CHAIRMEN: Senator Slossberg

Representative Fleischmann

MEMBERS PRESENT:

SENATORS: Bartolomeo, Boucher, Bye, Holder-Winfield, Linares

REPRESENTATIVES: Baker, Belsito, Berthel, Bolinsky, Bumgardner, Candelaria, Cook, Currey, Genga, Johnson, Kokoruda, Lavielle, LeGeyt, Lemar, McCarty, McCarthy Vahey, McCrory, McGee, Miller, Mulligan, Rojas, Sanchez, Staneski

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good morning. I hereby formally convene this public hearing of the Education Committee. We have a lot of folks signed up to speak, and a lot of topics, so we're going to try and move along as expeditiously as we can.

Would my co-chair or the Ranking Members like to make any remarks before we begin?

REP. LAVIELLE: Just good morning, Mr. Chairman. Nice to see you, and welcome to everybody.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I believe welcome is shared by all, and with that we'll move to our first person signed up on the public officials list, Commissioner Myra Jones-Taylor of the Office of Early Childhood.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Good morning. I -- you know I'm an overachiever, but I'm not here with my A-plus game. I have a horrible cold; I apologize. I'll bring my A-minus game.

Good morning, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, and Distinguished Members of the Education Committee. I am Myra Jones-Taylor, Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood. I am here today to testify on two bills before this committee: Senate Bill 1101, and Senate Bill 7020.

The Office of Early Childhood supports Senate Bill 1101, which makes numerous changes to early childhood statutes. My written testimony details the changes that are part of this bill, and today I will highlight a few of them.

Section 1 of this bill removes the residency requirement for School Readiness Programs in the 19 Priority School Districts. We urge the committee to propose substitute language that would also remove the residency requirements for the 49 School Readiness Programs in Competitive Districts. This was just a technical oversight in the drafting of the bill before you today.

The existing residency language only allows residents in the community in which the program is funded to attend School Readiness Preschool. This residency requirement is impeding our efforts to fill all School Readiness slots, and ensure that as many low-income children as possible are enrolled in high -- high-quality preschool.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Commissioner, I -- I know you're under the weather --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and that section is clear and well taken.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I encourage you to -- to know that the committee has heard it --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and for you to hit on highlights of your other points, so you don't waste too much voice on that one.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: I appreciate that, thank you.

Section 3 then of this bill increases scholarship funding from up to 500,000 to up to one million, contingent upon availability, and increases the maximum scholarship per student from 5000 to 10,000. These two changes will better support teachers working toward a bachelor's degree in an approved field of study.

Section Bill 1101 makes an important change to the Care4Kids statute.

Section 6 eliminates the reference to an eight-month determination -- redetermination. The OEC will develop administrative policy that sets redetermination at 12 months which promotes continuity of care for the child. This policy shift is in alignment with the Child Care Development Block Grant reauthorization that requires states to set redetermination at 12 months.

This section of the bill also removes the requirement to provide written notice to Care4Kids recipients and providers in the event of changes to the Care4Kids program. Notification of changes will be provided on the website, phone, and by email, and this will result in a costs savings of $15,000 for each mailing.

I heard the bell. Shall I continue? Is that fine?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: If -- if you could hit on the highlights of your --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Sure.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- of your concerns to the extent that there are things that you agree with that already in the bill, --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Okay.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- you can skip past those, and go to the things that you think might necessitate a change.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Great. I'll do that.

Let's see. Section 1: So we're in agreement with just about all of this, so I'm going to make sure I highlight; yes.

Okay, so Section 7. I'm moving on to my testimony of Section 7 of 7020. This requires the OEC to collaborate and fund local and regional early childhood councils. The State of Connecticut has a history of supporting and working collaboratively with these early childhood councils which have created early childhood blueprints, and are in varying stages of implementation throughout the state.

However, given the state's budget challenges, the Governor's Budget does not provide funding in the coming biennium for these early childhood councils.

And I think I will stop there and just answer questions, if that -- that suits the committee.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: That sounds fine. Your testimony sounds good, your voice not as much. Feel free to have a glass of water.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the committee?

Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you. Good morning to everyone, and thank you for your testimony.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Good morning. Thank you.

REP. STANESKI: I'll give a shout-out to you from one of my home preschool programs. They said you're doing a wonderful job over there.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. STANESKI: But I do have a couple of questions. First a question on 7020 --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Uh-huh.

REP. STANESKI: -- where the -- there's a part in the bill -- I'm sorry, I just captured the part, so I don't know what line it is, but it says: Such as data collected from the kindergarten assessment tool administered pursuant to Section 1. And we're talking about assessments of school readiness to enter. I just was wondering, do we know what we're going to do if they're not deemed kindergarten ready by the assessment tool?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you for that question. So I want to be very clear, speaking about the kindergarten entry -- entry inventory. And this is a proposal to -- we have a revised KEI which SBE and OEC, we've been working on collaboratively with a seven-state consortium, and we recognized that our existing KEI has -- has limitations. So we're revising this, making this a much better tool.

This is not a tool to assess whether or not, or to determine whether or not a child should enter kindergarten. That is not what it should be used for at all. It is really just to give teachers a better understanding of the children in front of them, and their -- and their capabilities, and how to create curriculum and -- and support their individual needs. But it is absolutely not a tool that would be used to determine the readiness of a child, and whether or not they should enter kindergarten.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, and if I may, Mr. Chairman. On Senate Bill 1101, I just wanted to, again speaking with some of my home preschool program people in -- in our district, I just wanted to bring to their -- to your attention that they're just a little bit concerned that Senate Bill 1101 has an emphasis on preschool in the public school system and childcare centers, and they wanted to just make you aware that, as I think you already are, but also our committee, that -- that they provide a need -- a needed service, too, and many of the parents simply do not want their three or four-year-old children to spend an entire day in a public school or a large center.

So to that end they feel like that we're highly subsidizing all-day care, and NADA went out and put some small providers out of business. I just wanted to -- to ask you if you have any comments on that.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: No, thank you for that. You know we are very sensitive to parent needs in the Office of Early Childhood and parent -- parent choice, and also sensitive to the literature out there that, you know, says that a full day is best for children and -- and their development, but, you know, we have to balance those two very important needs.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you for that, and Mr. Chairman, thank you for my time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions for the Commissioner?

Senator Bye.

SENATOR BYE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, Myra.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Good morning.

SENATOR BYE: How are you? Just a question about the teacher credentials and -- and if there is an impact on the teacher credential requirements in the legislation?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Could you be more specific?

SENATOR BYE: Well I -- I had concerns. I heard concerns about the early childhood teacher credential which has been, you know, sort of a decade in the making and our higher ed institutions matching up with our school readiness requirements, and making sure that -- that is still in force, and -- and that that is not going to be challenged with any of the language before us today.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: At this time I do not see -- thank you for your question -- I do not see any challenges, and, you know, we have made huge strides when it comes to preparing our workforce, our early childhood workforce. This is really about equity for children to make sure that all of our children have the best. If we want to close the achievement gap, we can't just put anybody in front of children, and we have not done that. I want to be clear that we've done great work in Connecticut to make sure that we have high workforce standards. And so it's important that we keep our early childhood teaching credential, that we keep the 2015/2020 deadlines for our workforce to get the -- get the bachelor's degree. So so far we're confident with what we're looking for.

SENATOR BYE: Okay, so we're sort of holding the line to make sure we have those high standards. But what about the wages? So what -- what before us, from your agency, is dealing with the challenge of meeting high standards, but still having very low wages.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Yes, so part of the testimony that we broached here, but I did not speak to, is the proposal to have a study to show how we're actually meeting the challenge of raising the wages for this very important part of our workforce. So we are -- I think that's very important. We're happy to -- to do that. I know the permanent Commission on the Status of Women was working on something a while ago. I'm happy to collaborate with them on that because we are -- we are very committed to this, that as we're increasing the credentials, we should be thinking about how we can support wages for those -- those teachers that are commensurate with that education.

SENATOR BYE: Okay well -- well I would just -- I'm concerned about studying history. I think we know the wages are too low to attract and keep bachelor's, and I know there have been some proposals for some kind of staggered School Readiness reimbursement based on percentage of bachelor's and things like that. So I just put that out there.

And finally, scholarships.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Uh-huh.

SENATOR BYE: I know that, you know, we're trying to get people to their degree, and your agency is giving out scholarships. I heard some concerns which concerned me which were that these scholarships are reserved for programs in going through accreditation. I just want to make sure that those scholarships are available to every program that's trying to meet the School Readiness requirements, because maybe they're already accredited. I wouldn't want them to have less access to scholarship than programs that are still in the process. So if you could address that concern.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Yes. No, that is -- our policy is to target these dollars to all of our workforce in State-funded programs, so they might be going through accreditation or not. They may already be accredited. But it's to go to all of our workforce there. Last year we had $900,000 scholarship money that went out in Fiscal Year 2014. We're actually projecting to double that this year with $1.8 million going to support -- scholarships going to support our early childhood workforce. Very proud of that.

SENATOR BYE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

Representative Cook.

Any other questions that haven't been asked?

Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning. How are you?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Good morning. Well, thank you.

REP. LAVIELLE: Nice to see you. I have a couple of questions on your testimony about House Bill 7020. One of them is regarding Section 1 where you refer to the -- the seven-state consortium that's developing the assessment tool, and you've talked about there being implications fiscally. I'm -- I'm not going to ask you what those are because we -- we have another committee to discuss that.

But what I would ask you is whether you feel that that situation is going to prevent you from rolling that out, and what does that mean? Where -- where are you in that, and you know what's the -- what are your projections and concerns?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Sure. So we are hoping -- we're going right now and looking at some -- some options for funding that, and the funding would be training for teachers to make sure that this is not an unfunded mandate.

REP. LAVIELLE: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: This is a much more sophisticated tool. We'll be able to give teachers much better information than what they're getting, and we want to make sure that we don't penalize local communities for -- for implementing that, so we're looking into that right now.

The idea is we would have a big forum to introduce it this spring, pilot some of the -- the parts of the assessment in fall of 2016; get a lot of input from kindergarten teachers in Connecticut; have a lot of forums there; and then do a full census, a full statewide assessment would be fall of 2017. So we are -- we've actually pushed it off by one year to meet the needs of -- of communities and then really to make sure that we're doing this perfect rollout.

REP. LAVIELLE: Under the current circumstances, do you feel you'll be able to -- to do that, or do you have some concerns about even with the delay.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: No, I -- I feel if -- if we're able to -- to continue as we are, I think we will be fine.

REP. LAVIELLE: (Inaudible).

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: But with a lot of -- a lot of input from our local communities is (inaudible).

REP. LAVIELLE: And my second question is about Section 7, your work with Early Childhood Councils. And again we've been over that -- over the financial aspects of that and the partnerships with -- with philanthropic organizations that might be threatened. But again, if you had to delay some of that, or not do some of it, what would -- what exactly are the activities that communities would be missing out on?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: I don't want to speak specifically for each community, because they do vary across communities, but it's -- it's planning, so the way Graustein, who has done the match for so many years, does it is they have to create a blueprint and do planning for that blueprint to know how they're going to create an early childhood system at the local level. And then they have some time to actually implement -- collect data and implement that plan that they've created. So it's a three-year process, I think. So it really depends on where the communities are in that process, and how a lack of funding would -- would affect them. So it's very locally driven.

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay. Well thank you very much for your -- for your testimony.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. LAVIELLE: I look forward to reading it in detail.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Hello, Commissioner; I hope you feel better.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. COOK: I have a couple of questions regarding Section 5, where we talk about the data collection for childhood degree programs, higher education institutions, et cetera.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Uh-huh.

REP. COOK: And it talks about using that data to figure out where we need to go as a -- as a state and as an office. Do you have a timeline as to when that data should be completed, the collection? Or is it going to be -- how will it work?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: So it should be a trend analysis, so it should be ongoing, so if we see a lot of educators coming from Wheelock College or something, we'll say: Okay, let's -- let's do this trend analysis, see where they are, see how they are prepared up against our ECTC standards, our workforce standards; and then we should continue, if we see something two years from now, and we're getting a lot from some other community.

This should be an ongoing process to make sure that we are capturing our workforce and that this isn't -- you know, the thing about this is we do not want to be backward looking. We need to be both -- recognize where our current workforce is, but really be thinking about ten years from now, where we want to be in the state in terms of our early childhood workforce. And so this should be an ongoing analysis.

REP. COOK: So understanding that we are -- are -- the requirements are 2020, everybody has to have a bachelor's degree if they're a head teacher, et cetera, et cetera. We've had conversations about grandfather language which we can agree as we move forward down this process. My concern is that we are a very difficult state to become licensed and certified in from outside states. And we have incredible educators that right now wouldn't be approved because their degrees came from out of state. Maybe they've been in the business for 15, 20, 25, 30 years.

What happens to that group of people that will fall into that line of educating outside of the state? They've been in their field for years. What are we going to do for them, and how do we ensure that we don't lose those great directors and teachers?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Yes. Thank you for your question. So the grandfathering language that's already in there and in effect allows those teachers who -- and directors who are currently there, working in a State-funded program, that have been in the field for 20 years, they will be grandfathered in, so they will not have to go through this early childhood teaching credential process. We -- we grandfathered them in. So that is not a concern.

If you are a teacher, and you have a degree from another community, another school outside of -- of Connecticut, there is a two-step process. There's a transcript review that allows a teacher to submit their transcript and we can say: Oh, wow, you've done everything we would -- we would want you to do if you went to a Connecticut college. And then they can go -- and if there are things that are missing, say you don't have enough in social-emotional development, and we really want to make sure that our teachers of capable of dealing with -- addressing the mental health needs of our children, we would say: Okay, we need to see a portfolio; put together something that shows that you not only know why this is important, you have some training on this, but that you can actually implement this in the classroom, so that we can see that -- we're going to give you a chance to show that you can really do this, and you don't need to go back to school to do this, to actually show that you should be in the classroom teaching.

Go ahead with your question.

REP. COOK: To follow that, my question would -- so what is the process? Does it go through your office? Who is the one that approves this, and if somebody is not approved, is there an appeal process? What does -- can you explain to me what they'll be looking at?

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Yes. And they are already working on this, so we have already had 200 early childhood educators go through this process in Connecticut. We had one entity doing it, and we decided we wanted to streamline it a little bit, and so now we're working with the Connecticut Association for the Education of Young Children, CAEYC, a highly-respected institution in the state, that is doing that whole review process.

So there is a transcript review process -- educators send in their transcripts from their colleges, and then there is a portfolio review if they need to submit a portfolio. That -- the transcript process takes about two to three weeks, and the full amount -- the full -- if they have to go through the portfolio, takes three to six months. We give them one year, but what we're finding is it takes three to six months, so we are really actually quite efficient in getting through this process.

Teachers can take extra time if they -- right now if they need to petition to the state, to OEC, to say we need an extension. They can petition to the -- to the agency for a one-year extension so that they can recruit or retain the teachers.

They have had ten years to do this. We feel like we've -- we've really -- we're getting up to the place where we need to start, you know, really being very supportive of our educators, but also making sure that we are in compliance with the law that you all put forward for us.

REP. COOK: And thank you for that. I -- I respect the direction of which we're going. I -- you know, we definitely want to ensure that we have great quality educators, especially with our youngest. I would hope that we somehow align our requirements comparable to what we're, you know, we require with our public schools and our regular ed teachers, that we don't make is so very difficult though that we cannot retain teachers or find teachers. And I think that we've clearly set our standards very high.

