by Hilary Niles vtdigger.org Schools, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders rekindled debate Tuesday over standards that Vermont’s independent schools must meet.The discussion is round two for a controversial proposal to require independent schools to comply with the same standards public schools must meet for special education, teacher licensing, educational assessments, free meals and other conditions.The Vermont Independent Schools Association and the School Boards Association have met on their own to hash out differences between the two organizations. Representatives from both groups reported some progress to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday afternoon when legislators considered S.91.If the groups come to terms, differences of opinion between the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators, the Vermont-National Education Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association likely will remain.Joel Cook, executive director of the Vermont-NEA, said he’d be willing to talk about creative solutions to concerns about teacher licensing, for example. ‘But we have to be in the room to talk about that,’ Cook said.He appeared perturbed and concerned that his union ‘ the state’s largest, representing about 11,500 Vermont educators ‘ had not been involved in pre-session negotiations over the bill. Senate Education Committee Chair Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, assured Cook that he and all other stakeholders would have a seat at the table as discussions continue.As written, S.91 would only apply to independent schools that accept public money as tuition for one-third or more of their enrolled students, or independent schools organized primarily to serve a general student population.A school such as the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, for example, would not be subject to the requirements. It was unclear at the committee meeting whether athletic schools such as Burke Mountain Academy, which serves the local population as well as elite skiers, would fall under the new umbrella for compliance.Stakeholders from all constituencies underscored the value of independent schools. The division among them is whether public funds going to those independent schools should come with strings ‘ and if so, which ones.Supporters want to tie the money to state laws ensuring equal access to education and consistent educational standards for all students. Opponents want to preserve the independence of independent schools.The conversation occurs as public school enrollment continues to decline, school budgets continue to grow and independent schools continue to multiply in the state.Public dollar thresholdThere is some disagreement among stakeholders over the proportion of public funding that should trigger new standards for independent schools.School Boards Association executive director Stephen Dale said a school can be considered ‘substantially’ participating in the public system if at least one-third of its students are publicly funded. Others may lower the bar to 20 percent, Dale said, but he finds one-third to be reasonable.Stephen Dale, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, presents his organization’s take on proposed requirements for independent schools to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDiggerVermont Independent Schools Association executive director Mill Moore fundamentally disagrees with that premise.‘An independent school is a provider of education, not public education,’ Moore stated. ‘Independent schools do things that public schools either cannot do or choose not to.’Jo-Anne Unruh. Photos by vtdigger.orgIn testimony from the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators, executive director Jo-Anne Unruh underscored the role of her constituency and Local Education Agencies. Not only is education access for students with disabilities an important civil rights issue, she argued, but it’s LEA’s responsibility to ensure access ‘ whether a student attends a public school or not.For that reason, Unruh said, she’s resistant to setting any public dollar threshold before an independent school is required to meet the needs of special education students.Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, was more concerned for the time being about a threshold’s potential unintended consequences than where exactly it may be set. He wondered out loud if a school might structure itself to keep below the one-third proportion of publicly funded students, effectively limiting school access in the wake of a policy designed to ensure access.Special educationUnruh disputed Moore’s assertion that special education students are not discriminated against. She said she’s seen it happen, but Moore contends that he’s yet to see any evidence supporting such a claim.Unruh also urged attention to students’ special education needs at an earlier age, rather than waiting for statutory 504 accommodations or comprehensive special education evaluations to kick in.Dale said that requiring special education services for at least four out of 13 categories of need, as S.91 currently proposes, could be better handled for both students and schools. Independents should be required to meet the needs of any admitted student, he said, but should not have to keep staff and equipment on-hand just in case a student with special needs walks through the door.‘This should be student-focused,’ Dale said. ‘We don’t want people spending a lot of money on things that aren’t benefiting students and that are just adding to overall costs ‘ which are as you know of interest in this building,’ he said, pointing outside the room to the rest of the Statehouse.Moore suggested that reducing the administrative burden for approval to attend to special needs would help more schools offer special services. He also said that it used to be standard practice for independents to work with their supervisory unions in much the same way public schools work with supervisory unions now to meet special education needs.Mill Moore, executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, testifies before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Photo by Hilary Niles / VTDigger‘I’m told that level of cooperation has been substantially diminished,’ Moore said, but he wasn’t aware of any legal or administrative barriers to resuming coordination.Blind admissionsThe proposal to require blind admission to independent schools will also be contentious. Dale said it’s a fundamental question of equity from the school board’s perspective, but Moore said it could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for some independent schools.