigation and may consider any other information deemed by it to be pertinent.  If, after due consideration and any further meetings as it may deem necessary, the board finds that the formation of the proposed union school district is in the best interests of the state, the students, and the school districts involved, it shall approve the report submitted by the committee, together with any amendments, as a final report of the planning committee, and shall give notice of its action to the committee.  The chairman chair of the planning committee shall file a copy of the final report with the town clerk of each proposed member district at least 20 days prior to the vote to establish the union.

Sec. 25.  16 V.S.A. § 706d is amended to read:

§ 706d.  VOTE TO ESTABLISH UNION SCHOOL DISTRICTS 

Each school district which that is designated in the final report as necessary to the establishment of the proposed union school district shall vote, and any school district which is designated in the final report as advisable to be included in the proposed union district may, vote on the establishment of the proposed union school district.  The vote shall be held on the date specified in the final report.  The vote shall be warned in each proposed member school district by the school board of that district, and the vote shall be by Australian ballot, at separate school district meetings held on the same day and during the same hours.  The polls shall remain open at least eight hours.  Early or absentee voting as provided by sections 2531 to 2550 of Title 17 shall be permitted.  The meetings shall be warned as a special meeting of each school district voting on the proposal.  The school board of a school district designated as “advisable” in the proposed union school district may choose not to hold a meeting to vote on the question of establishing the union school district; provided, however, it shall warn and conduct the meeting on application of ten percent of the voters in the school district. 

Sec. 26.  16 V.S.A. § 706f is amended to read:

§ 706f.  CONTENTS OF WARNING ON VOTE TO ESTABLISH THE

               UNION

The warning for each school district meeting shall contain two articles in substantially the following form:   

WARNING

The voters of the town (city, union, etc.) school district of               are hereby notified and warned to meet at     on the     day of       ,       , to vote by Australian ballot between the hours of       , at which time the polls will open, and, at which time the polls will close, upon the following articles of business:  

Article I

Shall the town (city, union, etc.) school district of       which the State Board of Education has found (necessary or advisable) to include in the proposed union school district, join with the school districts of       and     , which the State Board of Education has found necessary to include in the proposed union school district, and the school districts of       and       ,  which the State Board of Education has found advisable to include in the proposed union school district, for the purpose of forming a union school district, as provided in Title 16, Vermont Statutes Annotated, upon the following conditions and agreements:

(a)  Class of schools Grades.  The union school district shall operate and manage (class of school or schools) offering instruction in grades _____ through _____.

* * *

Sec. 27.  16 V.S.A. § 706j is amended to read:

§ 706j.  ORGANIZATION MEETING, BUSINESS TO BE TRANSACTED

(a)  The meeting shall be called to order by the commissioner of education or a person designated by him the commissioner, and at such meeting or at an adjournment thereof:

* * *

(8)  The board of directors may be authorized by the electorate to borrow money pending receipt of payments from the education fund by the issuance of its notes or orders payable not later than one year from date.  A newly formed union school district, however, is authorized to borrow sufficient funds to meet pending obligations;

* * *

Sec. 28.  16 V.S.A. § 706n is amended to read:

§ 706n.  AMENDMENTS TO AGREEMENTS REACHED BY

               ESTABLISHMENT VOTE, ORGANIZATION MEETING, OR                                         FINAL REPORT

(a)  Any specific condition or agreement adopted by the member districts pursuant to section 706f of this chapter at the vote held to establish the union, or any amendment subsequently adopted, may be amended only at a special or annual union district meeting,; provided that, the prior approval of the state board of education shall be secured if the proposed amendment concerns reducing the number of grades which that the union is to operate the prior approval of the state board of education shall be secured.  The warning for the meeting shall contain each proposed amendment as a separate article.  The vote on each proposed amendment shall be by Australian ballot.  Ballots shall be counted in each member district, and the clerks of each member district shall transmit the results of the vote in that district to the union school district clerk.  Results shall be reported to the public by member district; however, no amendment is effective unless approved by a majority of those voting.

* * *

(c)  Any provision of the final report which was not contained in a separate article in the warning required pursuant to section 706f of this chapter for the vote to form the union may be amended by a simple majority vote of the union board of school directors, or by any other majority of the board as is specified for a particular matter in the report.

Sec. 29.  16 V.S.A. § 721a is amended to read:

§ 721a.  WITHDRAWAL FROM DISTRICT

(a)  A school district which that is a member of a union school district may vote to withdraw from the union school district if one year has elapsed since said the union school district has become a body politic and corporate as provided in section 706g of this title.

(b)  When a majority of the voters of a school district present and voting at a school district meeting duly warned for that purpose vote votes to withdraw from a union school district the vote shall be certified by the clerk of the school district to the secretary of state who shall record the certificate in his or her office and give notice of the vote to the commissioner of education and to the other member districts of the union school district.  Those member districts shall vote by Australian ballot on the same day during the same hours whether to ratify withdrawal of the member district.  Withdrawal by a member district shall be effective only if approved by an affirmative vote of each of the other member school districts within the union school district.