There is the question of whether or not we will be able to fulfill our requirements by 2020, and those things are all extremely concerning to me because at the end of the day, if we start closing preschools and daycares because they don't have the staff to fulfill, then we're in another position altogether. So I think we need to be extremely cognizant of the decisions we are making, although whether, you know, that they're good for the right reasons --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Uh-huh.

REP. COOK: -- we need to look at the adverse effects and what could possibly happen to our children if they don't have those educators. So I just --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Absolutely.

REP. COOK: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative.

Are there other questions from members of the committee? Hearing none, thank you for your testimony. We hope you feel better --

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and manage to get some R and R.

COMMISSIONER JONES-TAYLOR: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Next on the list is the -- the Speaker of the House --

A VOICE: Who just walked in.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- who just walked in. Terrific.

Speaker Sharkey, if -- if you could join us at the witness table, we appreciate your making the time.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for being a little bit late. I was -- I see that the mayor of Stamford is behind me and on the agenda as well. I just met him in Stamford at 8 a.m., so I've had a busy morning so far.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Slossberg, and Ranking Members of the Committee. I am here today to testify on behalf of two bills. One is H.B. 7 -- 7016, which is AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION SPECIAL EDUCATION SELECT WORKING GROUP.

As I think you know, I -- when I became speaker I sought to continue the work of the MORE Commission which had actually begun under Speaker Donovan, and at one point I chaired that committee. It became very clear to us who have worked on the MORE Commission that with regard to local school budgets, the major cost driver for many, many school districts, if not all, is the cost of special education, and the delivery of those services in compliant with state and federal mandates.

The costs are significant and complex, and we felt that the subject area required specific attention by a specific subcommittee to look at these issues, and so a subcommittee was appointed that was chaired by Representative Brian Becker, Representative Terrie Wood, and your own Representative, Michelle Cook, who I'm glad to see is here this morning.

The -- this subcommittee did incredible work over the entirety of 2014. They actually conducted all of their meetings off site throughout the state to seek input from parents, teachers, other providers, and interested parties, and -- and to try to get a clear understanding of how our special education system works and what we might be able to do at the state level to create a more effective delivery of special education services in a way that is compliant, not only with federal and state standards, but also will make it less volatile for our local school districts in our towns and cities who have to budget for them.

This bill actually represents that effort on behalf of the subcommittee, and while all the ideas that are included in the bill are -- I support, I would particularly draw attention to the idea of -- of allowing our RESCs to play a greater role in the delivery of special education services throughout our state. That is a -- in itself a complicated process that we would have to engage in to look at what, in fact, are the actual services that our RESCs could provide and how effectively they could provide those services in comparison to how the services are already delivered.

But the -- the general principle is that in every school district, in any given school district in any given year, children with a particular need have to be accommodated in every -- every one of these school districts, and it may be one or two students per district. And the reality is that every school district with one or two kids with a particular need is not necessarily the most efficient scenario that we can imagine, whereas if we were to allow the RESCs to develop a more regional approach to those individual needs of individual students across the region that they serve, keeping in mind that the RESCs themselves are made up of the superintendents of each of the school districts in their region, this might actually lend itself to a much more efficient delivery of services, keeping in mind the fact that the quality of those services, and the quality of those programs is paramount.

What we want to do in theory is to encourage our RESCs to be the go-to provider of special education services where it makes the most sense, and when they do provide those services, that they be of the highest quality so that parents know that their children are getting the best possible services as opposed to the services they might otherwise get within their home district.

So to that end, what the bill actually calls for is for the RESCs to do an audit of the school districts within their regions to understand what are the actual services -- what -- what's the population in their constituent school districts, what are the needs, and where best could they actually regionalize some of these services, understanding that not -- not every -- it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Not everything can be done regionally.

But we've asked -- we're asking the RESCs to do this over the course of a year so that perhaps by this time next year we can be actually looking to implement those recommendations and begin funding those RESCs to provide those services. Now the -- the important point of all this, frankly, is not only to create more consistency and less volatility in our school districts, but also frankly to save the State money, because right now the State subsidizes these services in each of our school districts, and if it's done inefficiently, the State is inherently spending money wastefully as well as the local school districts.

So part of this will also encompass the notion that perhaps we can deliver and support these services at the State level in a much more efficient way than it is being done currently.

I think one of the things that came out of the subcommittee's report, which I don't think anybody disagrees with, is that we do not provide the best quality of services for special education students throughout our state. The way we deliver these services is haphazard. It's not consistent among school districts. We have sort of a perverse incentive now where school districts that have a great special ed program become a magnet for families to bring their kids to that school district because they know their kids are going to be cared for. And school districts that don't have a particularly good special ed program, people run away from, for understandable reasons. And the lack of consistency alone is really not what we want to achieve, I think, for the kids who have these particular needs.

I also think that having a more regional approach also helps in terms of litigation costs that occur with regard to special ed in every school district whose parents challenge the efficacy of the IEP that's being offered to their kids. I think if it's being offered on a more regional basis, there's less of an argument to be made as to why your particular child needs to have a different kind of service. If -- if other districts are in agreement that this is the best, then that should, hopefully, stave off a lot of litigation that also occurs in this area.

So that is the sum and substance of H.B. 7016. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you have, and probably defer to the co-chair of the subcommittee as well for further comment.

The other bill that I'm here to testify on is H.B. 7019, which is AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT. As you know, about a decade ago this Legislature enacted an MBR to ensure that we -- that increases in ECS funding were being spent on education, and the MBR intended to create a safety net for our school children by not putting the will of local boards above the needs of students in tough budget years, in other words ensuring that local school budgets increase year over year and are not -- there's not the -- to resist the temptation of local legislative bodies to cut education, and deprive kids of a quality education that they deserve.

The problem that I see that has occurred over the last five years in particular is that we don't have a correlation between what's actually happening in terms of student enrollment and the MBR. The reality is that, as many of us know, school districts are losing population, and yet I -- I would just offer you and I -- we're -- we're happy to provide this to the committee, we -- we've actually done the analysis of over the last five years, the enrollment increases over five years, or decreases over the last five years in every school district in the state. And then we've looked at their total budgets over that same five-year period.

And if you see this spreadsheet, I think you'll be astounded. And I'll try to do it graphically if I can, but this is -- this is, and for the record I'm holding something up that the committee probably can't even see. But this side of the spreadsheet is enrollment; this side is expenditure. It's a very simple spreadsheet. The total enrollment -- exactly, thank you, Senator. You can see. Obviously you've got great glasses.

A VOICE: I can see great.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: There you go. In just about every school district in the state of Connecticut, enrollments have declined in the last five years. Yet over on this side, the total column in terms of expenditures are mostly black, and this is not subtle, minor variations. And I don't mean to pick out individual school districts, but I'll even mention mine if that -- that makes everyone feel more comfortable.

The Hamden School District, in the last five years, has had an overall decrease of population of 3.28 percent, yet their budgets have increased an even 6 percent over that same five-year period. I -- I -- and again I'm not trying to pick on anyone in particular, but the Essex School District has declined by 14.33 percent, and yet the expenditures in that school district have increased 8 percent. There is a complete disconnect between enrollment and expenditures on education.

And part of what is driving that is the MBR, because currently in our MBR, we only allow school districts to decrease their school budgets year over year by not more than 0.5 percent, half of one percent, based on enrollment declines and efficiencies that they're achieving locally. They can apply to the State Department of Education for a waiver of that 0.5 percent, but guess how many school districts in our state have actually done that in the last several years? Answer: none.

And the -- you know, this is a -- and -- and I -- what anecdotally we understand is happening locally is the school districts are telling their legislative bodies: Look, you know, this is the MBR, and we have to increase our budget. But the other side of that story is they -- they can't decrease their budget in -- in accordance with their declining enrollments because our MBR prevents them from doing that.

And that has practical impacts not only on the districts and on local taxpayers, but it also has an impact on the state, because we as a state provide additional ECS money for these school districts, and as a result our ECS grants, although we've tried to hold them steady over the last three, or four, or five years, in spite of the decline in our economy, our support for local education is directly tied to what their expenditures are and -- and why, you know.

So what this bill proposes is to give a little bit more flexibility, while maintaining the importance and the integrity of the intent of the MBR to not allow school districts to decimate their school budgets because they're running into tough budget times, but rather to give them more flexibility. And essentially what we're saying is instead of it being 0.5 percent, let's allow school districts to -- to decrease their overall school budget year over year by up to 3 percent year over year. If they want to decrease more, they can, again, apply to the SDE for permission to do so.

That point -- that 3 percent potential decrease will not have to be reviewed by SDE, and can be accomplished either because of declining enrollments, or because of efficiencies. But keep in mind, just -- we just talked about special ed and the need to make that more efficient at the local level perhaps by regionalizing. It doesn't do much good to create efficiencies in our programs for our local school boards if they can't decrease their budgets accordingly to reflect the savings. Some of that should get plowed back into the education budget for our kids, but some of it can actually be realized in property tax relief, frankly.

So that is the -- that is the sum of and substance of this bill. We would also suggest that there should be flexibility for the top ten -- I believe it's -- it's about 10 percent of existing school districts, the top ten performing school districts which the State Department of Education already produces annually, giving them a complete waiver from the MBR if they have a particularly high-achieving school district that -- that has been measured and demonstrated by SDE.

So I'm happy to answer any questions that you may have. Fundamentally, as I said at the beginning of the session, you know, we at the State, I think, in the first place we have to change the way we're doing business, particularly with regard to the cost of local government, be it on the municipal side or on the education side. Our way of doing business in the state is hurting us fundamentally, and we have to recognize that there's a new world that we're facing.

But secondly, that the state needs to be a partner in that effort to help decrease the cost of local government, and thereby lower property taxes. We have to be in the role of facilitating that in a positive, constructive way, without decimating budgets, without hurting our kids, and the quality of education that we want to have in our state, but at the same time we have to recognize that with decreasing enrollments, with more efficient special education programs, less money should be spent on these things. That's the goal. And the state can save money; our local taxpayers can save money; and I think we overall, at the State level, will benefit.

So that is the -- that's the substance of my testimony, Mr. Chairman, and I'm happy to answer any questions that you related to these.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, not only for your testimony, but for all the time and thought that you personally clearly put into these issues. It's sort of a testament to your commitment to our process that you have such familiarity with these issues, and also a testament to the idea that people should serve at multiple levels of government, since obviously your work at the municipal level informs so much of what you shared today.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Some might argue that I've been around too long, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Not I. So just a couple of quick questions that I had. Your idea of RESCs essentially doing a needs assessment for their areas makes good sense to me. I'm just wondering in the current budget environment, would you propose that we have the RESCs do such an assessment out of their own budgetary resources, or did you have something else in mind?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Well there are a couple of options. They've indicated that this would not be a tremendously expensive endeavor on their part. They would need some minimal resources to conduct this analysis, but -- and in fact, in the -- I should just -- as a -- as an aside, a similar conversation has been occurring around the Speakers' Task Force on English Language Learners, and the thought is that perhaps we could also incorporate this audit to include ELL programs in our school districts, and I'm happy to talk to the committee about that as well.

But I also think, and I'm speaking a little bit out of turn here, but we -- there is a dedicated funding stream for promoting regional initiatives, which is one percent of our hotel tax, and this is something we established about four or five years ago. I would imagine that if we're -- if the RESCs came to us and indicated that they were unable to do this out of their own resources, that we may be able to utilize a portion of that fund which we've already established to help subsidize those costs.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That's helpful.

The other question I had for you related to the minimum budget requirement. Obviously since we have the bill before us, we're very sympathetic to your idea of creating greater flexibility, and the question becomes, you know, what's the right level of flexibility? Where -- where does one draw the line, and -- and to just highlight how challenging this can be.

I would ask everyone in the room who hasn't, to please put their cell phones on vibrate.

You gave the example of your home town of Meriden.

A VOICE: That was Hamden.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I'm sorry, Hamden. My apologies.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: The center of the universe, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I spent -- I spent a long time sitting next to someone from Meriden. My apologies. You -- you talked about Hamden, and -- and you gave the example of what's happened to the student census versus what has happened to the cost. If you annualize it, the student census in Hamden has gone down about 0.6 percent a year, and the costs have gone up about 1.2 percent a year, so that would mean that overall it's gone up per pupil about 1.8 percent per year, which is actually, according to economists, lower than the rate of inflation in the education world.

So -- so things aren't quite as simple as they appear, because even though, you know, those two trends have moved in opposite directions, the overall change is actually experienced by educators in -- in Hamden potentially as a cut since it -- they're not keeping pace with inflation.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So that's sort of one of the challenges that we face is -- is trying to ascertain, given declines in student enrollment or other efficiencies achieved, where do we still set a floor. I'm wondering if you have some thoughts. You -- you said you didn't like the three percent trigger. Do you have ideas on -- on what kind of trigger would take into account the issues that you've raised, and then the -- the one that I just raised?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yeah, and it's a great point, Mr. Chairman. I think there are all kinds of individual circumstances that occur in every school district which may explain some of these statistics. There also is a reality that just because you -- your school district that might have 1000 kids in it, losing 30 kids does not mean that all 30 kids are in the first grade and you can -- you can left go a first grade teacher as a result. It's across the entire school district, and your ability to actually consolidate by having fewer teachers, for example, is not necessarily -- it's not as simple as that, and that's fully understood.

I think that the three percent threshold is workable, and probably responsible given the overall goals of wanting to maintain a certain level -- baseline level, notwithstanding declining enrollment and efficiencies achieved. So as long as there's an ability to go back to the SDE if there's a dramatic increase in enrollment, to be able to go and -- and request more if that's what is requested, but that that -- there has to be a screening mechanism for that to ensure that we're not decimating a school budget at the expense of -- of, you know, local taxpayer groups or, you know, others who may want to cut and slash at all costs.

I -- I -- there was -- I think it was the Norwich Bulletin just on Monday was reporting that a couple of towns in their area, Salem, and I'm forgetting the other town, are already dealing with this problem, that their enrollments are declining to such a degree that they are trying to consider the options of not only decreasing their budgets, but perhaps merging school districts as an option. Similarly, I've heard anecdotally that the Town of Chester is having the same problem. They are part of a -- as I understand it, they're part of a regional high school district and middle school district, but they have a local elementary school whose enrollments are declining, and it would, you know, there are those who are advocating, including on the board of education, who are advocating that they regionalize. But in the face of that, if they can't regionalize, can we reduce our budget in a way that's responsible to reflect what's actually happening (inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, that's very helpful. We -- we do, I think, have an allowance for school closures in our current MBR, but you -- you pointed out a host of situations where we still would want greater flexibility. I -- I have heard from some of the elected officials from the communities that you mentioned, so I appreciate your clarifying (inaudible).

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yeah, and I'm sorry, and in that -- in that last example I gave you, I -- I think the local community doesn't want to close the school, you know, and I -- you can understand that, but at the same time they can't lower their budgets either.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Right. We've put them in a bind. Understood.

Other questions from members of the committee?

Senator Slossberg, to be followed by Representative Lavielle.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it's almost good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. You've got one more minute --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Oh, thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- and I just wanted to say to lend my thanks as well for your great leadership on these very important issues, and for really trying to push us out of our comfort zone to be thinking about things in a different way, because I think we have to be doing that if we're going to address some of the bigger problems that we have.

