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AG Says Board Of Education Can Write Rules For Private Schools

Howard Weiss-Tisman
The State Board of Education met Tuesday at U-32 High School in Montpelier.

Vermont's Attorney General says the State Board of Education can set the rules governing the approval process for private schools.

The board is considering a number of changes to the independent school approval process and there's been some pushback from the schools and from the families with students that are enrolled.

The proposed rules were presented to the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules in November.

State Board of Education Chairman Stephan Morse says the committee questioned whether the State Board was overstepping its authority.

Morse says some members of the Vermont Independent Schools Association also challenged the State Board.

"We didn't think we had to go to the Attorney General's office, but we did to reassure other people that we indeed had the authority to do what we were proposing to do," Morse said. "The Attorney General says we have the authority to promulgate the rules that we did back in November."

In his four-page opinion Assistant Attorney General William Griffin said "the Board's enabling statute expressly authorizes and also requires the Board to adopt rules for approval of independent schools."

Griffin said only approved schools are eligible for public tuition funds.

The rules governing the independent school approval process have not been updated since 2001.

The board wants private schools that take state money to improve their financial reporting and accept all special education students.

Some supporters of school choice say the new rules would put extra financial burdens on the private schools and they say some schools might have to turn away local students who use Vermont's school choice system to help pay for tuition.

Morse says the board had no intention of limiting school choice by taking on the private school rules.

He said members of the state  board have been meeting with members of the Vermont Independent Schools Association.

According to Morse the two sides have been able to make some headway in coming up with more acceptable wording for the new rules.

But there continues to be intense pressure from parents and private school staff to drop the proposed changes.

More than 700 people came out to a meeting at Burr and Burton earlier this month Academy to speak out against the proposed changes.

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