(c)  When If the vote to ratify the withdrawal of a member district is approved by each of the other member districts, the union school district shall notify the commissioner of education receives the notice from the secretary of state he who shall advise the state board of education.  At a meeting held thereafter, if the state board finds that the pupils in the withdrawing district will attend a school which that is in compliance with the rules adopted by the board pertaining to educational programs, the board shall declare the membership of the withdrawing school district in the union school district to be at an end as of July 1 immediately following or as soon thereafter as the obligations of said the withdrawing district have been paid to, or an agreement made with, the union school district in an amount satisfactory to the electorate of each member district of the union school district.  The board shall give notice to the remaining member districts in the union of its meeting and give representatives of the remaining member districts an opportunity to be heard.  It shall then determine whether it is in the best interests of the state, the students, and the school districts remaining in the union, that district for the union to continue to exist.  The board may declare the union dissolved as of July 1 immediately following or as soon thereafter as each member district’s obligations have been satisfied, or it may declare that the union shall continue to exist despite the withdrawal of the former member district.  The state board of education shall file the declaration with the secretary of state, the clerk of the withdrawing district, and the clerk of the union school district concerned.

(d)  A vote of withdrawal taken after a union school district has become a body politic and corporate as provided in section 706g of this title but less than one year after that date shall be null and void.  Action to withdraw must be ratified by an affirmative vote of each of the member districts.

Sec. 30.  16 V.S.A. § 721b is amended to read:

§ 721b.  DISTRICTS ESTABLISHED UNDER PRIOR LAW

A union school district established pursuant to the provisions of any statute existing prior to July 1, 1968 shall be valid. Upon July 1, 1968 any union school district established pursuant to the provisions of any prior statute shall be governed in all respects by the provisions of this subchapter.  All union school districts formed prior to July 1, 2007 are ratified and shall be governed by this chapter.

Sec. 31.  16 V.S.A. § 722 is amended to read:

§ 722.  UNIFIED UNION DISTRICTS

In the event If a union school district is organized to operate grades kindergarten through 12, it shall be known as a unified union district.  On the date the unified union district becomes operative, unless another date is specified in the planning committee report, it shall supplant all other school districts within its borders, and they shall cease to exist.  If provided for in the committee report, the unified union district school board may be elected and may conduct business for the limited purpose of preparing for the transition to unified union district administration while the proposed member school districts continue to operate schools.  The functions of the legislative branch of each preexisting school district in warning meetings and conducting elections of unified union school district board members shall be performed by the corresponding board of alderpersons of a city or city council, the selectboard of a town, or the trustees of an incorporated school district as appropriate.

Sec. 32.  16 V.S.A. § 723 is amended to read: 

§ 723.  TRANSITION TO UNIFIED UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT

             ADMINISTRATION

Except as may be provided in the approved plan for formation of the unified union district with respect to real property on  On the day that its the establishment of a unified union school district becomes effective, it the district gains title to the assets and assumes the existing contractual obligations and other liabilities of the member school districts within its borders unless otherwise agreed to by the member districts in the approved plan for the formation of the unified union school district; provided, however, the unified union school district shall in all cases assume the contractual obligations of the member districts regarding each existing collective bargaining agreement or other employment contract until the agreement’s or contract’s expiration.  All trust funds held or enjoyed by a pre-existing preexisting district shall be held and applied as the terms of the trust indicate.  If such trust allows, the funds may be applied for the use of the unified union school district.  Within five days of the day a unified union school district becomes effective, the treasurer of each pre-existing preexisting school district shall pay by check to the treasurer of the unified union school district the full amount of the balance standing in his or her school account and transfer to him or her all outstanding notes and contracts in force.  Unless otherwise specified, the school account balance shall be applied to the member towns proportional costs for the following year.  All other officers of the pre-existing preexisting school districts shall transfer to the corresponding officer of the unified union school district all instruments and other documents giving evidence of the assets, liabilities, and contractual status of the district.

Sec. 33.  16 V.S.A. § 724 is added to read:

§ 724.  WITHDRAWAL FROM OR DISSOLUTION OF A UNIFIED UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT

(a)  A town or city corresponding to a preexisting school district that voted to form a unified union school district may vote to withdraw from the district if one year has elapsed since the unified union school district became a body politic and corporate as provided under section 706g of this title.

(b)  When a majority of the voters of the town or city present and voting at a meeting duly warned for that purpose votes to withdraw from a unified union school district, the vote shall be certified by the clerk of the town or city to the secretary of state who shall record the certificate in his or her office and give notice of the vote to the other towns or cities corresponding to the preexisting school districts that voted to form the unified union school district.  Such other towns and cities shall vote by Australian ballot on the same day during the same hours whether to ratify the withdrawal of the town or city.  To be effective, action to withdraw shall be approved by an affirmative vote of each of the other towns or cities within the unified union school district.