I wanted to talk to you first about the special education bill, and the concept of regionalization of some of those services, and trying to figure out what that would be.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Uh-huh.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And I think it's a worthy discussion for us to be having, and also to have the RESCs go and do an inventory. One of the things that I wondered about is that the working group that we set -- that is in the proposed bill right now does not include any parents or teachers of special education, where the parents of students with special education needs, or teachers who are -- who are certified in special education, and I wondered what your thoughts would be to add them to our working group. I think it's really important for -- for parents and teachers to have a voice in this particular discussion.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Absolutely, and that was the hallmark of this -- of the -- I'll -- I'll defer to the chairman of the subcommittee in a moment. She's giving me some instruction. But, you know, that was the hallmark of the subcommittee of the MORE Commission, to -- that's the reason why they went out to the communities, to hear from parents. It was mostly parents and teachers who came to testify, and that was really the basis of a lot of their recommendations.

If -- if you as chairman would indulge me, I -- I also think that Representative Cook may also have a quick answer to that.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Yes, I know Representative Cook and the rest of the committee have done great work with this, and I know they've spent a lot of time with parents and teachers, and so that was why I was following up with making sure that they had a voice at this particular juncture.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Sure.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So, Mr. Chairman, with your indulgence, I'm going to recognize Representative Cook.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Briefly, because, of course, we're trying to make sure there's time for the 108 members of the public --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- who signed up today, but Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And to give that answer, there are parents that have special ed children on the committee. There are also past teachers of special education. We did -- we ran this subcommittee a little bit differently than the majority of the MORE Commission Task Force. We had people send resumes in to ensure that it wasn't heavily weighed one way or the other. We -- we had tried to disperse all of the knowledge bases and ensure that we had all sorts of people: We had paraprofessionals; we had educators; we had parents; we had CEA members, AFC members. So we were there.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just for clarification. I -- I recognize the work that the committee did. I was asking about the -- the RESC work group --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- that's to be set up, and that does not include parents (inaudible) --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: That would be your -- your --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- and I -- I think -- I think we covered that.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: I wanted to ask you, if I may, just to follow up in terms of regionalization, and you touched upon it briefly with special ed. Would you be encompassing any questions or thoughts about changing the liability, or where that liability would -- would land, or the decision making for which students would be able to access special ed services, changing that from a local district to some sort of, you know, regional to the RESCs? Is -- does that -- is that anywhere in this sort of thought process?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: I think so, and I think we have -- that's a -- that's a difficult -- a difficult topic, obviously, to raise. And I -- the hope would be that the RESCs would be able to enlighten us a little bit on -- on some of those issues as well.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. That's -- that's helpful to know, and I thank you for that, and in the interest of trying to move along, I'm going to move onto the Minimum Budget Requirement bill. And I just want to make sure that I understood what your intent was. It would be that any -- any district, regardless of their performance level, any district that showed -- well actually, they wouldn't have to show anything. Any district could reduce their -- their education budget by up to three percent, or you know, I -- I see you're suggesting that's still too low, but according to the bill, up to three percent, and it's only after three percent that there would be a review by the Department of Education as to whether that -- those reductions were pursuant to an enrollment decline or some sort of efficiencies. And you're nodding your head yes, so.

And then -- and then all -- any district that falls in that ten percent -- that top-performing district, the top ten percent of the performing districts would be completely exempt from MBR.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. I just want to make sure I understood that because, you know, I understand the need for -- for flexibility, and I have a district that is high performing, and has had an enrollment decline, and would like relief from the MBR, but I also have districts where there is that chronic fight for every year, you know, between our -- certain taxpayer groups, and our education system, and it's really hard to, you know, to sustain the level -- to really have the people behind that level of funding for our education system --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Uh-huh.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- and we know that's so important. So I thank you for that. And again, thank you for your great leadership on these issues. It's always an honor to have you here, and seeing that my mother and father-in-law live in Hamden, I agree with you; Hamden is the center of the universe.

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Mr. Chair, very much. Good -- now I can say good afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Good afternoon.

REP. LAVIELLE: It's very good to see you here and I -- I will be -- I have loads of questions, but I'm deferential to your time and -- and that of the committee, so I'll only -- I'll only have a couple.

But first I -- I do want to thank you for your focus and attention on both of these topics. As you know, they've been a preoccupation for all of us for a long time, and I, like Senator Slossberg, represent two very high-performing districts, and -- and one that is not: Wilton, Westport, and then Norwalk.

And we've spent quite a time trying to look at what could be done with high-performing districts, and have -- and I think you've recognized something which is that you can do some things that are good for every district in the state, while still dispensing some of the districts that already get it from some of the other requirements, and contrary to what people often think, it's not giving them something special; it's actually freeing up resources to the districts that need them. And I thank you for that. I -- I think that's just a -- really the way that we should be going. So I won't comment on the MBR. I think people have asked my questions.

I just have a couple for you on the -- on the special ed bill. And I -- they're just questions really for more clarification. I noticed that in Sections 4 and 5, they're -- those are the sections that deal with trying to make the process of getting access to special ed services easier for the people providing them and the people receiving them. And one of the things that a lot of my constituents have -- have spoken to me about is the role that advocates play in the community, that sometimes in their efforts to help they're actually obscuring things; they're actually making the work harder.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: And I wondered if you could speak to what happens in this process, if you have any thoughts about how this will make, as outlined in the bill, how it will make it easier for parents?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Well I think the -- well, the intent is to -- I want to be careful with the words that I'm using. I -- I would not want to suggest that we would want to standardize an IEP for every child, because one size does not fit all. But I think the intent on this is to encourage, at least, a more -- a multi-town approach and -- and availability of a service that will, yes, be less expensive for everybody involved, but B) standardize a bit of the -- the quality and the extent of the services to be offered, so that the contentiousness, the litigation that I referred to earlier, that goes into agreeing upon -- oftentimes can go into agreeing upon an IEP, the lawyers that get hired, and the, you know, the advocates who kind of, who -- who pursue their child's interests as -- as understandable, can be mitigated a bit by a more consistent approach, even if it's just on a multi-town basis.

If it could be said, for example, that the RESC is offering this program which is, by any -- all measures, the best quality program available, there's -- there's not much of -- there's less of an argument to be made that my child cannot fit into that, or that needs something more than that if it's already the best.

And so like even the best, though perhaps more expensive in aggregate per individual, is still on aggregate much less expensive for the district to absorb.

So I think the intent is to try to provide a certain level of standardization that could help mitigate some of that contentiousness that can occur.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you. And just a final question: Some of the processes I notice are going to be digital, and everything is going to be more accessible online, and there's -- there's going to be better data collection. And I wondered if you had any -- this may be too detailed, you know, that -- that I might need to ask someone else, but let me know, whether you could speak to the privacy protections of that data and -- and how we know that it will be -- that the integrity will be preserved.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Sure. I -- I must admit that I haven't -- I -- I have not done a dive on that particular aspect of the proposals from the subcommittee. Obviously, you know, whatever is occurring at the local districts should also be happening at the -- at a regional level as well. So those protections should be extended.

How do we do that is a question I'm not sure I have the answer to now. That's part of the reason why we wanted to let the RESCs do this audit, and then offer us their recommendations for how to accomplish a lot of these more complicated elements of the plan.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Sure.

REP. LAVIELLE: And really, I -- I do want to express my appreciation for your work, and for the subcommittee's work. It's -- it's a wonderful job. I'm also very happy about Section 14, the audit of the private providers. So many thanks. Thank you for being with us.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Thank you.

REP. LAVIELLE: And enjoy the rest of your time with us.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Thank you.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative.

Are there other questions for the Speaker?

Representative Baker.

REP. BAKER: Good afternoon, Speaker.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Good afternoon, Representative.

REP. BAKER: It's a pleasure to see you. A question for you: You talked a little bit about the decrease in enrollment. Did you -- do you have a breakdown on -- on what that decrease -- is that based on dropout rate, or is it open-choice schools, or is it just moved out of the district?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: This analysis that we've done is preliminary, and it has not done that dive into the reasons for the decrease and the decline. Clearly, in some communities, the expansion of charter schools and magnet schools as an available choice for parents and students is a reason for a decrease in enrollment. There's no question about that. And I think it's important not to over generalize the statistics without reflecting and considering what actually is happening in the individual school district.

But what I will also just add is that the bill would be protecting Alliance School Districts. There are protections built in for those school districts that we've identified as Alliance School Districts, so that we are making sure that we're protecting the integrity of the underlying public school system in those communities.

REP. BAKER: So would it be safe to say, and I'll use, you know, Bridgeport for an example, where we have a number of charter schools, and where we provide transportation costs, social workers, et cetera. Would that be considered -- are you looking to decrease the MBR based on that, because of that?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Well, I -- it's -- it's not that we would want to decrease the MBR itself. It's just that what we would want to do is give the district the flexibility to themselves decide to reduce a budget based on either efficiencies that they've achieved, or enrollment decreases which means that they don't have to expend as much to cover the student body that they had. For whatever -- so whatever reason they may be able to reduce their spending, all we want to do is give them the flexibility to reduce the budget by up to three percent, and they don't have to ask permission from anybody to do that.

So that's really -- your -- your question is really I think more directed to the local school district as to whether that's something that they want to achieve.

REP. BAKER: Yes, because one of my concerns is is the fact that monies come out of MBR budget to provide those types of services, when we actually don't have the kids -- the enrollment, the children in the district.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Right.

REP. BAKER: So I -- I don't want us to be any more penalized because there's a decrease in the -- in the enrollment, but we still have to provide the services. That's what I'm, you know, trying to --

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Sure. Well that's clearly a decision that the local school board will have to be -- will be making at the local level, and it really doesn't affect this. If the school district believed that it can save up to three percent, they can do so without seeking the State's permission to do so.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Other questions for the Speaker?

Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Speaker, your -- your message today is music to the ears of so many districts in the state. I -- I thank you for that. And I think the big thing that we've heard is the lack of flexibility on the State's part, and I thank you for mentioning that so many times.

And I will just tell you when we talk about a decrease in enrollment, in my community, and so many other towns that I talk to, it really is a birth rate thing.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Sure.

REP. KOKORUDA: It also is that in this economy, a lot of young families cannot afford to be moving into some of these districts. And I think that's what's driving them in a lot of the decrease in a lot of communities. I know one of my districts alone in nine years has gone down 25 percent. That's incredible.

And so thank you for your leadership on this. It is -- you mentioned Chester, and I've talked to that superintendant so many times, and I hope you know that these school districts have been asking for waivers on the MBR; they just haven't been granted. So thank you for being here, and thank you for your leadership. It's important.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Thank you. Thank you, Representative.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Other questions for the Speaker?

If not, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for all the time and effort you've put into (inaudible).

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: And Mr. Chairman, I'll be happy to provide the Committee with -- with this spreadsheet as well as some other ones that we're developing, but this may -- this can at least give you at least the baseline of what we're talking about.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Very helpful.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE SHARKEY: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We now go to Commissioner Diana Wentzell.

Actually, pardon me, I -- I hadn't noticed, but the clock actually just ticked past the time where under Joint Rules, we really need to switch over to the public, so Commissioner, you will -- you will be up shortly, but first we're going to be hear from -- hearing from a student named -- and excuse me if I get it wrong, Kadejah Gamble, from Achievement First, Hartford.

Is Kadejah here? If not, the next student on the list is Timeasha Gamble, who I'm guessing may know Kadejah.

Next on the list is Ahjani Llewelyn.

You know, I'm going to start reading off names and if -- if any of the students are here, you can come forward. If they're not here yet, we can circle back, but I'm getting some hand signals that none of them are here yet?

All right, then we'll go to the first -- the first person from the public signed up. I see a panel that signed up together: Eileen Howley, Tom Danehy, Evan Pitkoff, Paula Cohen, Paul -- Bruce Douglas, and Danuta Thibodeau, all from the RESC Alliance. Apparently not here yet.

I'm -- it's under rules we -- we really are supposed to be going with the public now. Is Nate Snow here?

NATE SNOW: Yes, sir.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Nate, by default you're the next person who gets to speak.

NATE SNOW: Every now and then you get lucky.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Welcome.

NATE SNOW: Thank you very much. Good morning, Chairwoman Slossberg, Chairman Fleischmann, and Members of the Committee. Thank you so much for allowing me to speak today, and also break the ice on public comment.

Overall I'm here to speak in support of the Raised Bills 70 -- 7016, 7020, 7021, and 1098.

My name is Nate Snow. I reside at 79 Scofield Avenue in Bridgeport, and I serve as the executive director of Teach For America Connecticut. We are part of a national nonprofit organization working in partnership with schools and districts to end educational inequity that falls along the lines of race and class. We currently have partnerships with schools in Hartford, Windham, New Britain, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford.

We train and support teachers as a state-accredited teacher preparation program, and support the alumni of our program in their continued pursuit of educational equity in the classroom and beyond.

With respect to Raised Bill 7016, 7-0-1-6, specifically Section 12, Subsection(d)(1), as a teacher preparation program, we consider it our responsibility to provide training in special education. At the same time, we believe the proposed language beginning at Subsection (d)(1)(B) describes teacher professional development that is best delivered in-service. The foundational course work described in (d)(1)(A) is in line with course work already provided. However, in our experience as a teacher preparation program, we believe the additional course requirement as outlined in (d)(1)(B) is best delivered as in-service training for teachers who have a specific need for learning and development in any of those distinct or particular areas.

And then moving on to some -- some other feedback related to the bills: Raised Bill 1098, we deeply believe that teachers can have a tremendous influence in the lives of their students, and that excellent teachers come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We also believe that teachers who share the background of their students have the potential for profound additional influence on their students. We fully support the requirement for districts to demonstrate strategies for recruiting and attracting under-represented groups.

Also, we fully support the Raised Amendment to Section 5, Subsection (f), making the elementary endorsement grades kindergarten to sixth inclusive.

With respect to Raised Bill 7020, we fully support the spirit of the bill in ensuring certified educators are teaching in our preschool programs. I have a small technical amendment here that related to the SmartStart Program. We add that teachers holding certification, either pursuant to 10-145b, as is currently written in statute, or to -- this would be the proposed language -- or to 10-145m, which is the state's already statute around resident educator certificates.

I can keep going, but I heard the bell, so I appreciate the committee's time. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well we appreciate yours, and if you'd like, why don't you summarize the highlights of your concerns and points around Bill 7021.

NATE SNOW: Yes, thank you. 7021: This is around specifically in Section 2, Subsection (j). In -- in reading this language, having a hard time interpreting the real intent here behind the usage of Alliance District. I -- we -- I believe that the committee is essentially meaning that a candidate who is pursuing certification in any professional certification has experience in a diverse range of communities and/or schools in order to obtain that certification.

The Alliance District language that's specifically used presents some challenges, and perhaps is limiting given the fact that Alliance Districts are not some inevitable things. They're -- what is an Alliance District today may not always be an Alliance District, given the way current statute is written, as well as the fact that Alliance Districts, while they share many similarities, may not share the similarities in terms of student diversity, student background that this -- that this language is intended to -- to achieve.

And the final -- the final clause in that section, while we agree that teachers in a clinical experience do need a cooperating teacher who has received a satisfactory rating in a teacher evaluation system, we would just ask that this bill be expanded to the equivalent ratings at -- within other states, whether this is cooperating teachers, or candidates who may do a clinical experience elsewhere, that they're not prevented from achieving certification because the other states' evaluation language is different than Connecticut's evaluation language.

Like I said, minor issues, but things that we believe could be cleaned up to make these even more effective than they currently are, as written.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony, and for your very clear, close reading of our bills. Quick question for you about the last bill you spoke to, 7021.

NATE SNOW: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So you -- you intuited correctly what our intentions were. We're trying to ensure that someone who is certified to teach in Connecticut has a diversity of experience in the classroom.

