Weekly legislative update: Council will vote on Commissioner Edelblut’s 4 year term, House will vote on voucher bill

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Most towns have had their town meeting day last week. If you ran for a local position, we appreciate your dedication! Win or lose, it’s important to make your voice heard. We’re tracking local results on issues like full-day kindergarten and school building aid, so stay tuned.

Leadership Update

On Wednesday, March 22, the Executive Council is expected to vote on Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s 4 year term. The Council voted in February to appoint him as interim Education Commissioner, as former Commissioner Virginia Barry resigned before her term officially ended.

But last week, the Valley News reported that Commissioner Frank Edelblut had donated $1,000 anonymously to the Croydon School Board’s legal fund. The School Board is suing the state to continue paying tuition to private schools using public taxpayer money. Commissioner Edelblut did not disclose the donation to the Executive Council either during his hearing or at his confirmation.

Councilor Andry Volinksy said he will raise the issue at the meeting, saying that “transparency in government” is “very important.” Commissioner Edelblut said that it was made anonymously, and he prefers “the focus to stay on the cause and not draw attention to [himself].”

We’ll keep you updated on the meeting on Wednesday over on Twitter. Follow us to get the latest info!

Legislative Update

On Thursday, March 16, the Senate passed the universal voucher bill (SB 193), which allows parents to receive 90% of the state education grant in the form of a scholarship to use towards private school tuition, homeschooling, and other expenses. It would be among the most extreme voucher programs in the country and most likely cost the state an additional $60 million a year, and will likely increase local property taxes. Now, the bill goes to the House Education Committee.

This week, the House will vote on a voucher bill for students with disabilities and two funding-related bills: one that provides $9 million in backpayments to some districts, and one that creates a committee to study the education funding formula and what it takes to provide an “adequate” education.

House

The House will vote on a number of bills, but the Education Committee won’t meet this week. The House Finance Committee continues to work on the budget. Here are the bills on the calendar:

  • HB 354-FN, which awards $9 million in back payments to several districts. This is the bill that emerged as a result of the Dover lawsuit, when the Supreme Court found the cap on education funding unconstitutional. If the bill passes, the districts that lost money under the cap will get reimbursed for that year of lost funding. The Finance Committee unanimously recommended passing it.
  • HB 647-FN, which establishes a voucher program for students with disabilities. Parents would receive 90% of the state funding (at least $3,400) in the form of a scholarship, which can be used for private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, and other qualified expenses. The House Finance Committee overwhelmingly proposed to kill the bill, citing several problems with it.
  • HB 356-FN is on the consent calendar, meaning it will likely pass without debate. The bill creates a committee to study the state’s formula for education funding and what it really takes to provide an adequate education (and what it means).

Senate

The Senate won’t vote on any education-related bills this week, but will hold hearings on Tuesday, March 21:

  • HB 210, establishing a code of ethics for teachers.
  • HB 216, which would ensure that students have access to their classwork even if they’re suspended from school (in a suspension of 10 days or less).
  • HB 226, which creates a repository of reading programs. Districts receive money to create programs for their third graders that are considered “non-proficient” in reading. This bill would make districts submit the details of their plan so the state can find out (and share) which programs work and which don’t.

We hope everyone is recovering from last week’s snowstorm. It’s the first day of spring, so get out there and enjoy the sunshine!