Vermont Senate votes for ban on privatizing schools

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MONTPELIER (AP) - The Vermont Senate has voted in favor of a two-year-old ban on privatizing public schools.

The move comes as the town of Westford considers the possibility of turning its public elementary school into a private one.

The Senate voted 19-0 on Friday to ban public schools from ceasing operation so they can become independent until the ban ends on July 1, 2016, according to published reports.

The bill also requests a study of the constitutional and legal consequences of such changes. The report from the education secretary is due in January 2015.

"While there is pressure to do this because of people's concerns around budgets, we have to do a thorough assessment of how it affects our kids and equal access to education," said Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D Chittenden. Some of the questions that need to be addressed are whether an independent school would be required to offer the same amount of special education as public schools, he said.

The measure must be reviewed in the House.

Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, said he and other members of the Senate Education Committee were prompted to take action by a petition to change the Westford Elementary School into a private school.

Two other communities in southern Vermont have already flipped their schools from public to independent.

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