NATE SNOW: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: If you think the Alliance District designation in the bill is not the right way to go, do you have a specific recommendation on language that would ensure that kind of diverse -- exposure to diverse educational settings?

NATE SNOW: I think what you just offered would work actually quite well, diverse educational settings that's reaching a -- a wide range of -- of students, based on background, based on -- on skill level, whether it's language needs or special education needs, or whatever the case may be.

The other way you can look at it is are districts that -- that qualify, receive Title I funding. I think that's oftentimes used as a -- as an equivalent for a district that has a significant rate of students that are receiving free or reduced-price lunch to get at the income level. So those would be, I guess, two places to start. But I do defer to the Commissioner of Education in terms of thinking through this issue and the specific language in more detail.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, and I'm sure she appreciates your deference.

Are there other questions from members of the committee? Hearing none, we thank you very much for time, your thought, and your testimony.

NATE SNOW: Great.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And your good work in classrooms across Connecticut.

NATE SNOW: Thank you very much. You all have a good idea. Good luck with 107.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

Commissioner Wentzell, the Interim Commissioner of the Department of Education, to be followed by a group to be named later after we figure out who's in the room.

INT. COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Good morning, Senator Slossberg.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good afternoon.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Good afternoon, I'm sorry, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, and Members of the Education Committee. Thank you for making time to have us here again.

We've submitted significant written testimony on these bills already, so I think what would be best is for us to make ourselves available for any questions you have, either on our testimony, or on other issues that have been raised.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: I'm just going to let the committee know that we are currently receiving that extensive written testimony, so --

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Oh, okay.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- if we could take a second while that's being handed out.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: So maybe you would like -- sure. Let me know if you would like me to do a quick overview then.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I -- I suppose if we're getting testimony, if you wanted to say pick out the -- the top three issues that -- where you have concern, then we'll be able to review the extensive additional materials with the rest.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Okay. Thank you for that, and thanks for your patience with receiving our materials.

On Raised Bill -- Senate Bill 1102, related to the bilingual educators, I've testified previously on this, and at that time some questions were raised that we wanted to provide some clarification on. This -- what we're really seeking to do here, as we've discussed before, is while continuing to hold all of our educators in Connecticut to a very high standard, find more flexible pathways to increase our number of teachers that are certified -- have the endorsement for bilingual.

And the bilingual endorsement, as we've discussed before, is relatively, you know, this is for a very accomplished educator already. They have a content area certification, or they have an elementary certificate, or perhaps a special ed certificate, and then in addition they're obtaining a bilingual endorsement.

What we're seeking to do here is have more of a menu-type pathway that would, rather than meet all of the requirements all the time, that we're perhaps able to either give a durational shortage permit, or extend one if the candidate is demonstrating sufficient progress toward achieving the bilingual endorsement.

Some of the specifics in the bill that we're -- that we want to respond to there are the -- the provision of the extension of the temporary certificate, and then streamlining certain bilingual certification requirements.

The -- also extending the ability to fill some vacancies with appropriately-credentialed visiting educators, which are people who are from countries where the native language -- the desired language is spoken, and though we do have already that ability, but we would like to be able to extend that, when appropriate, for more than a year.

The ACT CONCERNING MEASURES FOR CALCULATING SCHOOL DISTRICT PERFORMANCE: This is related to our ESEA waiver request, as you know, and we are currently in the process -- we have actually been in the process on this particular component of our ESEA flexibility request for about 18 months. We've been working with stakeholders, educational stakeholders as well as beyond our traditional stakeholder based parent groups, et cetera, on this area.

Conceptually, an important piece of the Federal Flexibility Request is that we are under constant review by the US Education Department for how we're doing with our current Flexibility Request that was granted in 2012. So we have frequent monitoring checks, and then some very formal check-in periods throughout this.

The whole idea of the Federal Flexibility Request and -- and when they're granted, what we call the waivers, is that we are able to avoid some of the more onerous components of the ESEA, or No Child Left Behind, and some of the provisions that were listed when we received our request successfully in 2012, for instance, were the provisions that required extensive school choice in low-performing school areas that can be sometimes unwieldy, unviable, and extremely expensive, and the Supplemental Educational Services requirement, as well as the Title I hold back.

The net result was significantly more resources, particularly Title I resources, available to our schools and districts that qualified for those programs, and much less red tape, and much less oversight in terms of the tutoring requirement with the Supplemental Education Services. It gave the flexibility for the districts to do their own tutoring when their kids are behind. We know that the best way for our kids to catch up is with their own teachers.

So a lot of flexibilities were extended to our local districts and -- and communities when we received the 2012 what we call waiver. This time, as we move toward this request, we've done really well as a state, and you probably know that some states have had their waivers, you know, adjusted, or they haven't done as well. Connecticut has done really well.

The place where we really wanted to push for more flexibility was in the accountability provision, and so that accountability provision is part of the current waive.

The Department has --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Commissioner, I -- I just want to say we do have your testimony now in front of us --

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Okay, okay.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- so if there was anything else that you wanted to summarize, that's fine --

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- but in terms of detail, we have it all.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: You have the detail, and I think in summary, the -- the concern that we have is just that some of the issues are really areas we don't have flexibility from federal law over, and so we are really in the process of seeking significant flexibility from the Federal Government.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. A simple question related to House Bill 7024, which has language we received from your department about how to calculate school and district performance measures which, you know, would be a shift from what has happened previously.

So we've talked, and -- and we understand why you want additional flexibility. The language that your department has proposed seems, to some of us, so vague that there seems like there could be a danger that you would start to lose clarity on which districts were doing well, and which districts weren't, because you've got descriptions of multiple measures that -- that are just not as clear as what's in current statute. So I'm wondering if you could address that concern of Legislators.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Certainly, and I think probably the best way to address it will be to send -- our performance office has a PowerPoint just on this that includes a -- one of the slides has a matrix that illustrates the mathematical calculation that would be applied. It -- it's available currently on our website, but I will make sure that everybody gets a copy of their own as well.

The -- in the first year of the new -- if we received this flexibility, in the first year, the -- the part that's about student achievement, which is still for most levels of schooling, over 50 percent of the calculation would be the status measure of how kids did on the CMT, and CAPT, and the Smarter Balanced tests. In the second year, it would constitute the same percentage of the FCI and DPI, but half of the student performance measure would be from the status measure of how the kids did this year, and half would be from a growth measure of how much growth, you know, a growth FCI and DPI.

While it is -- it sounds pretty complicated, I think when I send the PowerPoint, and you see that one slide, you can see how it's calculated. What we're asking for, in addition, in high school is complex in a sense that we're looking for beyond-graduation rate, and the status measure, and then in the second year the growth measure related to the eleventh grade tests. There are more indicators that we're looking for that would give districts flexibility in how they report college readiness.

So we're looking at a menu of various ways of saying how college ready are your kids, and the percentage of kids taking AP classes, the percentage of kids participating in IBs, things like that, would be a way that districts can feed to an overall college readiness metric. They would all have to be things that are quantifiable, but they would be more of a menu to set that districts are approaching those kind of early college experiences in different ways.

Some of our districts have direct programs with universities, where kids actually take classes at local community colleges, or colleges or universities; and some of our districts offer the AP classes. Some, like the ECE classes with UConn better. Many offer both. So we want to have a varied way to demonstrate what percentage of kids at a given high school are having the chance to get at least one of those very rigorous, early college-type opportunities.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That helps clarify, and certainly if you -- you're able to get to us this matrix, it's -- it's very reassuring to hear that you've got quantifiable measures that you're -- you're going to use. It's not so clear from the language. And -- and also if we have the matrix, we might be able to sharpen the language a little bit to better capture what you described.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Absolutely.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from other members of the committee?

Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon, Commissioner.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Good afternoon.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: It's so nice to have you here as well. You know, there are -- I think I have a number of questions, but I'm going to just limit it right now. I wanted to talk to you about House Bill No. 7018, an ACT CONCERNING ALTERNATIVE ED, and you had -- ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS AND SCHOOLS, and what I was interested in is you -- in your testimony you stated that the committee, you know, you've had a -- an Alternative Schools Committee that's been meeting, and working, and you have a report due.

But I wanted to follow up, in -- in 2013, the Legislature passed legislation requiring the State Department of Education to perform an analysis and a report on alternative ed -- on alternative schools and alternative education programs, and that report was due February 1, 2014. And I'm wondering whether we did, in fact, receive that report, and whether that is part of your -- your Alternative School Committee's work?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: My staff says that yes, the report was received, so it -- the work on the report dovetailed with the work that was done by the committee. One of the most important pieces of learning from the committee work was the great growth in alternative programming in Connecticut in the last few years, and really seeing the huge diversity of alternative programming.

So some of the critical next steps that come out of that work are really defining different types of alternative programming. This also relates to some other accountability measures that we -- we recognize the need for identifying which metrics are most important for judging the success of alternative schools and programs.

We understand that our existing metrics that are really good for judging the success of schools and districts are not sufficient for judging some of the outcomes in the alternative programs. Many of our alternative programs that have emerged in the last few years target over-age and under-credited students. We recognize that as of right now, while we use that term a lot, we don't have a standard definition of over-age and under-credited. So this is happening at the same time that there have been a lot of changes in the adult education service delivery model, and really a push to make sure that high school students that are over-age and under-credited, or otherwise needing an alternative environment, are not being moved into adult education where the methods are aimed at adults so that, you know, we really are having a program that's appropriate to their developmental, and social, and emotional needs, as well as aimed at getting them to the high school diploma that they need to have a more successful future.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you for that answer. We'll look forward to getting the committee's work back from that. You know, I think there's a -- a great need for that alternative, but also a great need for accountability as we know that that original legislation was passed as a result of quite a scathing review of some programs where students were really not getting an adequate educational experience.

In terms of the ESEA waiver that, you know, some of the -- House Bill 7024 and the waiver provisions, can you just clarify for -- for the committee, you know, once we submit the waiver, and we've changed our statutes accordingly, is there ever any -- how -- how long is that in place for, or how long are we bound by those rules for? And is there a place for amendments along the line?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Yes. The -- the duration of the Flexibility Request we hope will be three years. Connecticut has been deemed overall pretty successful. I think the government has a -- the Federal Government has a different designation but it, you know, it's like the second-highest designation. We -- we've done really well with our first waiver. So we are optimistic that we'd be given three years of flexibility.

That doesn't, however, lock us in in the sense that we have the ability to go back and renegotiate aspects of the waiver. We did that recently. We did it a couple of times actually in the last Flexibility Request. There were goals that we had set out for ourselves that we were not able to reach. One of those is related to the speed with which we could adjust some of our assessment changes in Connecticut, particularly for students with disabilities and English Learners where we were not assessing as rigorously as the Federal Government expects, and not as rigorously as some other states.

We are making those -- we did make our English Language Learner change. We're making that in two steps. We made one jump of rigor already and we'll make another once we establish English Language Learner standards in Connecticut, which we are well on the way to. And we re-negotiated that with our federal contact and within the context of our waiver, and similarly with our new assessment for -- that replaces our skills checklist in English language, arts, and math for about one percent of our students.

We're making that change this year as opposed to last year, but they're comfortable with the -- our speed of change, and it was related to all of the other changes that were going on in PD for the field.

Similarly we've re-negotiated -- last year we received flexibility -- a big flexibility to allow our districts to choose which assessment to take. They could choose to stay one more year with the CMT and CAPT, or move to the -- the Field Test for Smarter Balanced. That was -- we were very pleased to get that, because obviously choosing to go to the Field Test meant a year where accountability was frozen for all those districts and we -- we were happy that we were able to make a good enough case to the Federal Government to allow for that.

And similarly with when teacher evaluation is linked to student test scores, we've been able to re-negotiate that back before, and are asking for more flexibility again. If conditions change during the course of the year, we have the ability to return and re-negotiate a portion, all -- all as long as we stay within federal law of course.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you for that answer. As you know, many of the members of the committee, I know, and I've been very concerned about -- about testing, and about how we've been moving forward with that, and the concern that the waivers that we place in -- place parameters around us that don't allow us to move forward in other areas in a way that we might like, and to that end I wondered -- I know that you talked, one of the bills that you touched on was student assessment. And I wondered where your task force is right now in terms of eleventh grade tests, and when we could expect to hear back from you on your recommendations since many eleventh graders are just embarking -- about to embark on their SBACs any minute now, and along with their SATs, ACTs, SAT subject tests, SAT subject IIs, APs, regular exams, final exams, midterm exams, and all those other various things that they happen to be engaging in at this particular moment.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Well, thank you, Senator Slossberg. I'd love the opportunity to talk about student assessment, and particularly about reducing the student assessment burden which is a goal of the Department, and let me know if I get going too much because some of you know it's an area of passion for me, so I say too much about student assessment.

First of all, I think it's important to share with the committee that we're on our third day of Smarter Balanced operational testing in Connecticut. We had, you know, I'm not -- thank goodness this is actual wood -- I think, knock on wood, a really good opening. We -- we were pleased last year that the Field Test went really well, so we were lucky that in Connecticut this has not been difficult for us, as it can be in some states.

The eleventh grade assessment subcommittee has been meeting for several months, and has identified the stressors in the eleventh grade for kids, the different tests that kids tend to take, and has heard from some alternative possibilities, so they've met with the ACT and the SAT, as well as representatives from Smarter Balanced.

This month, next week, there will be educators and students who will be sharing their experiences and their suggestion, and we have some students who have drafted proposals for how to adjust our high school assessment system within the confines, you know, of federal law, so we're excited to hear those.

We do anticipate a recommendation from this committee this academic year, and we are requesting sort of a -- we have a part in our ESEA waiter which is available on our website for public comment, that leaves open that we'll be coming back to the Federal Government if there's a proposal to move away from Smarter Balanced. We've been working very closely with the Federal Government on this.

Right now, no state has received that flexibility. However, we're not -- a lot of states are watching what happens in Connecticut. If we're able to make a good case for a movement toward a college entrance exam as a replacement for the eleventh grade Smarter Balanced, we know there are other states that are looking to make that move.

What we're seeing as a trend with the Federal Government is there -- there's a preference to say yes in only one place right now for some of these little deviations, so we're very happy that we're likely to be at the front of the line for this, because they like to then watch it for a year or two before they say yes to other states. So they know we've been working on this for quite some time, and -- and that we anticipate that it's likely the committee will suggest that.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you for your answer and for your work in this area. As you know, there are -- I'm very concerned about the stressors we place on all of our students from the time they start until the time that they graduate, and while I think it's extremely important that we have -- that we have a certain amount of assessment and testing, it has to be useful, and it has to inform our teaching, and our learning, and I think our kids are really stressed out. And we -- and I appreciate your openness to have this conversation, and for the Committee to know that there is a place for this conversation to continue.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Absolutely.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And that it's not written in -- in stone. So thank you, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your indulgence.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there other questions?

Senator Boucher, to be followed by Representative Lavielle.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you again for your consistently fine testimony that we really do appreciate. I am very interested in some of the issues that you've clarified on behalf of the Department, and certainly I do believe the executive branch of the government that you work for.

And I just wanted a little bit of clarification. As you know, I'm always very interested in the language that discusses bilingual teaching certificates. I wanted to just in Senate Bill 1102, when you talk about within your testimony: The proposal before you would provide an extension of temporary bilingual certificates for teachers already employed in school districts while they work to pass testing requirements for certification.

I just wanted to be clear: Are we talking about a basic teaching certificate, or someone with a basic teaching certificate that is getting a bilingual designation and certificate?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: If you don't mind, I'm just going to ask our staff to be -- so I can be really clear. We have some of our talented department staff with us, including our bureau chief for certification and program review. So Ms. Nancy Pugliese, if you don't mind joining me. I think I know, but I'd rather ask the expert, if you don't mind.

