Posted in General, Primer Series

Primer Series: Vermont School Choice Legislation

You may have heard that the Vermont State Legislature recently passed new legislation regarding school choice. In this primer, we offer the highlights of this new legislation and provide access to additional resources about it.

While what was dubbed as the “school choice bill” originally aimed to offer students in grades 1–12 access to any public or approved independent school when it was initially introduced, the final result was an expansion upon regional school choice, known as Act 150. Historically, approximately 300 Vermont students in grades 9–12 have participated in regional school choice on an annual basis.

In essence, the new legislation removed the former geographic boundaries associated with school choice. The legislation includes limits on transferring students and addresses the application and notification process of interested students. It also discusses reenrollment of and tuitioning for transferred students. Because high school selections through the former regional school choice have already been made for the upcoming school year, the legislation will take effect for the 2013/2014 academic year.

About ninety Vermont towns participate in tuitioning, which has been an element of Vermont’s educational reality for nearly 150 years, and it only exists in towns without schools to serve its necessary grade levels. Tuitioning towns are not required to provide transportation for their students, and the same holds true for public school choice.

Proponents of school choice herald it as an opportunity to facilitate the best educational fit for students in order to maximize academic success. Parents and students can now assess factors like extracurricular offerings, school size and culture, proximity to parents’ place of employment, and many others to determine which high school in Vermont might be the most optimal fit.

Opponents of school choice are concerned that different standards of academic achievement eventually develop as a result of inconsistent standards across institutions, and they fear that school choice will promote social stratification.

To read the language of the bill (beginning on page 1828), click here.

If you would like more information about school choice options in Vermont, please contact Peter Thoms, a policy analyst with the Vermont Department of Education, at (802) 828-5104 or peter.thoms@state.vt.us.

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