By Guy Page
A bill passed by the Vermont Legislature and awaiting the governor’s signature provides more funding and statutory empowerment for equity and diversity in schools and state libraries. S115, introduced by the Senate Education Committee:
- Expands membership and adds funding to the state Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group.
- Expands the definition of student wellness to embrace current statutorily-required health education, including (but not limited to) human development, sexuality, drug abuse, and environmental health (pollution, public health and world health).
- Restructures the State Board of Education and requires its membership to reflect Vermont’s geographic, gender, racial, and ethnic diversity.
- Permits municipalities and schools to jointly fund ‘cultural liaison’ programs for families with limited English proficiency. At present, joint town-school funding is not allowed.
- Creates a working group to study “the role that libraries play in emergency preparedness, cultural diversity and inclusion, public health and safety, community identity and resiliency” and examine library book collections for gaps in materials available to Vermonters.
- Also, S115 extends to December, 2022 the deadline for all school districts to use a centralized school data management system (eFinancePlus).
Under S115, the Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group, created by law in 2019 and a driving force behind much of Vermont’s ‘equity’ curriculum:
- would expand from 20 to 23 members and require four high school students and two Indigenous members, and includes $3700 for additional per-diem spending;
- allocates $50,000 for a contractor to develop “recommendations for updating educational standards to recognize fully the history, contributions, and perspectives of ethnic groups and social groups.
The members of Senate Education are Brian Campion (D-Bennington), Chair; Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland), Vice Chair; Andrew Perchlik (P/D Washington), Virginia “Ginny” Lyons (D-Chittenden), Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden), and Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland). S115 was delivered to the governor on June 1.
Members of the task force include Human Rights Commission member Amanda Garces; Mark Hage, author of an anti-Israel, pro-Palestian op-ed in a recent Times-Argus; and Xusanna Davis, Racial Equity Executive Director for the State of Vermont. Click here for a full list.