NANCY PUGLIESE: So for bilingual certification, it's a dual certification, so they have to get certified either as an elementary teacher, a middle grades teacher, or a secondary teacher for content, and then also for bilingual education, and then also we look at their oral proficiency, and their written proficiency in their native language, and then oral proficiency in English. So there is a tremendous amount of testing.

So some of it is they may have difficulty passing Praxis 1 because of the English, so if their English is not as strong -- and we've -- we've met with bilingual coordinators from several districts in the state, and had discussions with them -- if their English is not as strong, their written and English portion -- portion of Praxis 1 may be an issue for them.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: So if I could just pause there, Senator Boucher, so that, I think, relates to the part of your question that's about: Are they pursuing an initial certificate --

SENATOR BOUCHER: Yes.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: -- or an additional endorsement. So in the case that Ms. Pugliese is describing, that's someone on their way to the initial certificate with the Praxis 1.

NANCY PUGLIESE: That's correct.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Well I thank you for that clarification, because that is of great concern to me. I -- I wouldn't have any problem with delaying and taking as much time as possible, if you have a certified teacher that is trying to get all of the other boxes checked. But if, in fact, we're having difficulty with command of the English language, and our current statute says that the instruction should be 50 percent in English and in the native language, we certainly have a problem.

And in fact, I would highlight to you -- I have been around here so long, that this requirement has been delayed, I believe, nearly a decade. I mean we're talking year, after year, after year that we're delaying. In other words, is there a set time? In other words, if someone has been trying to get this initial certification for that amount of time, are you still extending it? Because I would maintain if -- if someone's been trying for over five or an eight to ten year period, is there not a time limit on this?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: We do not certify them. Currently if they have a one year -- if they're coming in from out of state, we give them a one-year interim certificate. If they cannot pass the exams at this point in time, they can't be in a classroom in any other way except to serve as maybe a substitute teacher. And so right now it's -- it's -- they're locked out totally. What we were trying to do is extend it from one year to no more than three years, and at the end of the --

SENATOR BOUCHER: Renewable annually?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: -- yes, it would be renewable annually based on the request of the district, and so if at the end of three years, they have not passed the test, that is a -- a gate. They could not go forward and continue in the classroom as a certified teacher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: I truly appreciate that clarification. That certainly gives much more comfort in the process, because previously there was -- there did not seem to be any finite time, so someone could be in this process, as I said, for over a decade without a time limit, and then that would not serve the students well, because that's a population we really want really good instruction to occur. We want them to get empowered as quickly as possible, and to succeed. And they need all the help they can get.

And back years and years ago, we encountered a difficult classroom situation where there was no proficiency in English at all, and no content area proficiency either, so it literally became a place just to spend a free period at times, and we trapped some students in a very bad learning environment. And so we tried very hard to solve that. But I think that your explanation, that in fact is your current practice, and rules, and regulations, that gives me great comfort, and I certainly would support you in that regard. That is excellent.

So the other point I just wanted to clarify would be in the Senate Bill 1096, AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS. In this language, there's an awful lot that you're agreeing with, and in fact, hit on the real serious points that some of the failure that occurred in the -- the school system that everyone has been targeting essentially, that one charter school that were bad actors with regards to this, it does address and seems to be a lot of overlap between the language and your position. The one area that I didn't note that was left unsaid here was there -- part of that bill has a moratorium on further charter schools, I believe. And so does the Department or the administration have a position on that point, or no?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: One of the areas with regard to 1096 -- you're right that we have, in general, significant areas of agreement here. And it -- especially in alignment with some of the safeguards and oversight provisions that we've already put into practice, and that we really do want to see codified into law that we believe are very, very important.

One of the things that this particular component of the moratorium though would adjust is it would adjust the shift in responsibilities regarding the authorizing entity to be the Legislature for state charters, which would merge your role as policymaker with the role of implementer. And, you know, so that raises a little bit of a question or concern. It would also -- we want to just mention since you've given us the opportunity, that it would put Connecticut in a very unique role. No other state does this right now.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you for that clarification. Yes, it appears that a lot of our rules around the charter schools is vastly different than almost any other state, and we want to keep innovation alive and, in fact, improving our system throughout in whatever means we can. So I do appreciate that explanation.

And the very last thing is I want to commend you on bill 1095 with regards to reducing the amount of time students at all grade levels spend taking tests. We've had an inordinate number of concerns, complaints, and gnashing of teeth throughout the state with regards to the test-taking process, and in a way it's good that this has been brought forward, and I do appreciate that and, in fact, it is good to know how our students are doing. We do need to have measures. There's no question; I support that. But there are times when we converge, and so many of them coming all at once, it's counterproductive to the learning process, and I think we've -- we've reached that tipping point, and I appreciate your comment in that regard.

Thank you very much for your testimony, and also to our good Chairs. Thank you.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Thank you, Senator Boucher.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Commissioner, thank you for your -- for your testimony. As always, it's good to see you, and I -- I appreciate your -- your very thorough answers. And I -- I have a few questions for you, and I'll -- I'll just go in order because we -- you started with 1102 on bilingual educators. I very much enjoyed serving on that task force with you, and -- and hope to continue working together.

For clarification, just for everyone, I -- I know the answer, but the -- all of the -- talking about bilingual educators, we are talking bilingual, not ESL.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Yes. Thank you, Representative Lavielle, for the opportunity to clarify that. For our students who are English Language Learners, there are two main methods of instruction in Connecticut schools, and bilingual education is where, as Senator Boucher described earlier, the goal is that 50 percent of the instruction is in the target language. Target language is the language the student is learning, you know, and the native language being the -- the language the student already knows, 50 percent.

And there are a lot of different ways to do the bilingual education, but it does require a certified educator who is trained especially and endorsed for the bilingual education, as well as knowing the content. Because, as you can imagine, if you entered a US school not knowing English, or a Connecticut school not knowing English, and you're trying to learn geometry. Yes, you need someone to teach you who can speak to you in the language you understand, but you need someone who knows geometry, you know, so -- so that's a really important thing, and Connecticut should, you know, we should be proud of how we've protected that.

The bilingual education -- educator shortage is a critical impediment to meeting the needs of students in this method. So right now, under current statute, when there are 20 students who speak the same native language in need of English Language Learner services in a school, the school and district must offer a bilingual program.

When students either have emerged with enough proficiency from a bilingual program, or if parents refuse, you know, request not to have bilingual education, because that is a parent choice in our state, or when there are fewer than 20 students, and students need to learn English while they're learning everything else that we teach them in school, we provide them with what's called English as a Second Language, ESL, and those services are delivered by a TESOL-certified teacher, Teachers of English as a Second Language. That's also a shortage area on and off, not as persistently as the bilingual educator, but it -- it's also an area where we don't have as many teachers as we need.

In English as a Second Language, the methods can vary tremendously, but basically the students do have a language acquisition objective daily, as well as the many content objectives that they have daily. So it's a different way of helping students who don't yet speak English -- speak and read English fluently, learn the content for the grade, while also acquiring English.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you for all of that background, and it's, you know, you -- you've mentioned the reasons that -- for the 50:50, and the -- and the content, but also I -- I have very strong views on this, as you know, if someone who is not strong in their first language, it's very difficult to deal with teaching a second.

So I -- I appreciate your attention to that, and I'll move on to the -- to the next thing. Just a -- a question on 70 -- 7017, which is the data privacy bill.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: And I'm glad to see your support for all of the safeguards that the bill proposes regarding third-party users, vendors, consultants involved with data, because we haven't had that in statute before, and -- and I -- I appreciate that.

In wondered if you could speak -- because I believe the -- the draft is silent on this, and I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the actual data that is collected at present, and how parents are informed about what that data is, and if there's anything you would suggest we do.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: I think that's a really important question. We -- among the frequently asked questions that we are getting over the last couple of years in the Department in the academic office, the data privacy question has come up quite a bit, and it is usually parents that are asking that. And certainly with all of the different things that have happened over the past couple of years around adults' data, it's reasonable to be concerned with our children's data.

We collect only data about the child that is needed for giving the district and schools information about the child's academic performance. So in Connecticut every student has -- every student in public school has a SASID, which is a state-assigned student identification, and that -- that didn't always exist, but it's, you know, it's a -- when I was a teacher, for instance, we didn't have that. We had to use students' social security numbers. This is a much better system than using other kinds of data that, if compromised in any manner, would be -- have other kinds of consequences.

So the SASID has been in place, I think, over a decade now with very, you know, it's very helpful to us. It - the state-identified -- the state-assigned student identification travels with the child from district to district, so that way if they move, we can tie their state information to the new district, so they can know how they did on the Math III tests in the past, now it will -- the new test.

We don't collect any new data in the new testing era. It's all the same data we always collected with CMT and CAPT, and it really is the same student demographic data that's needed to give the information back to the school district about how the student did on the assessment, and also to be able to disaggregate by the required federal subgroups. So it's information such as the student's name, birth date, the, you know, information that the parent provided at registration, for instance. And then when the parent was out, for instance, on the race or ethnic status, it's the same as the federal status, and that's a choice. They could choose not to answer, and if they chose not to answer, the same would be the case.

So it's the same information that the parent has provided us with that registration.

REP. LAVIELLE: Is there a standard way of informing parents of exactly what they will be asked, and -- and how it is used?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: At -- at school registration. I'm not sure that we've done that through, for instance, our assessment office, but it is something that might be a good idea in terms of a letter with the student's score report.

We annually report the student's scores on the state tests to the district, the school, and the parents, and many of you have probably gotten parent reports. At the Department, we have some staffers young enough they've actually taken the test, so it makes me feel really old, because I remember when we started with the test, but the -- the -- it used to be the CMT report. This year the parents will get both the CMT report or CAPT, if it's high school for science, and they'll also get the Smarter Balanced report. And we could put a letter, you know, in with the Student's Score Report. That's really the only time that the Department communicates directly with the parent, you know, is that Student Score Report.

And right now our past practice has always been that the Student Score Report is delivered to the district, and the district mails it to the parent, or maybe they send it in the backpack, but we strongly recommend US mail, you know, so that it's a confidential communication. So that would be a place where we could provide -- it is -- we have in the past provided a template letter to parents about the Student Score Report that then districts customize. We could include it there, I think.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you. I -- I think that might be useful, and I appreciate that input. It might also address some people's concerns anyway.

Just two more questions, and one is very short. In the -- I -- you've provided a very thorough overview of all the criteria that you're supporting for charter schools, and I just wondered, the -- the most contentious part, I think, of that bill is the delay, the moratorium, and it's something like two years. I wonder if you had any thoughts on that length? Is that -- how much time do you believe is -- would be needed for a review and plan? Is two years too long? Is it too short? Is it necessary?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: The -- the Department reviews the performance of charters annually in the Annual Report Provision and the renewal cycle provides significant opportunities for oversight of charter schools -- existing charter schools. The -- we have six charter renewals that are going on currently, and so that's a very intensive, rigorous process that has been improved in the last year. So we believe that the Department already has a significant amount of information about these schools, and that they are reported on annually.

And that it's important to note, as I have noted previously, that it's our position that the implementation and the authorization at the state board level is, you know, is in -- in collaboration and in concert with our improved oversight will allow us to provide even more information for all interested parties about the success of various charters.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you. Thank you very much for that. And my final question regards Senate Bill 1103, DISTRICTS OF INNOVATION, which again I'm -- I'm pleased to see that you support. It addresses an issue that we've been talking about ever since I've been here anyway, and something that I've been very preoccupied about, because some of the very high-performing districts that I either represent, or that are very near to mine, have thought of a lot of things that they could do to promote innovative learning.

And not so much a question of things they're already required to do that are unfunded, but more things they would like to do that they can't, which would then broaden the perspectives for innovative education for other districts when they could share.

And so a couple of questions here; we -- we actually got into this in the Education Mandate Relief Task Force. It's a very interesting subject, and so -- so two questions. One: You've recommended that the authority for granting waivers or special permissions not be given by the Commissioner, but by the state board, so I'd like to know why.

And the other question is: In your view, what is the notion of creative approaches to addressing issues and challenges. What sort of thing might that include?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this regarding this bill. We definitely see part of the role of the State Education Agency as incubating and promoting innovation, and we think that the best solutions to shared problems are often discovered at the local level, and sometimes our most important role is to allow room for that innovation.

It's important to know, as we have in our testimony, that we can't waive provisions of federal law, so there are many provisions that are there for the protection of children that we have no authority over to waive, for instance, special education law, and other kinds of federal law.

A concern about the legislation, as written, is it would give significant power to one individual which may result in uneven implementation, especially over time, as that may, you know, that gives a lot of authority to one individual's judgment.

A State Board of Education process allows for public comment and for transparency, and also through that, through the sharing, and visibility of these innovations. So we think that the State Board of Education would be the appropriate authorizer of these kinds of waivers, if you will, or innovation permission, and it would allow for diversity of opinion, for debate, for transparency, and for the public to be fully informed of what was occurring.

It would also likely then result in a more uniform process in preparing for the requests for such innovations, which would likely then make sure that we have checked all federal statutes and things like that. So we think it would be a -- a process that would also protect the children in the district.

REP. LAVIELLE: How would you feel about not -- not authorization or review and granting of waivers, but just a reporting at a regular frequency to this committee just so that we hear what's being done.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: I think that especially when it comes to innovation, we have to find as many ways as possible to report on our investments in -- in innovation, whether they're investments of financial capital, or investments of flexibility, because the concept of innovation is that it needs to be replicated. It needs to benefit all the children in Connecticut, and so it makes sense to have a reporting mechanism.

REP. LAVIELLE: Commissioner, thank you very much for all of your work on this and being so thorough. Always good to see you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I'd like to remind members of the committee that we still have over 100 people waiting to testify.

Representative McCrory, to be followed by Representative McCarty.

REP. MCCRORY: Good afternoon, Commissioner.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Good afternoon.

REP. MCCRORY: Quick -- two quick questions -- no problem -- in regards to House Bill 724, I just want for clarification purposes the additional measures of performance calculation. You said 50 percent was going to be based on CMT and CAPT and/or the new Smarter Balanced for the first year. And then you said the second year, I think you said something about growth over time. Now does that mean -- well, let me try to figure out what I thought that meant. Growth over time: Was that growth -- the students' growth from one year to the next on -- on this CMT or CAPT or Smarter Balanced -- or let me take all the CMT or CAPT stuff out -- Smarter Balanced and/or the new -- new testing measures? That -- is that correct?

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Yes, and you know, I -- we have a visual that I'll send it over that I think -- to the whole committee that I think will help with this even more. And the actual amount of the School Performance Index that is comprised of the state test scores is a little different at the elementary level than at the high school level. So at the high school level we have other indicators -- other academic indicators as well, and so that's part of why, and we have few assessed grades.

So the -- the percentage at the elementary school, for instance, would stay the same over time, how much of it was comprised of those assessments --

REP. MCCRORY: Uh-huh.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: -- and it would be for English, language arts, and math, the Smarter Balanced, and -- and at the elementary level, the CMT. And then also there are a small group of students who don't take those tests, and take the Skills Checklist --

REP. MCCRORY: Uh-huh.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: -- and we have a new version of the Skills Checklist debuting this year for English, language arts, and math. So all of that information would make up the academic achievement part of the school accountability. And in the first year it would be just like it's always been, just how you did this year.

