A sign of promise on school rules?


The State Board of Education has decided to put off a vote on rules governing independent schools that accept public tuition funds. And that suggests to us that talks between the SBE and schools such as Burr and Burton Academy and Long Trail School have shown enough promise that they're worth continuing.

Board chairman Stephan Morse, who is stepping down at the end of the month, didn't have to make a deal with the Scott administration to allow the Agency of Education and Secretary Rebecca Holcombe to work with the board on the proposed Series 2200 rules. That hasn't been happening since former Gov. Peter Shumlin put the brakes on the board's mad dash to pass the rules, which independent schools say would hurt their smaller members. But Morse did make a deal, and we give him credit for understanding the value of compromise.

Tuesday, interim SBE chairwoman Krista Huling said the board wants to take a deeper look at how the special education rules in Series 2200 would impact the independent schools, and talk to the schools and to disability rights advocates.

That's fine, but she's still missing the one group of people who need to be consulted: Parents.

No one else knows better whether the right to equal access for special education for their child is being respected or ignored. No one else has a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of public and private school special education programs in real life. So we'll say it again: parents should be an essential part of this process. It's their children's educations at stake, and their tax dollars at work.

Our support for a workable compromise on the Series 2200 rules has everything to do with providing the best possible education for our kids, and nothing to do with conservative ideology that envisions school choice as a means of undermining public schools. We reject these cynical motives because we know that effective public schools are vital to a growing economy and a healthy society.

What we do support is a compromise that respects accountability for taxpayer dollars, assures the rights of special education students under the law, and balances those needs with the realities of education in rural Vermont.


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