We just concluded the 12th week of the 2019 legislative session. Vermont’s legislative sessions usually last no more than 18 weeks, which puts us on target to wrap up in mid-May. To adjourn, lawmakers and the Governor have to negotiate and agree to compromise. It’s no secret that forging consensus at the State House can be challenging. I try to work collaboratively with members of all political parties. That means finding common ground with my colleagues and with members of the Administration.
Other education bills remain in flux. One notable example is H.39, the Act 46 flexibility bill. The House and Senate have passed different versions of H.39 to address the concerns of several Vermont communities that are struggling to comply with Act 46, the state’s 2015 school merger law. Because of our policy disagreements, the House and Senate voted to form a six-member Committee of Conference to hammer out a compromise. The speaker appointed me as one of the three House negotiators.
One of the bills I introduced became the first law of the 2019 session, the Ethnic and Social Equity Studies Act (formerly H.3). As a member of the House Education Committee, I led H.3 through the vetting process and presented it on the floor of the House, where it passed on a unanimous vote. The bill later passed the Senate without dissent. On March 29th, the Governor held a ceremony to sign H.3 into law. A large crowd of educators and advocates turned out to celebrate the law, which marks the beginning of a collaborative process to reduce bias, harassment, and disproportionate patterns of discipline of students from marginalized ethnic and social groups in Vermont’s education system.
I support the goals of Act 46 and want to see the law fully implemented. As we start negotiations, I am reminded that our community was an early adopter of Act 46 and fully complied with the law to form the Essex Westford School District. While Act 46 has been controversial in parts of the state, I believe it has, and will, benefit our statewide education goals and student success. I am committed to working with all sides to ensure we reach the best agreement for our schools, students and families. Stay tuned for updates in the week ahead.
As the pace quickens toward adjournment, many House bills are on the move. With so much activity, we invite community members to join us at our monthly community coffee meeting, which we’ll hold from 8:30 – 10:00am on Saturday, April 13th at Sweet Alchemy Bakery & Cafe (45 Upper Main Street). Please join us and let us know where you stand on issues!