Education Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-425

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE STATE EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER.

Vote Date:

3/21/2014

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/12/2014

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Education Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The intention of this bill is to enact the State Education Resource Center as a quasi-public agency. Making SERC a quasi-public agency will be able to provide more financial and educational resources and serve the needs of public schools.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

Section 1. lines 24-28 were removed and added, “Any appointed member who fails to attend fifty percent of all meetings of the board held during any calendar year shall be deemed to have resigned from the board. Each appointing authority shall make his or her initial appointment to the board not later than August 15, 2014. The first meeting of the board shall take place not later than September 15, 2014.” Also, line 40 (c) removed “A majority of the appointed members” to “Seven members of the board of directors.”

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

None.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Anthony D'Angelo, External Consultant, State Education Resource Center is in support of the bill as SERC has become a necessary agency for school districts within Connecticut. SERC implements new programs including testing, common core, teacher evaluation, and providing a place for parents to obtain information on programs that affect their children.

Eileen Cassidy, Education Director, Villa Maria School is in favor of the bill as SERC helps educators stay informed about the latest research and best practices at a low and affordable cost for small, private schools.

Loretta L. Rubin, External Consultant, State Education Resource Center supports the bill due to SERC's important work with schools and provides informative resources for students and teachers. SERC's efforts are closing the achievement gap and introduces leading edge initiatives to improve school climates. These initiatives make a meaningful difference in a school's ability to transform educational delivery to all students.

Miriam Morales Taylor, Director of Student Services, New London Public School is in favor of the bill as SERC provides expertise in systems change and in working with underrepresented students and families. In addition, SERC utilizes an effective collaboration approach with teachers regarding professional development. SERC produces impressive results in helping special education referrals decline and improving student behavior and the achievement gap.

Paul F. Flinter supports the bill as Connecticut's educational professionals should continue to have access to SERC. SERC provides skillful training sessions on: using strategies to teach students with learning disabilities, developing the language, and literacy development of young children. SERC's solid reputation to deliver high quality professional development opportunities for educator and parents is clearly evident.

Milly Arciniegas, Executive Director, Hartford Parent University supports the bill as SERC continues to work and preserve over 45 years of history of service on behalf of Connecticut's children and maintain a relationship with the State Department of Education by becoming a quasi-public agency.

Marianne Kirner, Executive Director, States Education Resource Center is in favor of the bill as it would continue a relationship with the State Department of Education and further improve the lives of students and families. In addition, the bill would provide clarity about SERC's legal status and establish a governance board. Moreover, the bill would maintain the Special Education Resource Center at SERC with federal funds granted to the State and support establishment of the Connecticut School Reform Resource Center.

Jaime Prokop, Specialist, O'Brien STEM Academy supports the bill as SERC has provided effective and important learning and training skills for teachers and students. The workshops and conferences from SERC give valuable training to educators in Connecticut and cover a wide-array of topics that are currently not touched upon in traditional, professional development. SERC is the key component in being updated with the most accurate and current educational practices.

Donnah A. Rochester, Director of Student Services, Watertown Board of Education is in favor of the bill as SERC is a valuable resource to Connecticut schools through dissemination of information, the provision of professional development, and technical assistance. With the current state of affairs, school districts need access to high-quality professional development and technical assistance which is accurately given from SERC. Countless educators and para-educators have gained new learning and deepened their understanding about best practices and legislation from SERC.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Todd G. Berch, Field Director, Connecticut AFL-CIO opposes the bill as the State Education Resource Center, funded with public dollars, should not be considered a quasi-public agency, but rather a state agency. Instead, the Committee should follow Public Act 13-286, which clarifies that SERC is a state agency for purposes of contracting requirements.

Patrice Peterson, President, Connecticut State Employees Association SEIU Local 2001 opposes the bill as it risks turning SERC into a shadow agency not subject to the same level of transparency and accountability as other state agencies. SERC was not created to act as a parallel entity to the types of educational work currently performed by state employees. In addition, using taxpayer dollars to fund SERC which is currently performed by state employees is unacceptable.

Melodie Peters, President, AFT Connecticut opposes the bill as SERC should operate as a state agency and not as a quasi-public agency since funding is coming from public dollars. In addition, the bill could allow SERC to undo the contracting provisions required in Public Act 13-286.

Ray Rossomando, Research and Policy Development Specialist, Connecticut Education Association is in opposition of the bill as SERC should be defined as a state agency. The bill appears to wipe out important protections in Public Act 13-286 which originally clarified SERC's status. In addition, materials from a Freedom of Information request uncovered instances of contracts being executed without bidding and SERC served as a conduit for influence over legislation that violated the public's right to know. Mr. Rossomando proposes recommendations such as clarifying that SERC is a public agency, require the State Department of Education to annually report on all state contracts awarded by SERC, and require SERC to report on all costs of salaries, fringe benefits, and other compensation expenses.

Tom Swan, Executive Director, CT Citizen Action Group opposes the bill as it represents the option with the least amount of accountability and the greatest potential for abuse. In addition, SERC funds are public dollars and should be treated just like funds going to any other agency in terms of transparency, procurement, and accountability.

Reported by: Kristin Duquette

Date: 3/27/2014