Connecticut Seal

House Bill No. 5690

Public Act No. 04-215

AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL READINESS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 10-16o of the general statutes, as amended by section 39 of public act 03-76, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

The state shall encourage the development of a network of school readiness programs pursuant to sections 10-16p to 10-16r, inclusive, as amended, 10-16u and 17b-749a in order to:

(1) Provide open access for children to quality programs that promote the health and safety of children and prepare them for formal schooling;

(2) Provide opportunities for parents to choose among affordable and accredited [or approved] programs;

(3) Encourage coordination and cooperation among programs and prevent the duplication of services;

(4) Recognize the specific service needs and unique resources available to particular municipalities and provide flexibility in the implementation of programs;

(5) Prevent or minimize the potential for developmental delay in children prior to their reaching the age of five;

(6) Enhance federally funded school readiness programs;

(7) Strengthen the family through: (A) Encouragement of parental involvement in a child's development and education; and (B) enhancement of a family's capacity to meet the special needs of the children, including children with disabilities;

(8) Reduce educational costs by decreasing the need for special education services for school age children and to avoid grade repetition;

(9) Assure that children with disabilities are integrated into programs available to children who are not disabled; and

(10) Improve the availability and quality of school readiness programs and their coordination with the services of child care providers.

Sec. 2. Section 10-16p of the general statutes, as amended by sections 15, 30 and 32 of public act 03-6 of the June 30 special session, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(a) As used in sections 10-16o to 10-16r, inclusive, as amended, 10-16u, 17b-749a and 17b-749c:

(1) "School readiness program" means a nonsectarian program that (A) meets the standards set by the department pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and the requirements of section 10-16q, as amended by this act, and (B) provides a developmentally appropriate learning experience of not less than four hundred fifty hours and one hundred eighty days for eligible children, [provided, for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1998, and June 30, 1999, the commissioner may approve programs that provide learning experiences which are for less than said hours and days] except as provided in subsection (d) of said section 10-16q;

(2) "Eligible children" means children three and four years of age and children five years of age who are not eligible to enroll in school pursuant to section 10-15c, or who are eligible to enroll in school and will attend a school readiness program pursuant to section 10-16t;

(3) "Priority school" means a school in which forty per cent or more of the lunches served are served to students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, excluding such a school located in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p, as amended, or in a former priority school district receiving a grant pursuant to subsection (c) of this section and, on and after July 1, 2001, excluding such a school in a transitional school district receiving a grant pursuant to section 10-16u, as amended;

(4) "Severe need school" means a school in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p, as amended, or in a former priority school district in which forty per cent or more of the lunches served are served to students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches;

(5) "Accredited" means accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a Head Start on-site program review instrument or a successor instrument pursuant to federal regulations, or otherwise meeting such criteria as may be established by the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services;

[(6) "Approved" means meeting the criteria established by the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services; ]

[(7)] (6) "Year-round" means fifty weeks per year, except as provided in subsection (d) of section 10-16q, as amended by this act;

[(8)] (7) "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Education; and

[(9)] (8) "Department" means the Department of Education.

(b) The Department of Education shall be the lead agency for school readiness. For purposes of this section and section 10-16u, school readiness program providers eligible for funding from the Department of Education shall include local and regional boards of education, regional educational service centers, family resource centers and providers of child day care centers, as defined in section 19a-77, as amended, Head Start programs, preschool programs and other programs that meet such standards established by the Commissioner of Education. The department shall establish standards for school readiness programs. The standards may include, but need not be limited to, guidelines for staff-child interactions, curriculum content, including preliteracy development, lesson plans, parent involvement, staff qualifications and training, and administration. The department shall develop age-appropriate developmental skills and goals for children attending such programs. The commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioners of Higher Education and Social Services and other appropriate entities, shall develop a continuing education training program for the staff of school readiness programs. For purposes of this section, on and after July 1, 2004, "staff qualifications" means there is in each classroom an individual who has at least the following: (1) A credential issued by an organization approved by the Commissioner of Education and nine credits or more in early childhood education or child development from an institution of higher education accredited by the Board of Governors of Higher Education or regionally accredited; (2) an associate's degree in early childhood education or child development from such an institution; or (3) a four-year degree in early childhood education or child development from such an institution.