(c)  If the vote to ratify the withdrawal of the town or city is approved by each of the other towns or cities, the unified union school district clerk shall notify the commissioner of education who shall advise the state board of education.  At a meeting held thereafter, if the state board finds that the students in the withdrawing town or city will attend a school that is in compliance with the rules adopted by the board pertaining to educational programs, the board shall declare the membership of the withdrawing town or city to be at an end as of July 1 immediately following or as soon thereafter as the obligations of the withdrawing district have been paid to, or an agreement made with, the union school district in an amount satisfactory to the electorate of each of the other towns and cities within the unified union school district.  In addition, the state board shall declare the preexisting school district corresponding to the withdrawing town or city to be reconstituted.  The board shall give notice to the remaining towns and cities in the unified union school district of its meeting and give the relevant representatives an opportunity to be heard.  It shall then determine whether it is in the best interests of the state, the students, and the school districts remaining in the unified union school district that the unified union district continue to exist.  The board may declare the unified union school district dissolved as of July 1 immediately following or as soon thereafter as each remaining town’s or city’s obligations have been satisfied, or it may declare that the unified union district shall continue to exist despite the withdrawal of the former town or city member.  The state board of education shall file its declaration with the secretary of state, the clerk of the withdrawing town or city, and the clerk of the affected unified union school district.

(d)  A vote of withdrawal taken after a unified union school district has become a body politic and corporate as provided in section 706g of this title but less than one year after that date is void.


Sec. 34.  LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL; STATUTORY CHANGES TO SUPPORT THIS ACT

Pursuant to its statutory revision authority in 2 V.S.A. § 424, the legislative council is directed, wherever applicable in chapter 11 of Title 16, to substitute the term “study” for the term “plan” or “planning.”

* * * No Child Left Behind * * *

Sec. 35.  Secs. 13 and 14 of No. 182 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) are amended to read:

Sec. 13.  Sec. 2 of No. 64 of the Acts of 2003, as amended by Sec. 2 4 of No. 114 of the Acts of 2004 the 2003 Adj. Sess. (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 2006–2008 20082009, 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 5 of No. 114 of the Acts of 2004 the 2003 Adj. Sess. (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 2006-2008 20082009.  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 2005–2006,

2006–2007, or 2007–2008, or 2008–2009, 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 2006–2008

20082009 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.

* * * Designation of a Public or Elementary School; Study * * *

Sec. 36.  DESIGNATION OF A PUBLIC OR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AS THE PUBLIC SCHOOL OF A DISTRICT; STUDY

The general assembly recognizes that, notwithstanding the limitations of
16 V.S.A. § 827, it may at times be necessary or advisable to authorize Vermont school districts to designate a public or approved independent elementary or secondary school as the public school of the designating school district.  On or before January 15, 2009, the commissioner shall examine the issue and provide the senate and house committees on education with detailed information that will enable the general assembly to determine whether expanded authorization should be available to all school districts that do not maintain a school, whether authorization exceeding § 827 should never be granted, or whether expanded authorization should be limited to specific situations.  The detailed information shall include data regarding school districts that provide for the education of their students by paying tuition, the number of students in these districts, the schools the students are able to attend under current law, and the schools they might reasonably attend if districts could designate a public or approved independent elementary school, a public secondary school, or both as the public school or schools of the district.

* * * Alternative Education Programs; Study * * *

Sec. 37.  ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS; STUDY

(a)  The commissioner of education shall study and propose alternative methods by which school districts can support secondary students who are in danger of terminating their enrollment prior to graduation.  The commissioner shall specifically focus on ways in which districts can encourage students to attend alternative education programs while remaining enrolled in secondary school and shall create an inventory of alternative education programs currently available in the state.  Among the issues to be studied are:

(1)  The ways in which an eligible student should be identified and by whom.

(2)  The nature and qualifications of the alternative education programs that should be eligible to receive payment from a school district and whether and by what entity the programs should be approved or accredited. 

(3)  Whether and to what extent the alternative education program should be required to have an existing relationship with the school district. 

(4)  The ways in which a school district could ensure academic continuity and quality while a student attends an alternative education program on a full- or part-time basis.

(5)  Methods by which public dollars could be expended to pay the alternative education program for its role in educating the student.

(6)  The estimated per-pupil financial costs to secondary schools resulting from each payment method identified in subdivision (5) of this subsection.

(b)  On or before January 15, 2009, the commissioner shall file a report with the senate and house committees on education outlining the results of the study and providing detailed proposals.

* * *

* * * Districts Paying Tuition for All Students * * *

Sec. 38.  DISTRICTS PAYING TUITION FOR ALL STUDENTS IN

               ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL; EXCESS

               SPENDING; SUNSET

(a)  A school district shall be exempt from the calculation of excess spending in 32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) and from that calculation’s use in determining the district spending adjustment under subdivision (13) of that section if the district:

(1)  Is not a member of a union school district or a unified union school district;

(2)  Does not maintain an elementary school or a secondary school; and

(3)  Pays tuition for all publicly funded students residing in the district.

(b)  This section shall take effect on July 1, 2008 and shall sunset on July 1, 2010.

Approved:  May 20, 2008



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us