REP. MCCRORY: Right, right.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: And then in the second year it would be the same percentage of your overall SPI, but half of it would be made up of a matched cohort growth, and you described that very well, Representative McCrory. You know, it was exactly what you said, where the kids that you had this year, you know, how did that child do.

REP. MCCRORY: Got you.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: So there's a -- and one of the things I neglected to mention earlier is that on our website we have a performance index calculator, so that local schools and districts or, you know, parents if they wanted to, they, you know, can plug in numbers and see how it works.

REP. MCCRORY: Thanks. And my last question in regards to Senate Bill 1098, and -- and I spoke with a couple of members is that I would like to see included in the teacher shortage area, lack of minority representation in the school district when it comes to teachers. I just think that in the state that we're in, where you have less than seven percent -- I think we're up to six percent diversity in our -- in our teacher preparatory program, and when it comes to men, you're under one percent. I think we need to find a way to include that population as a shortage area.

I don't know how -- exactly how it is from the federal level, but that needs to be an area of shortage, and areas we need to focus on. That's just my commentary, and -- and you can agree with me or not, but the data speaks for itself when it comes to acting on achievement of that population, and we need to be progressive about improving those numbers, and placing that -- that population, that category, would be a first good step as we move forward to do others. Thank you.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Thank you, Representative McCrory, and you know we couldn't agree more on the urgency of the issue. And you are 100 percent right that the -- it is a federal -- it's in an interaction with the federal government that shortage areas are identified, so we don't have that flexibility at this time, but we definitely, through our equity plan, and through other measures in the talent office are agreeing with you about the urgency of the matter, and about the urgency of making sure that our students have a diverse group of teachers, and see themselves reflected in the teaching force.

REP. MCCRORY: You know (inaudible).

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Representative, do you have a follow-up question?

REP. MCCRORY: No. I'll save it for -- I'm sure there's a conversation (inaudible).

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, sir. I -- we recognize there's still about 107 people that would like to speak today.

So, Representative McCarty, and I just caution the members just to -- it's -- it's so tempting with the Commissioner here to have those discussions, and we'll just ask if you would ask questions, and then we'll continue to move forward. And certainly we're happy to set up additional conversations with the Commissioner at any time.

Representative.

REP. MCCARTY: Thank you, Madam Chair, and welcome, Commissioner. It's always so good to see you today. And actually, Representative Lavielle touched on my concern with the student privacy, and I thank the -- the Commissioner and the Department for looking at that.

You did make several recommendations to the committee, and if I'm reading the bill correctly as you go through it, you talk about tightening up some of the procedures for data breaches, and if you would, maybe give some more thought to that, because in the bill, again if I'm reading it correctly, there's no provision there for what would the consequence or the penalty be if there was a data breach. So if you could maybe, not today, but if you could perhaps come back to the committee with some suggestions as we go through this bill, I would certainly appreciate it. Thank you so much.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative Staneski, for a question.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Madam Chair. Real quick, I will go straight to my question, and thank you very much for your testimony. My first question is on 1102, where you say "qualified visiting international teachers." Are those teachers also going to have the certification?

And regarding the extension that you want from one to three years of being able to get them the certification, or get them to pass their Praxis, I'd just ask, what harm are we doing to kids in that one to three years if we -- if this is somebody at the end of the three years we don't give that to. That's my first question. Thank you.

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: And if you don't mind if I ask our staff member, Nancy Pugliese, to return to talk about the visiting teachers.

NANCY PUGLIESE: Yes, to address the visiting teacher permits, those are individuals who are certified in another country, and then come into Connecticut. And we are currently looking right now at transcripts of teachers that have come and are serving in another state as bilingual teachers to see what types of courses they have in linguistics, and -- and working with children. Many of them do have teaching English as a second language in -- like in Spain where currently we have an MOU with.

And so we are now going to gather a group of bilingual teachers to say what is the real core of credits that we need to make sure that those individuals have. Visiting international teachers can come in for only three years. It aligns with the J-1 visa, and so it has to be each -- it's -- it's a one-year permit that has to be renewed twice by the -- the requesting district.

In terms of the three years for the -- the testing, we recognize that, and what we face right now is we have a lot of classrooms that either have a substitute teacher in there with a lot less content knowledge, and a lot less, you know, they may have -- they probably have a BA, but they don't have necessarily bilingual courses. And so we felt that it was better to at least allow the people that have completed the course work, and give them extra time to pass the -- the number of tests that are required, and stay in the classroom during that time period.

And -- and then at the end of three years, if they don't pass all of the tests, they would not continue to be certified.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you. Madam Chair, if I could, one further question? This is changing venues to the charter schools and the moratorium. I just would like to know your views on how, if this moratorium and this law is passed, how is that going to impact grade growth that's already in the works and what do we say to -- to parents if we're putting this moratorium in to those who are waiting? So I'd like to just ask about -- I'll ask about the grade growth, how's that? And that's -- and that's my final question, Madam Chair. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative, I'm going to answer your question for you, because the legislation allows for grade growth, so --

REP. STANESKI: Well thank you very much (inaudible).

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: You're very welcome.

Are there further questions for the Commissioner? Seeing none, thank you very much, Commissioner, --

INTERIM COMMISSIONER WENTZELL: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- for your testimony, and as always for your great work and assistance to this committee in our efforts, and the people of the state of Connecticut, our efforts to educate our children.

Our next speaker is Susan Bransfield.

Good afternoon, and welcome.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Thank you. It's always very interesting and educational to listen to all the speakers, and I appreciate being here, and having the opportunity to speak in front of you.

My name is Susan Bransfield. I'm a First Selectman in the town of Portland, and again, thank you for the opportunity to testify this afternoon. I'm speaking today on behalf of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and it's better known as CCM, which is a statewide association of towns and cities, and we represent 156 towns, which is over 95 percent of Connecticut's population.

I'm here today and I'm going to speak very briefly in support of H.B. 7019, which is AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT. H.B. 7109 would, among other things, amend the Minimum Budget Requirement with regard to school districts that experience lower enrollment, from an allowable reduction of $3000 per student to 50 percent of the net current expenditures per resident student.

In addition, the bill would, for Fiscal Years beginning June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, allow municipalities that are permitted to reduce overall budgeted appropriation for education up to three percent of their overall education budgets.

CCM and the towns support H.B. 7019 as meaningful relief from the State-mandated Minimum Budget Requirement.

And in the essence of time -- I know there's a lot of people that want to speak today, and I can certainly appreciate that, and would -- would like to give them the opportunity, I'm not going to read all of the testimony that has been given to the committee, and I'm going to conclude that H.B. 7019 is much needed, and it's a logical, reasonable approach for many towns and cities to achieve efficiencies, and in an era of frozen or reduced State aid and rising education costs, the MBR is unfair to residential and business property taxpayers, and therefore CCM urges the committee to favorably report H.B. 7019. It's very sensible and I think appropriate at this time. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much, Susan, for your testimony. Are there any questions for Susan at this time?

Yes, Representative Staneski, for a question.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you. Thank you for your testimony. My question, again I'm going to dispose the comments and go straight to -- in Section 3 of 1099, it allows us to receive funds from any public/private source, and there's a lot of stories that are out there about money-influenced actions here and there. Where, if at all, would you envision the Commission getting those funds, and would the Commission ensure the integrity of the work and receive outside funding. So if you could speak from CCM's view on that? Thank you.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Where? I'm sorry, I don't understand your question (inaudible).

REP. STANESKI: It allows for the -- the bill, as it's written, allows for sourcing -- funding to come from outside sources.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: To the Commission?

REP. STANESKI: To the -- to the Commission, to help with 1099, to -- to the Commission.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: (Inaudible).

REP. STANESKI: Maybe I'm asking the wrong question?

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Commission?

REP. STANESKI: Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: You know, I'm -- I'm not sure what question you're asking, Representative. That's up to you.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you. On Section 3, it says " The Commission may, with available appropriations, retain consultants to assist and carry out its duties. The Commission may receive funds from any public or private sources to carry out its activities." So I would like to know what CCM's view is on outside money coming in to influence our strategic plan in Connecticut.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: I'm not sure I'm prepared to answer your question. I'll have to get back to you on that.

REP. STANESKI: Okay. Thank you.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Sorry.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative, perhaps -- perhaps you might want to take a few minutes, and take a look, and talk to some of the other members and perhaps a different person testifying would be appropriate.

REP. STANESKI: I agree. Thank you.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: I'm not going to try to answer something I can't.

REP. STANESKI: Sure.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. Are there any other questions for -- for Susan Bransfield?

Yes. Senator Linares.

SENATOR LINARES: Actually, not a question, just a quick comment. Senator, I just wanted to thank First Selectman Bransfield for being here today. She represents Portland; that's in the 33rd District, and it's a very important issue, and I'm happy you're taking the lead on it, so thank you.

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Thank you. It's always good to see you, Senator. Thanks for being here.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Are there any further questions? Seeing none, thank you very much for your testimony --

SUSAN BRANSFIELD: Thank you (inaudible).

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- and for your support of the legislation.

Our next speaker is Representative Wood. Did anybody see Terrie? I don't see her at this time. I'm going to switch over. I've been advised that our students are here, that we have students here from New Horizons Alternative School, so I didn't know if you would all like to come up in a -- in a group, or separately? Separately.

Okay, then our first speaker is Nick Davis.

Okay, just state your name and speak into the microphone.

NICK DAVIS: Good morning. My name is Nicholas Davis.

JEROME GIBSON: I'm Jerome Gibson.

NICK DAVIS: Good morning, Distinguished Members of the Educational Committee. Thank you for allowing me -- allowing us to speak to you today about our experiences in the school system.

My name is Nicholas Davis.

JEROME GIBSON: And I am Jerome Gibson.

NICK DAVIS: We are both 18 years old, and we are asking you to support and raise bill --

JEROME GIBSON: And pass raised bill.

NICK DAVIS: -- pass Raised Bill No. 7081.

I've been at New Horizons -- we attend New Horizons High School, an alternative school in New Haven, Connecticut. Before I came to New Horizons, I attended James Hillhouse High. My experience in my previous school wasn't good at all. I struggled with staying on task and completing assignments. My first day at New Horizons, I didn't feel welcomed at all. I felt like I was unintelligent and unaccepted. I knew that this was my last chance at preparing myself for a successful future, so I pushed and motivated myself every day to be the person that everyone said I could be.

Now I'm a positive role model for my peers. I am on track to graduate. I have my plans in order to further my education after high school. None of this would be possible if it wasn't for the caring, motivational teachers and staff at New Horizons High School.

My school experience since I came to New Horizons was different. What I mean by different is I have somewhat of a family bond with my peers and staff. The amount of dedication you put in is what you will achieve at New Horizons and in life in general. My teachers motivate me to do the best I can every day.

Most kids that go to alternative schools are looked down on as bad and troubled children, when in all actuality, they are good students with the most talent. Good -- good alternative schools can help a student like me stay in school rather than drop out. As students at New Horizons -- as a student at New Horizons, I have people who care about me. This program has helped me achieve my goals of graduating high school. Students in this program are given attention and treated like individuals. Here I have a better chance at graduating high school and having a quality education.

JEROME GIBSON: Going into high school I felt like an outsider due to the fact that I was transitioning from middle school to high school. For eight years I was accustomed to working in a decent environment with minimal students and staff. As I entered James Hillhouse High School, I struggled to fit in -- and constantly -- I constantly struggled to fit in to the student body of 1200, and this is not including the freshman class.

Through high school I found myself struggling to maintain exceptional grades like I did in the past in middle school, and getting help from the counselor was not an option due to the fact that she was accountable for 800 other students.

Once I reached my senior year, I realized college was out of the question. I felt that it would be impossible to get an appointment with my counselor when she has 500 other seniors lined up to do their common applications for college. I began to slack off and skip class. No one noticed or even cared to try to help me get back on track.

Once I reached December, I realized there was a chance that I would not graduate with my class, and I sort of accepted this. As mid-terms began during my senior year, I realized that I could not accept this fate. I searched for options to graduate. I was informed by a friend who sits next to me today, Nicholas Davis, that maybe I should look to get into a transition high school. The first thing I thought about that idea was negative, but I still followed up by informing the counselor at New Horizons of my plans to attend the school.

My first day I was greeted with smiles and positive attitudes from both the staff and students. As time went on, I built strong relationships with teachers. I also got a second chance at the activities that I missed out on in my original high school. Now that I am in alternative school, I participate in student council and I am a member of the basketball team, and I also get the chance to participate on field trips.

Since coming to this school two months ago, I have been to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York; I've been taking bowling; and most important, I've been given the chance to speak to you at this crucial legislative meeting.

I feel that my -- I feel that my alternative school offers more attention from teachers, and they are more understanding when we struggle with class work. I feel that overall my school helps students who are used to making excuses. It changes and sort of helps you find solutions.

Now that I am a student at New Horizons High School, my dream of going to college is no longer a dream, but a reality thanks to the constant help of the teachers and staff who have served as guides while putting in the common application and writing my college essay. My only regret is not switching to New Horizons High School sooner.

I feel that alternative schools offer support and help the students in small working environments. However, alternative schools do not have similar programs to the traditional high schools. Me being a musician and percussionist, I feel that I have no way to practice or showcase my talents in school. I'm used to being surrounded by musicians and others who share an interest in music.

At Hillhouse High School, I was a four-year band member, and I even held the title as section leader of the drum line at one point. Unfortunately, once I transferred, I could no longer be a member of band due to it conflicting with after-school activities at my new school. I feel like band should be an option, or even maybe a music class in alternative schools.

We also do not have the option to take foreign language classes. Most college universities require you to have at least one foreign language credit in order to attend their -- their school.

NICK DAVIS: This bill -- this bill will make sure that students who struggle in traditional high school have a chance to get back on track to receive the education that they need. Make sure that the state -- make sure that the state keeps an eye on these alternative schools, and make sure that they are giving us the education we deserve, and that we are only placed in alternative schools when it is the best place for us. By supporting alternative education, graduates from high school will have a positive future as adults.

I ask this committee to support this bill. Thank you -- thank you, Distinguished Members of Educational Committee.

JEROME GIBSON: And thank you for allowing me to talk to you, too.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: It was -- it was our honor. Good job to both of you. We're really very proud of you --

JEROME GIBSON: Thank you so much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: for -- for finding an alternative, for sharing that information with your friend. It's nice to know that students talk to each other about what's going on at school, and actually say hey, I'm doing well at my school; why don't you come and try it here? And that provided you an opportunity, Jerome, so.

You both spoke beautifully, and what I really appreciate about your testimony today is not only the experience that you're having, but it's -- but you also weren't afraid to say, you know, but hold them accountable, and make sure that the kids who are coming after me are going to get a good education, too. So I appreciate that very balanced point of view, and that's what we're trying to do, and learn more about what your school does, and what options it provides for you, and make sure that you have opportunities.

Because, especially Jerome, when you start talking about music, that's real important obviously. You're -- you must be quite talented as a percussionist. I'm a percussionist as well. And it's a really important part of -- of your education, and your education as a whole person, not just somebody who takes a test at -- in a -- in a seat in a classroom.

So, I thank you both, and I wish you both the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Are there any questions for these two fine young men? Seeing none, thank you. Thank you for your testimony.

JEROME GIBSON: Thank you very much again for allowing us to talk to you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: It was our pleasure.

Bouncing back, is Representative Fred Wilms here? Representative, you're up next, and after that we're going to go to Mikalla Davis.

Good afternoon, Representative.

REP. WILMS: Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing for me to testify, and I -- I appreciate that you have a very busy day today, so I'll try to keep my remarks certainly to the point.