(c) The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services, shall establish a grant program to provide spaces in accredited [or approved] school readiness programs for eligible children who reside in priority school districts pursuant to section 10-266p, as amended, or in former priority school districts as provided in this subsection. Under the program, the grant shall be provided, in accordance with this section, to the town in which such priority school district or former priority school district is located. Eligibility shall be determined for a five-year period based on an applicant's designation as a priority school district for the initial year of application, except that if a school district that receives a grant pursuant to this subsection is no longer designated as a priority school district at the end of such five-year period, such former priority school district shall continue to be eligible to receive a grant pursuant to this subsection. Grant awards shall be made annually contingent upon available funding and a satisfactory annual evaluation. The chief elected official of such town and the superintendent of schools for such priority school district or former priority school district shall submit a plan for the expenditure of grant funds and responses to the local request for proposal process to the Departments of Education and Social Services. The departments shall jointly review such plans and shall each approve the portion of such plan within its jurisdiction for funding. The plan shall: (1) Be developed in consultation with the local or regional school readiness council established pursuant to section 10-16r; (2) be based on a needs and resource assessment; (3) provide for the issuance of requests for proposals for providers of accredited [or approved] school readiness programs, provided, after the initial requests for proposals, facilities that have been approved to operate a child care program financed through the Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority and have received a commitment for debt service from the Department of Social Services pursuant to section 17b-749i, are exempt from the requirement for issuance of annual requests for proposals; and (4) identify the need for funding pursuant to section 17b-749a in order to extend the hours and days of operation of school readiness programs in order to provide child day care services for children attending such programs.

(d) (1) The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services, shall establish a competitive grant program to provide spaces in accredited [or approved] school readiness programs for eligible children who reside in an area served by a priority school or a former priority school as provided for in subdivision (2) of this subsection. A town in which such a school is located or a regional school readiness council, pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-16r, for a region in which such a school is located may apply for such a grant in an amount not to exceed one hundred seven thousand dollars per priority school. Eligibility shall be determined for a five-year period based on an applicant's designation as having a priority school for the initial year of application. Grant awards shall be made annually contingent upon available funding and a satisfactory annual evaluation. The chief elected official of such town and the superintendent of schools of the school district or the regional school readiness council shall submit a plan, as described in subsection (c) of this section, for the expenditure of such grant funds to the Department of Education. In awarding grants pursuant to this subsection, the commissioner shall give preference to applications submitted by regional school readiness councils and may, within available appropriations, provide a grant in excess of one hundred seven thousand dollars to towns with two or more priority schools in such district. A town or regional school readiness council awarded a grant pursuant to this subsection shall use the funds to purchase spaces for such children from providers of accredited [or approved] school readiness programs.

(2) (A) Commencing with the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, if a town received a grant pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection for a priority school and is no longer eligible to receive such a grant for such school, the town may receive a phase-out grant for each of the three fiscal years following the fiscal year such town received its final grant for such school pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection. The amount of such phase-out grants shall be determined in accordance with subparagraph (B) of this subdivision.

(B) (i) For the first fiscal year following the fiscal year such town received its final priority school grant for such school pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection, in an amount that does not exceed seventy-five per cent of the grant amount such town received for such school for the school's final year of eligibility pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection. (ii) For the second fiscal year following the fiscal year such town received its final priority school grant for such school pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection, in an amount that does not exceed fifty per cent of the grant amount such town received for such school for the school's final year of eligibility pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection. (iii) For the third fiscal year following the fiscal year such town received its final priority school grant for such school pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection, in an amount that does not exceed twenty-five per cent of the grant amount such town received for such school for the school's final year of eligibility pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection.

(e) (1) [Ninety-three per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section shall be used for the grant program pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. ] Priority school districts and former priority school districts shall receive grants based on their proportional share of the sum of the products obtained by multiplying the average number of enrolled kindergarten students in each priority school district and in each former priority school district for the three years prior to the year the grant is to be paid, by the ratio of the average percentage of free and reduced price meals for all severe need schools in such district to the minimum percentage requirement for severe need school eligibility, provided no such school district shall receive a grant that is less than the grant it received for the prior fiscal year or a grant that is less than one hundred fifty thousand dollars.

[(2) Six and five-tenths per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section shall be used for the competitive grant program pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. ]

[(3)] (2) The Department of Education may retain up to five-tenths of one per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section for coordination, program evaluation and administration.

