Legislation giving the Governor more control over education policies is moving through the Legislature.
The bill elevates the Department of Education to Agency status and makes the Secretary of Education a member of the Governor’s cabinet. Currently, the commissioner of Education reports directly to the State Board of Education.
Rutland senator Kevin Mullen is the chairman of the Senate Education committee. He said the bill is a way to make sure that important educational issues are discussed at the highest levels of government.
"I would like to think that such an important part, close to $1.5 billion of spending of our state resources, would be elevated to the Agency level and would be able to be directly by politics at its best because I think everyone has common goals and that is to create the best educational opportunities for our students in the state of Vermont that we possibly can given our finite resources", Mullen said.
Windsor senator Dick McCormack voted against the bill because he had concerns about mixing politics and education policy.
"This is not an abstraction, McCormack said. "We see in other states where education has become highly politicized including things like the teaching of science there are places where politically people interfere with the teaching of competent science for religious reasons."
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 18 to 10. The House has already given its approval to a similar bill but there are some differences that will likely be discussed by a House – Senate conference committee.