This is the Feb. 12, 2022, update from the Vermont Independent Schools Association.
Senate Ed Working on Constitutional Requirements & Dual Enrollment
An independent schools anti-discrimination bill in Senate Ed has steadily evolved favorably from the independent schools point of view. S.219, now in its fourth revision, would have either the Agency of Education or the State Board of Education (more likely the Board) include in the independent school approval process new requirements that no school may discriminate against protected groups nor may it use public funds to support religious observances or indoctrination.
The committee is leaning toward having the Ed Board approval process end with a written contract between the Board and the school being approved. The terms of any such contract have not yet been developed.
The overall aim of S. 219 is to assure non-discrimination and proper use of public funds in religious schools and in dual enrollment by adopting statutory language that can withstand anticipated legal challenges based on the Vermont Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
School Mascot Bill Considered in Senate Ed
The bill to regulate school mascots has been revised and now refers to “school branding.” S.139 states:
Public school branding shall be approved by the State Board of Education. When granting approval, the State Board shall find that the proposed branding does not directly or indirectly reference or stereotype the likeness, features, symbols, traditions, or other characteristics that are specific to either: (1) the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity of any person or group of persons; or (2) any person, group of persons, or organization associated with the repression of others.
For the time being, the bill applies only to public schools, though that is open to change either in the legislative process or in Board of Education rules that will have to be developed if the bill is enacted. The bill has not yet left committee for the full Senate. If passed there it would then have to go to the House.
Unemployment Insurance Requirement for All Non-Profits Discussed
A requirement that all nonprofits, rather than just nonprofits with four or more employees, must register for Unemployment Insurance appears in H.29, a bill, now in the House Commerce & Economic Development Committee. The committee took testimony this week from Michael Harrington and Cameron Wood from the Dept. of Labor. The bill would primarily require employers to notify any employees of ineligibility for unemployment insurance.
The implications of extending the registration requirement are not fully understood. The witnesses recommended the committee consider extending the timeline on this specific adjustment until further data could be collected. Under the current law, nonprofits with fewer than four employees may choose to opt out of UI and instead be reimbursable, which left many small organizations financially compromised after COVID layoffs. Further, the committee discussed the lack of equity and fairness in requiring all for-profit firms to pay for UI while making exceptions for nonprofits. The act, if passed, may also include funding for outreach platforms and mechanisms to assist in reaching nonprofits about the change to UI as well as the new requirement to inform employees of their ineligibility for UI.