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State Board Of Education Delays Vote On New Special Ed Rules

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Peter Hirschfeld
The State Board of Education, seen here at a meeting in Barre on Tuesday, says it needs more information before it's ready to vote on new special-education rules.

The State Board of Education has postponed a vote on a controversial proposal that would require independent schools to accept all students, regardless of their special-education needs.

Supporters of the proposed change say that if an independent school receives public money, then it should have to accommodate the same range of special-education services that public schools are required to provide.

Independent schools, and the people who support them, say the proposed mandate would be financially catastrophic for small institutions that already do their best to take in students with most disabilities.

“We did postpone that so we could dive deeper, and look especially at special ed, and the implications of the rules on independent schools,” Krista Huling, interim chairwoman of the 11-person State Board of Education, said Tuesday.

The decision to postpone the vote until May came during a day-long meeting of the state board Tuesday. Huling says the Agency of Education has agreed to provide staffing and resources so that the board, whose members are appointed by the governor, can better analyze the impacts of the proposal.

As it conducts its analysis, Huling says the board will consult not only with independent schools, but also with disability-rights watchdogs, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposed rule change has sparked outcry from lawmakers whose districts are host to independent schools. Legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate would strip the State Board of Education of its rulemaking authority. The bills are a direct response to the board’s proposed rule change.

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