Thanks to everyone who cast a vote in last week’s local election. In addition to approving the FY2020 Essex Westford School District budget, Village voters elected a new school board member and Village Trustee. Kudos to candidates who stepped forward to run for these important positions!
Final priorities are shaping up in the House Education Committee. To date, we’ve advanced five bills that touch on subjects ranging from school curriculum (H.3), testing for lead in water systems (S.40), updates to our special education laws (H.140 and H.521), and school governance (H.39). The Committee has taken testimony on a variety of other bills and proposals. We expect to advance a final miscellaneous education bill before the session is adjourned in May.
One of the topics we’ve honed in on is beginning a process to assess the condition of school facilities across the state. Vermont has a lot of old building stock that, in some cases, predates WWII. Some of our schools are in rough shape. Even newer buildings face challenges as costly repairs come due. The Vermont Agency of Education has lacked school facilities experts since a moratorium on state aid for construction was enacted in 2007. I believe we need a full analysis of existing school infrastructure to understand our statewide capital planning needs. I’m hopeful we will launch this process with our miscellaneous education bill.
H.39, the school governance bill, was put into a six-member Committee of Conference after the House and Senate passed different versions to address the concerns of several Vermont communities that are struggling to comply with Act 46, the state’s 2015 school merger law. I was appointed to the Conference Committee as a House negotiator. We’ve met several times with our Senate colleagues and continue to look at options to move forward. I’ll provide updates as this issue moves through the process. You can find more information in my update in this week’s Essex Reporter.
On the local front, I enjoyed several visits to our schools last week, including a trip to Hiawatha Elementary to learn about local school nutrition programs, and a forum at ADL to discuss environmental bills under consideration in the General Assembly. Whenever I visit our schools, I’m reminded of how important they are to our community. My gratitude to the students and staff who made these visits memorable!
A final note of thanks to everyone who came out to our monthly forum this weekend. Saturday’s meeting was well attended and generated a lot of conversation. I’ve enjoyed hearing from neighbors at these meetings. If weren’t able to attend and want to connect on any bills under consideration in Montpelier, please reach out. You can always connect with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!