Sanders Announces Key Provisions for Vermont Schools in Education Law Overhaul

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today that new legislation, agreed to by House and Senate negotiators, will give Vermont and other states much more control over how public schools are held accountable for student performance. 

Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee, helped draft the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to replace the much-maligned No Child Left Behind education law, which inaccurately stigmatized Vermont schools for supposedly low performance. 

“I think it is wrong to judge schools solely on the basis of narrow tests. We have to work on what kind of criteria we really need,” Sanders said. “What we in Vermont understand is a kid is more than a test. We want kids to be creative. We want kids to be critical thinkers. We also want schools held accountable for factors other than test scores, including how they meet the challenges of students from low-income families.” 

The new measure would include a pilot program that could help Vermont shift from annual standardized tests to a new system for assessing student performance. Under the legislation, factors that were Vermont’s priorities such as a child’s learning growth from year to year, student and teacher engagement, access to advanced coursework and school climate and safety will become criteria in assessing school performance. 

The legislation recognizes the huge opportunity barriers that poverty places on low-income children by authorizing an extra $1.2 billion nationwide to fund the neediest schools, including $41 million over the next four years for struggling Vermont schools.

Vermont would also benefit from a new formula for rural school funding that could steer an extra $1.3 million a year in federal funds to the state and the reauthorization of funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides over 5,500 children afterschool programing in Vermont every day.