‘I’m sure it’s done with the best intentions to make sure a student matches the capacity of the school,’ Dale said. But if an independent school will be a ‘significant’ deliverer of public education, then he believes students should have an equal shot at access regardless of their own abilities or their parents’ ‘development potential.’Rather than focus on process, Moore suggested, perhaps a solution can be found in results. He said already about 85 percent of Vermont’s independent schools practice blind admissions. If 10 percent more could be coaxed there on a voluntary basis, for example, that would leave just a handful without the policies.Isn’t that enough progress, he asked. Because the last vestige could represent an insurmountable hurdle.Teacher licensingDale and Moore appear to have reached a deal on the bill’s proposal to require all the affected independent school teachers to be licensed in accordance with public school standards.‘We are willing to let that issue go,’ Dale said.Aside from requiring special education staff to prove their licenses and endorsements are current, he indicated he would not want to hold up the rest of the negotiations for anything more.Student assessmentThe independent and school board groups also appeared to have come to some agreement over educational assessments, which they said should be struck from the bill.Publicly funded students at independent schools must participate in assessments already, they said. The protocol is written into a different state statute, and is therefore not necessary in S.91.Dale said it felt like a ‘reach’ to require testing of all students, and Moore argued that it constituted an undue intrusion upon privately funded students and their families.Free and reduced price mealsMoore said a requirement to provide free or reduced price meals to low-income students should not be a problem.He said some of the logistics may need to be ironed out, and his group might ask for state support in the case of a couple small schools that might need to upgrade facilities.Next stepsS.91 will not be headed to the full chamber for debate anytime soon.Moore told the committee that his group’s proposed amendments would be at least a week or more in the making. And McCormack says he wants to hear from more stakeholders.
Related TopicsBowling GreenCleveland StateLady Vikings Danny Simpson CLEVELAND – The CSU Women’s basketball team took on the high flying Falcons of Bowling Green at Quicken Loans Arena to start the first game of the CSU Vikings Basketball double header. The first quarter would provide the crowd with spectacular showing from the air. Every single point from both teams would come from three point range with the exception of one made free throw. Sydney Lambert would get the Falcons started and be responsible for 6 of the 7 points the Falcons scored in the first. And Kayla Livingston would spark the Vikings nailing three 3-pointers of her own in the first. Both teams would rely heavily on outside shooting and along with a tenacious defensive effort from the Vikings, the Falcons would trail the Vikings 18-7 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter would be more of the same story. Intense defense would cause more points in transition for the Vikings. And the continued clinic from beyond the three point line from the Lady Vikes would put the Vikings up 47-13 at the half, shooting 55% from three point land. Kayla Livingston would lead CSU with 19 points in the first half.Unable to take advantage of their size, Bowling Green would continue to struggle as the Vikings kept a firm grasp of the lead over the Falcons 62-31 by the start of the final quarter, and with such a sizeable lead, the Falcons wouldn’t be able to put any type of stretch together to come anywhere close to Vikings lead. The Vikings would ice the game in the 4th with Livingston putting out a 21-point performance, and Ashanti Abshaw turning out a 16-point, 8-rebound showing sending the Falcons packing with a final score of 69-48. Next up, the Lady Vikes take on the Toledo Rockets on the road December 12th to try and string together a third straight win. Danny Simpson is a 4 year graduate from John Carroll University in Cleveland with a BA in Communications and Theatre Arts where he specialized in broadcast and theatre production. Graduated from Aurora High School, Danny has lived in North East Ohio all his life and love Cleveland Sports. Currently enrolled at The Ohio Center for Broadcasting in the Sports emphasis program, Danny hopes to make a name for himself somewhere for some professional or collegiate sports organization.
TEXAS, CMC – Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a senior Women’s World Cup by defeating Panama 4-2 on penalties to claim third place in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament here Wednesday. Dominique Bond-Flasza scored the winning spot-kick after both teams had battled to a 2-2 draw at the end of regulation and extra-time.Both USA and Canada who competed in the final in the qualifying tournament had already secured their places at the 2019 World Cup slated to be held in France, with the third-placed team also earning a spot in the prestigious competition.In so doing, the Reggae Girls who are ranked No. 64 in the world, became the first Caribbean team to earn a spot in the World Cup. The island nation re-started its women’s national team program in 2014 after a six-year hiatus. The Jamaica women opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Khadija Shaw buried her shot past Panama’s outstanding goalkeeper Yenith Bailey.It was Shaw’s 13th goal for the Reggae Girls in her last 12 national team matches.However, Panama drew level in the 74th minute thanks to a strike from Natalia Mills. The scored stayed that way at the end of 90 minutes, but Jamaica pulled ahead once again courtesy of 16-year-old Jody Brown’s goal in the 95th minute.But just five minutes from time, Panama was able to lock the scores at 2-2, with Lineth Cendeno’s goal sending the game to penalties.However, after a pair of Panama misses, Bond-Flasza placed her shot past Bailey to send Jamaica to France. :