PA 08-153—sHB 5870

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR CHANGES TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES

SUMMARY: This act:

1. resolves inconsistencies related to bringing a complaint against a board of education for failure or inability to implement the state's educational interests;

2. eliminates a duplicative section on magnet school operating grants;

3. allows elementary schools to meet the requirement for including a program on participatory democracy in their curriculum in third grade, as well as fourth or fifth, as already required by law;

4. specifies that “the arts,” which must be taught as part of the required program of instruction in the public schools, means any form of visual or performing arts, including dance, music, art, and theater;

5. expands the actions the State Board of Education (SBE) can take to improve student performance, remove a school or district from the “low-achieving” list, and address other school or district needs;

6. requires smaller businesses to be represented on the statewide advisory committee for regional vocational-technical (V-T) schools and requires the Senate president pro tempore to appoint to the committee a V-T school teacher and a business representative, rather than two of the latter;

7. specifically requires boards of education to establish a school district curriculum committee that must recommend, develop, review, and approve all curricula for the district;

8. eliminates the Commission on Educational Equity and Excellence; and

9. allows SBE to issue a temporary 90-day teaching certificate in the early childhood education endorsement area at a board of education's request. The preexisting conditions for 90-day certificates must be met for the endorsement's issuance.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2008, except for the provisions on the educational interests of the state, the magnet school grant, early child teaching certificate, and the Committee on Educational Equity, which are effective on passage.

1 — COMPLAINTS FOR FAILURE OR INABILITY TO IMPLEMENT THE EDUCATIONAL INTERESTS OF THE STATE

By law, (1) a resident of, or parent or guardian of a student enrolled in, a school district can file a complaint with SBE, or (2) SBE can initiate a complaint alleging a local board's failure to implement the educational interests of the state in accordance with statute. If SBE finds the complaint to be substantial, it must investigate.

By law, SBE must take action if it ultimately finds, after it investigates, that the board failed or is unable to provide educational opportunities to meet the requirements of a number of sections in the education statutes. To conform this step with the initial complaint, the act specifies that it is a finding of a failure or inability to implement the educational interests of the state that would trigger SBE's action.

2 — REGIONAL EDUCATION SERVICE CENTER (RESC)-OPERATED MAGNET SCHOOL GRANT

PA 07-3, June Special Session, set the general per-pupil grant for RESC-operated interdistrict magnet schools at $3,000. For those that enroll at least 55% of their students from a single town, the act set higher per-pupil grants for each enrolled student who is not a resident of the town that enrolls at least 55%. This act deletes a conflicting section that the 2007 act did not delete, which provides that schools meeting the 55% enrollment receive $3,000 per pupil.

4 — ACCOUNTABILITY

PA 07-3, June Special Session, required schools and districts that are designated as “in need of improvement” under Connecticut law and require corrective action under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to be placed on a list of low-achieving schools and districts and subjected to intensified supervision and direction by SBE. It authorized SBE to take a number of actions to improve student performance and remove a school or district from the “low-achieving” list and address other school or district needs. The act expands the board's authority to require additional training and technical assistance for teachers, principals, and central office staff, to also include students' parents or guardians. It is not clear if the act is attempting to allow SBE to require training for parents or require districts to provide the training for parents.

The act also allows SBE to require training of local and regional boards of education to improve their operational efficiency and effectiveness, and submit an annual action plan to the education commissioner outlining procedures for monitoring their effectiveness. Finally, the act provides that if SBE issues directives for the following and they affect working conditions, the directives must be carried out in accordance with the Teacher Negotiation Act, which defines the scope of, and procedures for, collective bargaining for teachers and administrators:

1. providing incentives to attract highly qualified teachers and principals;

2. directing the transfer and assignment of teachers and principals;

3. requiring additional training and technical assistance for teachers, principals, and central office staff members hired by the district, and parents and guardians of students;

4. directing the school board to develop and implement a plan addressing achievement and learning environment deficits as recommended in the instructional audit; and

5. directing the establishment of learning academies within schools that require continuous monitoring of student performance by teacher groups.

5 — STATEWIDE ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR V-T SCHOOLS

This act changes the types of businesses that must be represented on the statewide advisory committee for V-T schools. It requires that the business representatives appointed by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore be from firms with more than 500 full-time employees, rather than 1,000 as under prior law; those appointed by the House majority and minority leaders and the Senate majority leader must be from firms with between 50 and 500 full-time employees, rather than between 500 and 1,000; and those appointed by the Senate minority leader and the governor must be from firms with fewer than 50, rather than fewer than 500, full-time employees.

7 — COMMITTEE ON EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE

Finally, the act eliminates the 30-member Committee on Educational Equity and Excellence, which was established on July 1, 1994. Under prior law, the committee had to (1) review and appraise the state's efforts to ensure equal educational opportunity and high standards of performance in the public schools; (2) review and recommend the repeal of state statutes and regulations which impeded the efficient and effective delivery of public education in Connecticut; and (3) make appropriate recommendations to the governor, SBE, and the legislature. The committee had no specific reporting or termination date and was supposed to meet at the call of the chair or at the request of a majority of the members. The committee was inactive for many years.

BACKGROUND

Educational Interests of the State

By law, the educational interests of the state include that (1) each child must have equal opportunity to receive a suitable program of educational experiences; (2) each school district must finance at a reasonable level at least equal to the minimum expenditure requirement an educational program designed to achieve this end; (3) each school district must provide educational opportunities for its students to interact with students and teachers from other racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds and may provide such opportunities with students from other communities; and (4) the education laws within SBE's jurisdiction be implemented (CGS 10-4a).

State Board Actions to Improve Student Performance

Pursuant to Public Act 07-3, June Special Session, SBE can take a number of actions to improve student performance and remove a school or district from the “low-achieving” list, and address other school or district needs, including:

1. requiring operations and instructional audits, the implementation of a state education department-approved curriculum, the use of state and federal funds for critical needs, and additional training and technical assistance;

2. identifying schools for (a) reconstitution, or (b) management by an entity other than the board of education;

3. requiring the board for the school or district to implement a model curriculum;

4. directing the school board to develop and implement a plan addressing achievement and learning environment deficits;

5. assigning a technical assistance team to the school or district to guide initiatives and report progress to the education commissioner;

6. developing benchmarks for the school or district to meet;

7. providing funding to districts near the low-achieving district so students within the low-achieving district can attend public school in a neighboring district; and

8. directing the establishment of learning academies within schools that require continuous monitoring of student performance by teacher groups.

Conditions for the 90-day Temporary Teaching Certificate

By law, SBE can issue a 90-day teaching certificate for elementary education, middle grades education, secondary academic subjects or fields, special education, and administration and supervision endorsement areas. A board of education's employing agent must make a written request for a certificate to be issued and attest that a special plan for supervising the certificate holder exists. The certificate applicant must meet a number of academic and training requirements.

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