[(4)] (3) If a town that is eligible for a grant pursuant to subsection (c) of this section does not submit, by [January] October first, a plan which is subsequently approved for the expenditure of the entire amount of funds for which such town is eligible, the department may use up to [fifty] seventy per cent of any amounts such town has not earmarked for expenditure, to provide supplemental grants to other towns that are eligible for grants pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, and the remaining thirty per cent of any amounts such town has not earmarked for expenditure, for school readiness professional development, including, but not limited to, scholarship assistance for school readiness staff to attain early childhood education certification and staff training to enhance literacy teaching skills.

(f) Any school readiness program that receives funds pursuant to this section or section 10-16u, as amended, shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion or disability. For purposes of this section, a nonsectarian program means any public or private school readiness program that is not violative of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut or the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States of America.

(g) Subject to the provisions of this subsection, no funds received by a town pursuant to subsection (c) or (d) of this section or section 10-16u, as amended, shall be used to supplant federal, state or local funding received by such town for early childhood education, provided (1) a town may use the greater of (A) twenty-five thousand dollars, or (B) up to five per cent but no more than fifty thousand dollars of the amount received pursuant to subsection (c) or (d) of this section or section 10-16u, as amended, for coordination, program evaluation and administration, and (2) if a town provides twenty-five thousand dollars in local funding for early childhood education coordination, program evaluation and administration, such town may use up to ten per cent but no more than seventy-five thousand dollars of such amount for coordination, program evaluation and administration. Each town that receives a grant pursuant to said subsection (c) or (d) or section 10-16u, as amended, shall designate a person to be responsible for such coordination, program evaluation and administration and to act as a liaison between the town and the Departments of Education and Social Services. Each school readiness program that receives funds pursuant to this section or section 10-16u, as amended, shall provide information to the department or the school readiness council, as requested, that is necessary for purposes of any school readiness program evaluation.

(h) For the first three years a town receives grants pursuant to this section, such grants may be used, with the approval of the commissioner, to prepare a facility or staff for operating a school readiness program and shall be adjusted based on the number of days of operation of a school readiness program if a shorter term of operation is approved by the commissioner.

(i) A town may use grant funds to purchase spaces for eligible children who reside in such town at an accredited [or approved] school readiness program located in another town. A regional school readiness council may use grant funds to purchase spaces for eligible children who reside in the region covered by the council at an accredited [or approved] school readiness program located outside such region.

(j) Children enrolled in school readiness programs funded pursuant to this section shall not be counted (1) as resident students for purposes of subdivision (22) of section 10-262f, as amended, or (2) in the determination of average daily membership pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (a) of section 10-261, as amended.

(k) Notwithstanding any provisions of this section, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2003, the amount available for the competitive grant program shall be two million five hundred seventy-six thousand five hundred eighty dollars and the maximum administrative amount shall not be more than one hundred ninety-eight thousand one hundred ninety-nine dollars. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, the amount available for the competitive grant program shall be two million three hundred nine thousand two hundred forty-nine dollars and the maximum administrative amount shall not be more than one hundred ninety-eight thousand one hundred ninety-nine dollars. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005, the amount available for the competitive grant program shall be two million three hundred eighteen thousand three hundred forty-nine dollars and the maximum administrative amount shall not be more than one hundred ninety-eight thousand one hundred ninety-nine dollars.

Sec. 3. Section 10-16q of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(a) Each school readiness program shall include: (1) A plan for collaboration with other community programs and services, including public libraries, and for coordination of resources in order to facilitate full-day and year-round child care and education programs for children of working parents and parents in education or training programs; (2) parent involvement, parenting education and outreach; (3) (A) record-keeping policies that require documentation of the name and address of each child's doctor, primary care provider and health insurance company and information on whether the child is immunized and has had health screens pursuant to the federal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services Program under 42 USC 1396d, and (B) referrals for health services, including referrals for appropriate immunizations and screenings; (4) a plan for the incorporation of appropriate preliteracy practices and teacher training in such practices; (5) nutrition services; (6) referrals to family literacy programs that incorporate adult basic education and provide for the promotion of literacy through access to public library services; (7) admission policies that promote enrollment of children from different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds and from other communities; (8) a plan of transition for participating children from the school readiness program to kindergarten and provide for the transfer of records from the program to the kindergarten program; (9) a plan for professional development for staff, including, but not limited to, training (A) in preliteracy skills development, and (B) designed to assure respect for racial and ethnic diversity; (10) a sliding fee scale for families participating in the program pursuant to section 17b-749d; and (11) an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. On and after July 1, 2000, school readiness programs shall use the assessment measures developed pursuant to section 10-16s in conducting their annual evaluations.