Chairman Fleischmann, Chairman Slossberg, Ranking Members Bouchet and Lavielle, and Esteemed Education Committee Members, thank you for allowing me to testify on Raised Bill 1097.

Please know that I support requiring straight grants be made within available appropriations. Since that bill falls under the category of AN ACT CONCERNING STATE FUNDING FOR EDUCATION, I wish to discuss my Proposed Bill H.R. 5670, which deals with educational cost-sharing funding. I would like to ask the committee to consider adding my proposal, highlighted in House Raised Bill 5670, to the underlying bill.

My bill would correct an inequity in the ECS formula. That inequity resides within the State Aid Percentage Calculation which numerically weights 90 percent towards the town's property wealth, i.e. the grand -- net grand list, and only 10 percent towards the median income of the town's citizens.

The calculation assumes that the property wealth -- property wealth determines the ability of a town to support its public school system through its ability to raise property taxes. While this is true for towns with high property wealth/high town income, and most certainly not true for towns with low property wealth/low town income, there is an in-between category that falls through the cracks. In particular I'm thinking of towns that have high property wealth, but only moderate town income.

Two such towns come to mind: Norwalk and Stamford. As a Representative of the 142nd District for Norwalk, I'll respectfully confine my comments to Norwalk. Here's the problem Norwalk faces. Norwalk is the sixth-largest city in Connecticut, but its ECS Grant ranks only 40th. We receive about roughly $11 million. As a result of that, 93 percent of Norwalk's education budget is funded from local Norwalk taxpayers. That 93 percent is a far cry from, I believe, the 50:50 ideal local State share that we're striving for.

Norwalk's problem exists because it is a city surrounded by the wealthy suburbs of Darien, Wilton, Westport, New Cannan, and Weston. Their high property values spill into Norwalk. However, Norwalk's high property values have little to do with the taxpayers' ability to pay higher taxes. Norwalk median household income in 2012 stood at roughly $77,000 versus an average of 160,000 of her five neighbors. Our ELL students stood at 12 percent versus 1 percent for our neighbors.

Roughly, at this point, 51 percent of our students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, versus only about 2 percent for our neighbors.

The Connecticut Department of Education does not rank Norwalk like its suburban neighbors. Not only has the Department designated Norwalk as an Alliance District, it has placed Norwalk in District Reference Group H.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative, we do have your written testimony in front of us, so if you'd like to sort of summarize, and then I know some of the members have questions for you.

REP. WILMS: Yes. Thank you, Madam Chair. I -- I will summarize.

In summary, Norwalk, even compared to our DRH towns, we receive perhaps maybe -- we receive $183 per student, versus $6100 for the rest of the DRH towns, so in conclusion, my proposal seeks to address the inequity by changing the formula as I discussed, and -- and further it would only apply to any new funding so that no town would be currently disadvantaged. Thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay, thank you, Representative, and you -- and I recognize, I think, from your testimony that this is a separate proposal that's not currently in the proposal before us.

REP. WILMS: That's correct, and I appreciate your indulgence to allow me to testify.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay, Representative Fleischmann.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for coming before us. I know we've had some offline conversations and I appreciate the thought you've put into this.

So you talked about the situation of -- of your hometown, Norwalk, and you talked about the average household income. I'm less familiar with Norwalk than you, but it's my sense that there are some major corporate headquarters in Norwalk owning property -- property of great value, and buildings of great value on that property. So if the board of finance of the City of Norwalk makes a change in your mill rate, don't those corporations chip in and allow your city to advance its budget more easily than say a city like New London, which has a miniscule property tax base?

REP. WILMS: Well thank you for that question, Mr. Chairman. You mentioned the board of finance. I actually chaired the board -- we call it the board of estimate taxation. I chaired it for the previous eight years, from 2005 to 2013, and of course, you know, we can't charge different mill rates for different individuals.

We do have Xerox that has its corporate headquarters in Norwalk; in addition, Priceline does as well on the Darien border.

What we're talking about is -- is again, there's two concepts. One is the value of the real estate, the value of the property; and then there's the underlying cash flow or income, if you will, of the -- of the residents or the citizens that live there, and that's where the disparity is. There's -- there's a bifurcation, and -- and that's -- unfortunately the ECS formula doesn't address that in-between category.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I guess I'm a little confused. First, besides, you know, Xerox and Priceline, I know Diageo, GE, and some other major corporations have major offices in Norwalk on major parcels of land that are extremely valuable. So I guess I come back to my question: If you make a change to your mill rate in Norwalk, does that not bring in more revenue than an identical change to the mill rate in a town with a much smaller grand list?

REP. WILMS: Well, thank you again. Certainly if -- if any town raises the mill rate, it would bring in more tax revenue.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: No, no, no; I'm talking comparatively.

REP. WILMS: Comparatively. Well in Norwalk --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Norwalk has a very large grand list; New London has a tiny one.

REP. WILMS: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So the same change in mill rate has a different implication for Norwalk than for New London, does it not?

REP. WILMS: Well the difference in -- in Norwalk, those corporations that you mentioned do not own the real estate that they reside in. They lease. So the -- the payer -- they don't pay the property tax. The payer of the property tax would be the owner of the property, and they have a separate profile than the tenants that reside therein.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Right. A profile that allows them to own those buildings, I'm sure they have a greater capacity to pay than you or I.

REP. WILMS: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: My other question to you relates to Horton versus Meskill, so the basis for the formula that you're talking about is that Supreme Court decision that required us to look at the relative wealth of municipalities as measured by their grand lists, because grand lists tell you about the ability to pay at the local level.

REP. WILMS: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: A town with a miniscule grand list simply does not have the same ability to raise funds that Norwalk does. And we have heard from experts at this committee before who said that to the extent that we start moving the weighting away from property tax values, we basically jeopardize our standing as being in compliance with the Horton versus Meskill decision.

REP. WILMS: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I'm interested to hear your reactions to that concern.

REP. WILMS: You know, I understand that point and you and I were both at the Appropriations Committee meeting where we received that briefing, and with regards to the -- the town median income weighting, apparently that's not mentioned in -- in the decision, how -- and so I guess there is some concern about moving north of ten percent. I guess the further north it goes, the more we move away from the non-mention of it in the decision. And so that's admittedly a gray area where we can have -- there can be different opinions.

My -- my own opinion is that certainly the precedent has been established that we have ten percent, so that category exists, and I -- I personally would think we could move up to perhaps keep it as a minority of the overall calculations, so let's say 49 percent and -- and, in my opinion, and still be within the -- the spirit, if you will, of the decision.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your clear, concise answers, and for your advocacy. I appreciate it.

REP. WILMS: Okay. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Representative, good afternoon.

REP. WILMS: Good afternoon, Representative.

REP. LAVIELLE: Good to see you. We're both fortunate to represent parts of the City of Norwalk.

REP. WILMS: Yes, we are.

REP. LAVIELLE: And I appreciate your coming this afternoon. A couple of questions for you, if I may? Obviously I -- I certainly appreciate and understand your proposal.

My first question is that in, if I recall correctly, in your initial proposed bill, you confined your proposed changes to -- only to any new funding above the current total State ECS allocation.

REP. WILMS: Yes.

REP. LAVIELLE: Was there a reason that you didn't apply it to the entire allocation of ECS funding for the state?

REP. WILMS: Thank you for that question. As -- as strongly as I wish to advocate on behalf of Norwalk, I do understand there is a larger picture, and that this -- this concept has been around for -- for many, many years. I understand there are 169 towns in Connecticut, and there's probably at least 169 opinions about -- about the ECS formula. And I understand that it's also difficult to propose something that would take away something from someone else.

So I've done my best to try to present a balanced proposal, and so my proposal to address that would only apply to any new monies that were made available on ECS. And I understand that as far as the budget this year, no additional monies are being proposed for ECS in this current budget proposal, but I did want to at least say that it would apply to new monies so that everyone would still continue to get what they already get.

REP. LAVIELLE: Would you, if -- were the state in a more favorable financial situation, would you support a -- a revision of the formula and the entire allocation in terms of equitability -- equity if -- were we able to hold all towns harmless.

REP. WILMS: Sure. Yeah, I would -- again, the -- the area of concern in -- in Norwalk -- the belief over many, many years is that the disparity for Norwalk is quite large. I mean we are funding -- fully 93 percent of the school budget comes from the local Norwalk taxpayers, and Norwalk is a -- while we do have some corporate headquarters, but we also have a lot of -- we have a very significant urban area.

We have a lot of Cape Cods, thousands, and thousands, and thousands of Cape Cod homes, you know, inhabited by working-class, middle-class people. Our population demographic is 24 percent Latino, 14 percent African-American, and again 51 percent of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

So, you know, in regards to the Chairman's previous question, you know, there -- there -- the vast majority of the taxpayers in Norwalk don't have the capability to write bigger checks, and -- and so that's foremost on my mind.

REP. LAVIELLE: My -- my final question for you is just regarding a subject that has come up recently on several occasions in this committee, which is the notion of districts being underfunded, and just to clarify we -- we had a discussion about certain districts being underfunded because they are receiving less than what the formula would give them were it fully funded. But you are talking about what the formula, as it stands, actually would provide to each city or town, and the equities therein, am I right?

REP. WILMS: Yes, that -- that's correct. I understand that there's two components to your question, and yes, my proposal would inherently change the formula itself, because we believe that the formula itself is disadvantaging Norwalk to a significant degree.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you for that. I -- because I -- I was anxious to clear that up.

REP. WILMS: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: Because Norwalk, vis-à-vis what it is supposed to receive from the formula, is not necessarily receiving as much less as some districts, but it is the formula itself. I would -- I would just end. I thank you for your testimony and your comments, and it is somewhat surprising to people, given where Norwalk is, what its actual finances are, and that we recently moved from about 44 percent to 51 percent on free and reduced lunch, and that the ability to raise those property taxes is there, but those property taxes represent a high proportion of the income of the people paying them.

REP. WILMS: Yes. Thank you, Representative.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Representative.

Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman, and thank you, Representative Wilms. It is good to have you be here and to speak on probably what some of us that did represent Norwalk as well over time see as one of the biggest issues -- financial issues for the community, and those that have walked many of the neighborhoods in the past really know firsthand those small Cape Cod homes that you were describing.

You already answered the first question that I had and that was, you know, really what percentage is corporate funding to the tax base, and what percentage are the residents, because I had, in the experience in being in Norwalk quite a bit, saw that the residential neighborhoods were much more expansive, and a greater percentage than most of our cities, and I believe Norwalk is the sixth largest city that we have, but as -- as other cities go, it really does have many more residential neighborhoods.

REP. WILMS: Yes, and that's an excellent question, and I think I could probably perhaps more precisely answer the Chairman's question through your question. The -- in terms of who pays taxes in Norwalk, roughly 70 percent is residential, 20 percent is commercial, 5 percent is personal property, and 5 percent is the auto tax. So the ability to -- if we raise the mill rate, we have to raise it for everyone. You know, any -- any raise would fall proportionately -- 70 percent would fall on the residential taxpayers.

SENATOR BOUCHER: And you also mentioned that -- did I hear you correctly, that 51 percent of the students are free and reduced lunch?

REP. WILMS: Yes, and that's actually up. It was in the low 40s just a few years ago, and that's increased significantly. We've had a -- you know, Norwalk is a very diverse community, and -- and we -- we celebrate that, and we're very proud of that. We have certainly, over the last decade, had an increase in -- in Hispanic immigrants and certainly we see that with the ELL students, and, you know, it's certainly -- it's certainly a -- and I think, you know, we -- we are also classified as a DRG-H school -- school system. We are DRG-H, you know. If I is the lowest, which is Bridgeport and Hartford, we are H. So we are very far away from our neighbors which are classified as A.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you for that explanation; much appreciated. Any further word on how the current ECS formula affects the student in the classroom?

REP. WILMS: Yes, well thank you. Thank you for that. Essentially what -- what we have is that the Norwalk school systems are under significant financial stress because the ability of the taxpayers to pay more is -- is curtailed because of just our demographic and -- and, you know, our socioeconomic characteristics. So we are an Alliance District, and as an Alliance District, you know, clearly that -- we've been identified by the Department of Education, you know, that our school system is -- is under a certain amount of scrutiny, and that there are significant reasons for that.

So, you know, again, you know, we live in a wealthy neighborhood, but we're an Alliance District. We have 51 percent that are free and reduced lunch, and we are DRG-H. And what we're asking for ultimately is that we would receive the same per-pupil funding that the rest of our DRH members receive. They receive literally almost seven or eight times more per student than we do in our own -- in our own DRG ranking. So, you know, obviously that's why I'm here.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Representative for your advocacy. I appreciate you being here today.

REP. WILMS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Mikalla Davis.

MIKALLA DAVIS: Good morning. Good morning, Distinguished Members of the Education Committee. Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today about my experience in the school system. My name is Mikalla Davis, and I'm 18 years old, and I'm asking you to support and pass my Raised Bill 7018.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: My name is Shanequa Arnold. I am 17 years old, and I attend New Horizons High School.

MIKALLA DAVIS: Before I went to New Horizons High School, I was at Co-op High School. My needs weren't met at Co-op because I did not get along with none of the people, and I wasn't into the arts, so it was very hard for me to adapt.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: Before I came to New Horizons, I was at James Hillhouse High School. There was -- I was in a lot of drama, skipping class, and felt like I wasn't getting the help in the work that I needed. There was big classrooms with a lot of students that acted really different.

MIKALLA DAVIS: When I first got to New Horizons, I thought it was small. I wasn't used to it because I came from such a big school. It was nothing like Co-op. It had less people and it was not as big. I had to get used to the people and the type of work.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: When I came to New Horizons, I was kind of scared. I felt like I was different because I went to such a smaller school. When I came to New Horizons, I was welcomed with open arms, and help offered when I needed it. I started seeing people who cared, people who wanted to help me. So I had came to New Horizons with an open mind.

When I went to class, there was always a teacher trying to help me and give me some work that I was capable of. When I finally opened up and showed the young, smart woman I am, I felt like this was the school that was good for me because I was more focused and got more help. I can honestly say that I have good grades and feel more -- more comfortable at my school finally.

MIKALLA DAVIS: Once I got used to New Horizons, I knew I had to adapt to my new surroundings. It was tricky, but I did it because I knew this was going to be my permanent school, so I had to get used to it like everyone else.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: New Horizons is a really good school, but there are some things that should be better. The lunch needs to be improved. I know for sure that would be more students at school -- I appreciate there would be more students at school if they know they would have a good breakfast or lunch. I know school isn't about eating; it's about learning and working, but let us at least have food -- let us at least have good food after eight hours of school. There are very different smells in the café. There are burgers being made, and it smells like fish sticks are being served. We deserve good food after being in class and working so hard.

MIKALLA DAVIS: I think that alternative schools should get more attention as other schools do, because we're just like everyone else, and we deserve the same attention and treatment as everyone else.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: There are many kids that are just like me. I felt lost, so I acted out to get help. If there are more schools like this, there would be kids who know that they don't have to feel alone, or they don't have to be afraid for asking for help, or feeling depressed. No one understands the reason why you're on your phone in the back of the classroom is because you don't know the work, and no teacher has came up to you and offered you help.

MIKALLA DAVIS: A lot of kids feel insecure and left out from being in an alternative school. I know I did, because it's different from others that we came from in the past. I think alternative schools should get more support and --

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: Recognition.

