This is from the April 9, 2022, update from the Vermont Independent Schools Association.
2200 Series Rules Adoption Challenged & Delayed
Former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and former Ed Board member Bill Mathis have filed objections with the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) to the final adoption of the proposed 2200 Series rules for independent school oversight and operations. In a lengthy memorandum, Holcombe made three claims: the rules exceed the Ed Board’s authority, the rules are contrary to legislative intent and the proposal was not accompanied by a required statement of costs to school districts.
A mix-up over filing deadlines caused the date for LCAR consideration of the 2200 Series rule proposals to be extended to from April 7 April 21. Meanwhile the State Board of Education will respond to the situation at its regularly scheduled April 20 meeting.
Holcombe has been a vocal opponents of school choice and independent schools since she resigned from the Agency of Education early in the Scott Administration. She filed lengthy comments against the 2200 Series rule proposals during the rulemaking public comment period. Mathis also has been an opponent of the new rules and of independent education in general, characterizing it as inequitable, discriminatory, poorly regulated and financially unstable.
House Ed Chair Proposes Universal Meals for Publicly Tuitioned Students
An amendment to S.100 proposed this week would allow the AOE to reimburse approved independent schools for the costs of breakfasts and lunches for their publicly-tuitioned students. The proposal, urged by committee chair Kate Webb (D-Shelburne), would require approved independents to qualify under the National School Lunch Act and the National Child Nutrition Act.
Reimbursement amounts would be “equal to the federal reimbursement rate for a free school [breakfast or lunch], using rates identified annually by the Agency of Education from payment levels established annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” The Joint Fiscal Office is working on cost estimates for adding independent schools to the program.
The proposal stirred opposition from some committee members concerned about the cost impact on local tax rates, because the program would be funded from the Education Fund. Meanwhile, in his weekly press conference Governor Scott announced his opposition to any new taxes.
$41-million Sought for PCB Remediation
Stating preliminary remediation cost estimates are really “best guesses” based on discussions with envi-ronmental health engineers who have experience in other PCB remediation projects, the Dept. of Envi-ronmental Conservation has asked the legislature to set aside $41 million for the program. The estimate includes $8 million for assessment and the balance for remediation.
Three hundred forty schools have been identified as required to test—both public and independent. There will be more because not all schools have yet replied to a DEC eligibility questionnaire. Last year the legislature set aside $5 million for PCB testing. When asked whether the $5 million would be enough for testing given the prevalence of schools required to test, DEC Commissioner Walke said the funds may run out. At that time, the agencies may return to the legislature to ask for more testing fund-ing, or it may fall to the schools to pay for their own testing.
Advocacy Urged Against a Tax on Internet Use
Any expense a school may have related to something connected to the internet, including an app to keep a team organized or a website, could be taxed at 6 percent (7% in some areas of the state) if the House passes a proposed Cloud tax. VISA’s lobbyists recommend reaching out to local legislators as well as those on the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways & Means.
Originally, a Cloud Tax passed the House as part of S.53 last year. The Senate stripped it from the bill and sent it back to the House this year, and the bill now is in conference committee. So, a Cloud Tax is not in any bill right now, but was reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee as one of the options for raising revenue.
Senate Finance Committee: Thank members for preventing this proposal in past years and urge them to reject it again this year.
House Ways & Means Committee: Urge members to reconsider this tax, which they have passed many times, as new revenue is unnecessary in a year with historic surpluses and the largest budget in history.
Local Legislators: Explain the impact this tax will have on operations and capabilities. Many legislators have the impression that what the House passed removed a tax on prewritten software accessed remotely (Software as a Service or SaaS), which was characterized as “only what used to come in a box and now is accessed over the internet.” The language passed by the House goes much further, taxing SaaS and Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service; the three service types which together make up 100 percent of the services purchased on the internet.
Interested individuals can find email addresses and other information about legislators and the member-ship of legislative committees on the legislature’s web site.