(b) The per child cost of the Department of Education school readiness component of the program offered by a school readiness provider shall not exceed [the foundation, as defined in subdivision (9) of section 10-262f] six thousand four hundred dollars. A school readiness provider may provide child day care services and the cost of such child day care services shall not be subject to such per child cost limitation.

(c) A local or regional board of education may implement a sliding fee scale for the cost of services provided to children enrolled in a school readiness program.

(d) A town or school readiness council may file a waiver application to the Department of Education on forms provided by the department for the purpose of seeking approval of a school readiness schedule that varies from the minimum hours and number of days provided for in subdivision (1) of subsection (a) of section 10-16p, as amended by this act, or from the definition of a year-round program pursuant to subdivision (7) of said subsection (a). The Department of Education may, in consultation with the Department of Social Services, approve any such waiver if the departments find that the proposed schedule meets the purposes set forth in the provisions of section 10-16o, as amended, concerning the development of school readiness programs and maximizes available dollars to serve more children or address community needs.

Sec. 4. Section 10-16u of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002, and each fiscal year thereafter, the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services, shall provide grants, within available appropriations, to eligible school readiness program providers pursuant to subsection (b) of section 10-16p, as amended, to provide spaces in accredited [or approved] school readiness programs for eligible children who reside in transitional school districts pursuant to section 10-263c, except for transitional school districts eligible for grants pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-16p, as amended. Under the program, the grant shall be provided to the town in which such transitional school district is located. Eligibility shall be determined for a five-year period based on a school district's designation as a transitional school district in the initial year of application, except that grants pursuant to this section shall not be provided for transitional school districts eligible for grants pursuant to subsection (c) of said section 10-16p, as amended. Grant awards shall be made annually contingent upon available funding and a satisfactory annual evaluation. The chief elected official of such town and the superintendent of schools for such transitional school district shall submit a plan for the expenditure of grant funds and responses to the local request for proposal process to the Departments of Education and Social Services. The departments shall jointly review such plans and shall each approve the portion of such plan within its jurisdiction for funding. The plan shall meet the requirements specified in subsection (c) of said section 10-16p, as amended.

Sec. 5. Subsection (b) of section 10-16r of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(b) The local school readiness council shall: (1) Make recommendations to the chief elected official and the superintendent of schools on issues relating to school readiness, including any applications for grants pursuant to sections 10-16p, as amended, 10-16u, 17b-749a and 17b-749c; (2) foster partnerships among providers of school readiness programs; (3) assist in the identification of (A) the need for school readiness programs and the number of children not being served by such a program, and (B) for priority school districts pursuant to section 10-266p, as amended, the number of children not being served by such a program and the estimated operating cost of providing universal school readiness to eligible children in such districts who are not being served; (4) submit biannual reports to the Department of Education on the number and location of school readiness spaces, [and] estimates of future needs, and the factors identified pursuant to subdivision (3) of this subsection; (5) cooperate with the department in any program evaluation and, on and after July 1, 2000, use measures developed pursuant to section 10-16s for purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of school readiness programs; (6) identify existing and prospective resources and services available to children and families; (7) facilitate the coordination of the delivery of services to children and families, including (A) referral procedures, and (B) before and after-school child care for children attending kindergarten programs; (8) exchange information with other councils, the community and organizations serving the needs of children and families; (9) make recommendations to school officials concerning transition from school readiness programs to kindergarten; and (10) encourage public participation.

Sec. 6. Section 10-4 of the general statutes, as amended by section 12 of public act 03-174, is amended by adding subsection (d) as follows (Effective July 1, 2004):

(NEW) (d) Not later than December 15, 2004, and annually thereafter, within available appropriations, the board shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that summaries of reports required pursuant to subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of section 10-16r of the general statutes, as amended by this act, are submitted. The board shall summarize the reports and submit such summaries, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education.

Approved June 3, 2004