2017 Final Vermont Legislative Update: Education
An analysis from DRM's Government & Public Affairs Team
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First Amendment Rights for Students
It was a big year for professional journalists due to the Media Shield Law, and the legislature also affirmed the right of freedom of expression for student journalists at the secondary school and college levels by passing the Students’ Freedom of Expression Bill.
The bill allows student journalists publishing in school-sponsored media to exercise the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as long as the published material meets certain legal, personal safety and ethical standards. It was promoted by groups of students from the University of Vermont and Burlington High School, endorsed by the Vermont Press Association, and ultimately supported by the Vermont Principal’s Association.
Miscellaneous Education Bill
After abandoning a plan to restructure the state’s universal pre-kindergarten program earlier this session, the House Education Committee joined the Senate Education Committee in spending much of the session reviewing potential small tweaks to Act 46 to facilitate school district mergers.
The final omnibus education bill approved by the legislature allows for greater flexibility in the merger procedures established by Act 46 and creates a study committee to examine controversial draft rules of the State Board of Education that require private schools to offer open enrollment if they want to receive public tuition dollars. The bill also requires the Agency of Education and Agency of Human Services to work together to resolve issues with fingerprint background checks for pre-kindergarten employees. S.18, a bill that provides broad protection for student journalists’ freedom of expression, was also incorporated into the final bill.