GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT SIGNS BILL TO IMPROVE EFFECTIVENESS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES AT VERMONT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Montpelier, Vt. — Governor Phil Scott today signed H.897, bipartisan legislation that improves the administration, effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to students who require additional services.
Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative David Sharpe (D-Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro and Monkton) said the legislation is the biggest change in special education in Vermont in decades. “It should allow better delivery of services to children eligible for special education services and allow us to reinvest money in children in early grades who need support in order to succeed in school and be productive citizens,” Sharpe said. “Although it took four years to complete, I am very pleased that the Governor has signed it into law."
“I am thrilled to see H.897 signed into law,” said Heather Bouchey, acting-interim secretary of education. “This legislation changes the way the state funds special education, which will result in – most importantly – better practices to ensure our students who need additional supports get a high-quality education and also cost-effectiveness in implementing those practices. This is a critical step forward in protecting some of our most vulnerable students. I am grateful to the General Assembly for working with the Agency to bring this bill to fruition."
More specifically, the new law improves the way the state manages special education funding, including shifting from a block grant and reimbursement system to a census-based grant built on the best, evidence-based educational practices. Other provisions of the law modify the thresholds determining the amount the state reimburses and how independent schools will be reimbursed for services provided for students who require special services.
Dr. Tammy Kolbe, the University of Vermont education professor who led the team of researchers who produced the study informing the legislation said: “This is an exciting moment for special education policy in Vermont. H.897 takes important steps toward improving the systems in place to support students with disabilities. It provides educators with the flexibility they need to implement innovative practices to better serve students with a range of learning needs, while at the same time bringing predictability to state and local education spending.”
Governor Scott said the new funding system will improve the ability of schools to implement evidence-based best practices for students that need additional support while reducing administrative requirements and costs.
“I appreciate the Legislature’s collaboration with my Agency of Education, and others, to implement the recommendations brought forward by Dr. Kolbe and her research team at the University of Vermont, designed to improve our effectiveness in providing these important services for kids,” Scott said. “Additionally, I’ve included this reform in my five-year plan to stabilize education tax rates and reinvest savings in reducing inequality and increasing opportunity for students. Our analysts estimate this new law will save about $2 million in fiscal year 2020 and increase to about $34 million in savings in fiscal year 2024. This gets us one step closer to a comprehensive plan that improves equity in our education system by better managing the $1.6 billion we commit each year to educate about 76,000 students. If we continue to take this approach, we can provide more and better opportunities for all students, and some relief for taxpayers.”