Gov. Shumlin was joined by a broad group of educators, teachers' and administrators' representatives, higher education officials, leaders of the business community, as well as the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, to endorse a package of proposals designed to ensure that all Vermont children have access to quality education, core programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well post-secondary opportunities that include college and job training.
Among the provisions of the package, called Flexible Pathways, is an expansion of programs to enable Vermont high school students in their junior or senior year to attend up to two classes free of charge at the Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont and participating private institutions of higher education in the state. The cost of that coursework would range from $150 to $350 per class, depending upon where the courses were taught, paid by the State in the first two years and transitioned to local budgets after Fiscal Year 2016. The program is expected to enable students, including those whose family members have never attended college, to experience higher education and gain the confidence and skills they need to hopefully aspire to continue their post-secondary work after graduation.
"This coalition has worked together to ensure Vermont's children have a clear path from their first year of school through high school graduation and on the higher education and job training. Today's employers across the state -- and across the globe -- are looking for highly skilled workers. This package of legislation gives kids those skills so they can quality for the good paying jobs that employers are struggling to fill," Gov. Shumlin said.
In addition to expanded dual enrollment opportunities, the changes include moving towards the practice of personalized learning, unique to the student and recognizing individual goals, learning styles and abilities. Innovative components of a flexible pathway also include work-based learning like internships, virtual or online learning, career and technical education, and broader expansion of the early college program that would allow students to complete a year of college during their senior year of high school.
Among those endorsing the package are the National Education Association of Vermont, Vermont School Boards Association, Vermont Principals Association, the Vermont Business Roundtable, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and state Chamber of Commerce, the House and Senate Education Committees (chaired by Sen. Richard McCormack and Rep. Joey Donovan), University of Vermont President Thomas Sullivan, Vermont State College Chancellor Tim Donovan, Vermont Superintendents Association, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, and others.
"This is an exceptional coalition of Vermonters committed to ensuring our education system is the strongest possible and our students are ready with the job skills employers want now and into the future," Gov. Shumlin said, standing with representatives of those organizations at a press conference to outline the plan. "With this level of commitment, we cannot and will not fail."