Lawmakers Demand Secretary of Education Clarify Position on Education Weighting Study or Face Possible Litigation  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 14, 2017

WILMINGTON, VT – State Representatives Laura Sibilia (I-Dover), John Gannon (D-Wilmington) and Ben Jickling (I-Randolph) sent a letter to Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education Rebecca Holcomb seeking clarification on the Secretary’s position on completing the mandated weighting study contained in Act 49.  A recent article quoted the Secretary as saying, “We do not expect to initiate or complete the mandated weighting study contained in Act 49 until we have capacity to do so.”  If the Secretary refuses to complete the study, the Vermont General Assembly’s Legislative Council has confirmed that seeking an enforcement action through the courts is appropriate in the absence of some other adequate alternative for enforcement of the Act 49 Education Weighting Study.

The Education Weighting Study called for in Act 49, Section 35 passed the Vermont Senate by a vote of 27-0 on May 5, 2017 and passed the Vermont House of Representatives on a voice vote on May 5th 2017.  Governor Scott signed Act 49 into law on May 23rd 2017.  The weighting study is due to the House and Senate Committees on Education, the House Committee on Ways & Means, and the Senate Committee on Finance by December 15, 2017.  The final weighting study contained in Act 49 included language proposed by Representatives Sibilia, Gannon and Jickling in H.274, An Act Relating to Rural Schools.

Sibilia said: “There are a whole host of conversations that are connected to this study that we could and perhaps should be having, including the chronic under staffing of the Agency of Education by multiple Administrations, the obvious need for additional human and research resources when reorganizing the entire governance structure of education in Vermont, or the fact that our rural towns are struggling with a lack of resources themselves.  But now is not the time for those conversations or arguments about the merits of the study or resources needed.  Now is the time to figure out how the study that was mandated by the Vermont Legislature and signed by the Governor into law gets done.”

Gannon said: “If the Governor did not want the weighting study conducted, he could have simply vetoed the legislation. Thus, I can only conclude that the Secretary’s actions appear to be deliberate effort by the Scott administration to challenge the authority of the legislature.

Jickling said: “The challenges facing rural Vermont schools are unique and systemic. The administration’s refusal to follow through on legislative action is counterproductive and stifles progress towards a more sustainable and fair funding model.”

CONTACT

Rep. Laura Sibilia

(802) 384-0233

Rep. John Gannon

(802) 490-4327

Rep. Ben Jickling

(802) 595-5285

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