Education Committee unlikey to revisit school choice

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(Host) It appears very unlikely that the Legislature will consider legislation to expand school choice this year. The head of the House Education Committee says he has no plans to pursue this issue in the coming months.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In his inaugural address to lawmakers ten days ago, Governor Jim Douglas urged the General Assembly to support efforts to expand public school choice in Vermont.

Under current law choice is available only at the high school level, is limited to several schools in a region, and the student’s block grant is not transferred to the new school. The new law also calls for a review of the choice program after a three year period.

Last session, the House Education Committee passed out an expanded school choice bill but the measure died in the Senate. The committee this year has a lot of new members and the panel’s chair, Howard Crawford, says there’s little support on his committee to address this issue this year:

(Crawford) “It’s not my plan right now, in House Education, to try and produce a broad omnibus choice bill like we produced in the House last year. I think last year’s vote we were able to pass a bill out of here by about three votes. Then of course, it got to the Senate and this year obviously the Senate’s in a 19 to 11 basis.”

(Kinzel) But Crawford does want to conduct additional research on school choice with the hope that he can enhance the chances of passing a bill out next year:

(Crawford) “But what I do intend to do, is do an extensive look at why is choice such a bipartisan issue in this state. In other states it isn’t as partisan as it is here, and in fact in some states it’s a democratic cause, it’s their effort. So what are we putting into our effort that is causing this to become for us such a partisan issue? So I intend to look at that.”

(Kinzel) Crawford says it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of the current school choice law because money doesn’t follow the student at their new school. Crawford says this factor discourages schools from actively seeking new students because the schools don’t receive any additional funds for the student.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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