OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 379 (File 599, as amended by Senate "A" and "B")*

AN ACT CONCERNING VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOLS.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes a number of changes to the laws affecting state vocational-technical (V-T) schools. It changes what the State Board of Education (SBE) must do in order to close or suspend operations of a V-T school, including requiring a public hearing and a vote on the matter.

It expands the membership of the SBE starting July 1, 2010, from 11 to 13 members and requires at least two members of the SBE to have V-T school or manufacturing experience. Starting April 1, 2011 it requires one board member to have agriculture or regional agricultural science and technology education center experience. It also requires an annual meeting to consider workforce needs and V-T curriculum.

It requires the State Bond Commission to vote on authorized but unallocated V-T bond funds when the balance of these bonds reaches a certain threshold.

The bill also requires:

1. the state to replace any V-T school bus that is 12 years old or more or that has been ordered out of service by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for two years in a row for the same problem;

2. the SBE to arrange for V-T school buses to be inspected by DMV by July 15, 2010 and annually thereafter; and

3. starting with FY 11, the V-T system to be a budgeted agency separate from the State Department of Education (SDE). Currently, it is part of SDE's budget.

The bill also makes other changes regarding reporting to committees of the General Assembly.

*Senate Amendment “A” requires (1) additional steps the SBE must take before a V-T school can be closed or suspended, including developing a comprehensive closure or suspension plan, (2) steps the SBE must take if the closure period extends beyond what was stated in the plan, (3) SBE to be responsible for transporting students of the closed school to other V-T schools, and (4) the SBE to develop regions across the state for V-T school attendance.

*Senate Amendment “B” adds the provision expanding the size of the SBE and adding the member with agriculture or regional agricultural science and technology education center experience.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2010 except the provision regarding annual inspection of buses is effective upon passage.

1 — REQUIRED STEPS BEFORE CLOSING OR SUSPENDING A VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOL

The bill requires the SBE to take a vote at a duly called meeting in order to close or suspend operations at a V-T school for more than six months. The bill requires SBE to (1) hold a public hearing at the school after school hours at least 30 days before taking a vote on the proposed suspension or closure and (2) develop a comprehensive plan addressing a number of issues related to closure or suspension before the hearing and mail the plan to all school parents and employees. Current law does not set a procedure for closing or suspending a school.

Comprehensive Plan

The plan must include, but is not limited to:

1. an explanation of the reasons for the school closure or suspension, including a cost-benefit analysis;

2. the length of the school closure or suspension;

3. the financial plan for the school during the closure or suspension, including the costs of the school closure or suspension;

4. a description of the transitional phase to the closure or suspension and a description of the transitional phase to reopening the school;

5. an explanation of what will happen to students enrolled at the school during the closure or suspension, including available regional vocational-technical schools for students to attend and transportation to the schools;

6. an explanation of what will happen to school personnel during the closure or suspension, including employment at other schools; and

7. an explanation of how the school building and property will be used during the closure or suspension.

The SBE must (1) mail the comprehensive plan to parents and guardians of students enrolled at the school and to school employees and (2) post the plan on the school's web site at least 14 days before the public hearing.

Closure or Suspension Beyond the Planned Period

Under the bill, if the closure or suspension extends beyond the period set in the required plan, the board must (1) hold another public hearing at a location in the town in which the school is located, after normal school hours and at least 30 days prior to the board vote, (2) develop and make available a new comprehensive plan for such school in accordance with development and distribution requirements required under the bill for the original plan, and (3) hold a board vote at a duly called meeting.

Student Transportation After Closure or Suspension

The bill makes SBE responsible for transporting students of the closed or suspended school to other V-T schools and makes SBE responsible for the transportation costs.

2 — EXPANDING SBE MEMBERSHIP AND ADDING V-T SCHOOL REPRESENTATIVES

The bill expands the number of members on the SBE as of July 1, 2010 from 11 to 13. Starting that date, the bill requires the board must include at least two members who (1) have experience in manufacturing or in a trade taught in the V-T system or (2) are alumni of, or have served as educators at, a V-T school. It also requires one of these members to chair the SBE's vocational-technical school subcommittee.

Starting April 1, 2011 it requires at least one board member to have either agriculture experience or be an alumnus of or have worked as an educator at a regional agricultural science and technology education center. It requires this member to chair the vocational-technical school subcommittee.

Under current law, there is no requirement for any board member to have V-T school-related or manufacturing experience or agricultural experience.

3 — ANNUAL MEETING TO CONSIDER V-T CURRICULUM AND WORKFORCE NEEDS

The bill requires the Education, Higher Education and Employment Advancement, and Labor committees to meet annually, by November 30, with the V-T system superintendent, the Office of Workforce Competitiveness (OWC) director, the labor commissioner, and other appropriate people to consider information each official must submit to the committees by November 15 annually.

The submissions must include information on:

1. general economic trends in the state;

2. occupational movements in the public and private sectors;

3. emerging state, regional, and national workforce needs for the next 30 years;

4. workforce skills that will be needed over the next 30 years and how to ensure that the V-T school curriculum is incorporating those skills;

5. the employment status of V-T school graduates;

6. the adequacy of resources available to the V-T system; and

7. recommendations to SBE for V-T school curriculum changes.

The bill eliminates the existing statewide V-T school system advisory council that is charged with considering many of these same issues. The council has 19 members, 10 appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, and represent businesses of various sizes; the commissioners of education, labor, economic and community development or their designees; an OWC representative; the SBE chairperson or designee; and the Education Committee's co-chairs and ranking members. Although current law requires the council to meet at least twice a year to assess the issues listed above, it has not met for some time.

4 — ACTION ON UNALLOCATED V-T SCHOOL BONDS

The bill requires that, when there is enough of an aggregate balance of bonds authorized but unallocated for general maintenance and capital and trade equipment for any V-T school, the State Bond Commission vote at its August and February meetings annually on whether to allocate at least $ 2 million from those authorizations. If there is no meeting held in those months, the commission must vote at its next regularly scheduled meetings.

If, at the time of the commission's August and February meetings, pending general maintenance and trade and capital equipment transactions exceed $ 2 million, the bill allows the V-T system superintendent to ask for, and requires the bond commission to vote on, whether to allocate more than $ 2 million. If the unallocated balance is less than $ 2 million, the commission must vote on whether to allocate the remaining unallocated balance.

6 — BUS REPLACEMENT

Starting July 1, 2010, the bill requires the SBE to replace any V-T school bus that is 12 years old or older or any bus that has been ordered out of service by DMV for two years in a row for the same problem. The provision on replacing buses that DMV has ordered out of service for two years in a row for the same problem does not specify that it applies only to V-T buses. But SBE does not buy buses for any district other than the statewide V-T school district.

It requires the V-T system superintendent to report annually, starting by July 1, 2011, to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary and the Education and Finance committees on V-T bus replacements, including the number of buses replaced in the previous school year and the number to be replaced in the coming school year.

8 — BUDGET AND EXPENSES REPORTING

The bill requires the V-T system superintendent, twice a year, to submit the operating budget and expenses for each V-T school to the OPM secretary, the Office of Fiscal Analysis director, and the Education Committee. It also requires the superintendent to post the operating budget of each school for the current year on the V-T system website and the school's website.

9 – DEFINING SCHOOL REGIONS FOR ATTENDANCE

The bill requires the SBE, by July 1, 2011, to develop recommendations defining regions across the state for purposes of student attendance in the regional V-T school system. The board must submit the recommendations to the Education Committee.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

27

Nay

5

(03/19/2010)

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

41

Nay

14

(04/05/2010)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

49

Nay

2

(04/27/2010)