MIKALLA DAVIS: -- recognition so that we feel as one and important as every other high school.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: The alternative schools could help students that are just like the old me. I have good grades now. I am much more than I ever thought I can be. I am proud to say that I go to New -- New Horizons. I am proud when my teacher comes to me and welcomes me in class with a smile. I am proud to know that I am -- that they are looking forward for me to be in their class, but what I'm most proud of is myself. The fact that I can tell you part of my life that I'm not so proud of, and for you to see how far I came, means so much to me.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak to you all, and for me to -- oh my gosh -- for me to represent my school, New Horizons. Thank you.

MIKALLA DAVIS: A good alternative school can help a student like me rather -- continue on my education rather than dropping out or feeling out of place. I have people in New Horizons that actually care about me and make me feel like education is important. They give me hope. This program has helped me grow in so many ways, and I hope to continue with New Horizons through my journey.

Thank you for giving us -- thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Good job, ladies. Very nice. We're -- Mikalla and Shanequa, we're very proud of you, too. So it's more importantly that you're proud of yourselves, but you should know that we're proud of you as well. Can I ask you a question, though?

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: How -- now each of you went to a different school. You went -- one of you were at Co-op, and the other was at Hillhouse. How did you end up at New Horizons?

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: Well I felt like that I needed to improve more, and I felt like I wasn't getting the help or the attention that I needed because there were so many things that were going on in my life. So I kept asking my counselor. I didn't go once, but I went many times to see if there was a smaller school that would show me the help that I needed. So one day she gave me the opportunity to go to New Horizons. I was kind of skeptical about going there, but I finally made a decision that I have to grow up and I needed to be at another school that would help me.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And Mikalla, how about you?

MIKALLA DAVIS: I went to Co-op last year. Like I said, I didn't really get along with the people, and I wasn't use to their art, because it was an arts school. I was not into stuff like that, so it was hard for me to get used to a type of school that was like arts. And I got into a lot of trouble fighting wise, so they recommended me a smaller setting with less people, so New Horizons was an option for me. So I just gave it a try and I'm doing way better.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: That's great. I'm so glad to hear that. And even though your previous schools weren't the right place for you, I'm really glad that you directed you to some place that's working for you. So thank you very much for being here. Keep up the good work.

SHANEQUA ARNOLD: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Are there any questions for these ladies?

MIKALLA DAVIS: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much.

Our next speaker is David Martin -- Mayor David Martin.

DAVID MARTIN: Thank you very much. I have a handout. I don't know if that's appropriate? Can I hand that out?

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Sure.

DAVID MARTIN: Who do I give it to?

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Right to the table there and they'll get it to us.

DAVID MARTIN: Thank you very much, and I'm going to go ahead and start since I'm (inaudible --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Go right ahead.

DAVID MARTIN: -- a little bit later.

Thank you, Co-Chairs, Senator Slossberg and Representative Fleischmann, as well as our own Stamford Representative, Representative Miller, and all of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

My name is David Martin. I am the mayor of the City of Stamford, and I submit this testimony in support of Raised Bill No. 7022, AN ACT CONCERNING AUTHORIZATION OF STATE GRAND COMMITMENTS FOR SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECTS AND CHANGES TO THE STATUS -- STATUTES CONCERNING SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECTS. We refer it to as the Rogers Magnet School Expansion, sometimes referred to as the Strawberry Hill School Project.

So if I can tell you, Stamford is a dynamic, growing city. It is currently the third largest in the state, with over 126,000 residents, and we've been fortunate to experience continuous growth over the several years, I think every single year. Maybe there were a few years back where we slipped.

And as we speak, as some Representatives know, we have multiple residential projects underway and in the planning phases, as well as in current construction. There are cranes adding to the residential base and more population for Stamford.

But when you drive by Stamford, often at a very slow pace on a congested I-95, but nevertheless, as you drive by Stamford, and you look at those shiny buildings, you might reach some -- reach some incorrect conclusion about our needs. Yes, they generate property tax, but after you deduct away the -- the money that might be required for TIFs, other funding requirements, incentives, et cetera, while there is an advantage to having those buildings (I do not deny it), they are not the lion's share of the benefit to both the community and the state.

The lion's share is, in fact, in the jobs and the income tax that is created, as well as the sales tax. The income tax and the sales tax don't accrue to the City of Stamford; they go to the State. And to put it mildly, we have a really big need on our school side. We need a little bit of that money back.

More specifically, and you are going to hear a little bit later from our superintendent of schools, and the president of our board of education, but I wanted to talk specifically about our school needs on this project is to construct -- get funding to help construct an inter-district magnet school, actually technically an expansion of an existing, highly successful inter-district magnet school that has a waiting list both in Stamford and out of Stamford.

But I wanted to give you a broader perspective on this.

First of all, as I said earlier, in terms of the -- the capability of Stamford, the average free and reduced lunch -- number of students on free and reduced lunch across the state of Connecticut I believe is around 37 percent. You might think that we would be well below that because our surrounding communities have numbers like zero or one. In fact, the average for the surrounding communities is less than ten. But Stamford is well above that average, similar to the testimony we heard from Norwalk, with 50 percent of the children at free and reduced lunch, and we have an extremely diverse population. In our case it's about 35 percent white, about 35 percent Hispanic, about 21 percent black, about 8 percent Asian. I don't think those numbers add up to 100, but it's in the ballpark.

And every one of our schools carries that diversity. No school is more than plus or minus ten percent of the majority/minority mix. That is a policy that we've tried to establish and hold onto. There are many challenges, though, dealing with that diversity and those needs, and one of them is that our buildings have grown to the point that they are completely overcrowded because of our continuing growth in school population.

Our school population is up 40 percent over 1990, and we had a particularly big growth here in the last few years. The average Stamford elementary school now has 652 students. The average for the other schools in our DRG is 488. If we were to build additional schools to have the same average number of students, we would have to build four more schools in Stamford to bring us down to the same average as everyone else. We in fact are two schools behind, not one, but one step at a time here.

So we have 12 elementaries now, and what I wanted to say is if you go this handout, and I'm not going to go through the whole thing, I just wanted to turn first to page two. This is a picture of what we're doing (if you have this), and it's in Stillmeadow School (I believe it's in Stillmeadow School), and you see a table and some chairs at the top of a stairwell. That is where we hold parent-teacher meetings. And aside from the confidentiality meetings, we have taken all the other private rooms and that's what -- that's where we hold those meetings, at the top of the stairwell.

If you go to page three, you see us repurposing a -- a room until the fire marshal caught this, and appropriately so. There is a utility box there, and so they were trying to use this as a special purpose room for ELL or some other needs, but that got closed down because you can't block that utility box there. That's a major serious challenge.

On page four you see a crowded but very nice room, and the question is what's going on here, and what's going on here? That's where we store the tables for the cafeteria. So where'd the tables go? And if you look to page five, you will see all the tables for the cafeteria are now in the hallways. Now the fire marshal was after us for that, too; or I shouldn't say it's my fire marshal who was after them, too, but the reason we were able to work this out is because the cafeteria tables are moved into the gymnasium at 10 o'clock in the morning, and don't, in fact, leave the gymnasium until almost 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Essentially we don't have the gymnasium available at any time for cafeteria -- or, we don't have the gymnasium available for gym because of all the time that's spent dealing with all the multiple shifts in a six-classroom model, one after another all day long. So the tables actually aren't in the halls that often. And unfortunately, during winter weather, the question is where do they hold their gym or PE classes? They hold them in the classrooms (inaudible) PE.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay, Mr. Mayor, I think that we -- we know -- you are -- we've got -- we've got the handout. We can see that you are extremely overcrowded, and I -- and I would like to just, you know, make -- make note of the fact that, you know, we've sat down together, and I appreciate you spending that time with me, and with the chairman of Appropriations to understand your population and -- and space constraints, and the need for -- for you having a magnet school. So I want to make -- I just want to make sure that people have a chance to ask questions. Did she raise her --

Representative Miller.

REP. MILLER: Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your testimony, and great seeing you.

DAVID MARTIN: Great seeing you.

REP. MILLER: Just one question: It's my understanding that you -- you're using portable classrooms to ease the short term -- as a short-term solution to your overcrowding. So my question is will the new school eliminate or reduce the need to use these portable classrooms?

DAVID MARTIN: It is a common belief that we are using all the modules and portables as a short-term measure, and it would seem so, but in fact we are using them as a long-term measure. And this new school will, in fact, not enable us to reduce any of the portables, or any of the modulars. We are going to need them all in place.

We have four, you could argue five schools, where the overcrowding is most significant, and we need to reclaim the classrooms that are used for ELL, or used for music, or used for all the other interventions and various things, and we need to do that first before we actually are going to be able to go back and get some of the modulars back. That's a serious problem, but when I say that we are more than one school behind, if -- if and when we can afford to deal with another school, then we will start pulling modulars out.

And I hate to go on long, but that's part of the issue, is that we've got so many modulars up now that we don't have enough playground space; we don't have enough parking space. There are four schools in particular -- Springdale is one that comes to mind; Stillmeadow is another which is, I believe, in your district, but no -- we're pretty pressed, and I thank you for the question.

REP. MILLER: Well thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Are there other questions for the mayor? No? Thank you very much for being here, Mr. Mayor. Did anybody have their hands up? All right.

DAVID MARTIN: Thank you so much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for being here and for your advocacy.

DAVID MARTIN: My apologies for going so long.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: No, not at all. You're advocating on behalf of your district, and it's important for us to understand that you've got very serious space constraints where children are not being afforded opportunities as a result of that, so we appreciate you explaining that.

DAVID MARTIN: Thank you so much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you.

Our next speaker is Jamie Cooper.

Good afternoon, sir.

JAMIE COOPER: Good afternoon. My name is Jamie Cooper. Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today about my experience in the social system. I am asking you to support and pass Bill 7018.

I attend New Horizons, an alternative school. Before New Horizons I was at Metropolitan Business Academy. I struggled getting homework done, often getting -- often skipping class and not getting any class work done. Most of the time I was being a goofball.

At New Horizons, every single staff and teacher, even the security guards try to help and motivate you to do good. All members from New Horizons motivate us students throughout the day. Every morning that you step in New Horizons, you are greeted with a handshake and nice smile.

I believe more students should attend an alternative -- alternative school to be able to have a comfortable, friendly bond with teachers and staff. Students are able to learn and understand more. My school has guided me into a career program that I attend every day from 3 to 5:30 p.m. which will get me a good-paying job and get a certification. This will bring me a carpentry and weatherization career, and further my goals.

Here I have a better chance at graduating high school and having a quality education. By supporting alternative education, you give students like me an opportunity to graduate from high school, and to have a positive future as adults. I ask this committee to support this bill. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much, Jamie; you did a good job. We're glad to have you here, and it's exciting to hear about -- about being in a career program. You like carpentry?

JAMIE COOPER: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Good with your hands. Good for you. It's nice to be able to make things and fix things. We need lots of people who can do that, so thank you.

Are there any questions for Jamie?

Yes, Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Madam Chair. I know it takes courage to come here and talk about your experience of going to an alternative education school -- are alternative -- and you're from Horizons, correct?

JAMIE COOPER: Yes.

REP. STANESKI: Yes, well our school in Milford, we actually asked them if they wanted to rename it, because we thought there was a stigma to alternative ed, and they said no, they liked it being called the alternative education school.

My question to you is what does your -- what does your academic day look like? Because we're looking at requiring the 900 hours, and some more reform around alternative ed and identifying it, and defining it. So could you tell me a little bit about your day?

JAMIE COOPER: All right. So you come in. You're greeted with a smile. Your -- you go to the cafeteria to start off. When you're done with your breakfast, you go to class, you know, teachers tell you to go to class, and make sure you're doing good.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: That's okay. Is that -- is that basically describes your day?

JAMIE COOPER: Yeah.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Right? Okay. That was a great answer. Representative Staneski, do you have a further question?

REP. STANESKI: I do. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Is that a half day, four hours a day you're there?

JAMIE COOPER: Eight hours.

REP. STANESKI: You're there for eight hours in your school at Horizon?

JAMIE COOPER: Yeah.

REP. STANESKI: And every day?

JAMIE COOPER: Yeah.

REP. STANESKI: Okay. And if you were -- do you ever think about going back to a traditional high school, or would you?

JAMIE COOPER: No.

REP. STANESKI: No? Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Good job, Jamie.

JAMIE COOPER: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Take care. Thank you.

All right. Our next speaker is Steve Hernandez, and then followed by Terrance Draughn.

Good afternoon.

STEVE HERNANDEZ: Good afternoon. Nice to see all of you again.

Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, and Members of the Education Committee, including Ranking Members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on these proposals before you.

My name is Steve Hernandez. I'm the director of public policy and research for the Connecticut Commission on Children, and I'm here today to speak in favor of Senate Bill 1099, AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONNECTICUT EDUCATION SYSTEM, and Senate Bill 1098, specifically on TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR SHORTAGE AREAS AND MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND CULTURAL COMPETENCY INSTRUCTION.

Proposed Senate Bill 1099 would establish the Planning Commission on Education and Development ensure the implementation of a strategic master plan for the state of Connecticut. In our experience of working with partners close on issues related to the achievement gap, we learn that closing gaps in educational opportunity is a task that cannot be undertaken in the schoolhouse alone.

In addition to ensuring excellence in teacher and school leader hiring and retention, improving attendance, reading proficiency by third grade, and improving school climate, acknowledging and addressing the life of the student outside of the schoolhouse is as important to understanding the complex set of circumstances that have perpetuated gaps in opportunity and achievement for poor children and children of color.

Concurrently, with the impact of education reform unfolding before us, persistent gaps in opportunity around us, and difficult decisions about the education budget looming, this is precisely the time when we, as a state, should be examining issues of streamlining duplicative and burdensome mandates, improving access to data to inform our educational decisions, examining the methods of assessing student achievement, and removing those barriers in our system that are fractured, the time-tested connection between our students and their families, and our teachers.

This proposal in Senate Bill 1099 to bring together business, educators, parents, civil rights leaders, scholars, and other lay and professional leaders to lead this discussion and come up with a strategic plan is inspired. The very idea that excellence, innovation, and the equitable distribution of educational opportunity can occupy the same space is what will propel the state of Connecticut into its new and dynamic demographic and financial reality.

On Senate Bill No. 1098, we strongly support the provisions in this bill on minority teacher recruitment and cultural competency. Cultural competency is really a question of understanding the context in which our children come to us in our schools, and really having an appreciation for the fact that we all come with a context, with expectations, and really understanding each other helps raise those expectations of each other and our children.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Thank you very much for your work, and for the Commission of Children's work. I notice that you provided a definition of cultural competency in your testimony as the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people, and to specific standards, policies, practice and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services -- services, thereby producing better outcomes.

By providing this definition, I'm assuming you're just giving context to your testimony, not suggesting that language in the bill needs to be changed?

STEVE HERNANDEZ: It provides context, not -- not suggesting a change. No.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. I just wanted to clarify that. So thank you very -- very much for your testimony, and -- and for your insight.

Are there any questions?

Yes, Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, and it's good to see you. I don't want to put you on the spot, but I was curious if you wanted to comment on a different bill, H.B. 1103 -- 03, SCHOOL -- CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICTS OF INNOVATION, and where -- especially where they address school climate and anti-bullying in schools. Are you -- can you comment on that at all?

STEVE HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. I'd -- I'd like to comment on the -- on the -- I won't comment on the bill specifically because I don't have it before me, but I -- I could submit written testimony. But I will say that in the area of school climate and anti-bullying, innovation in the way -- in the way that districts and the way that school leaders are addressing school climate and improving school climate is really the key, and sharing that innovation across the state is really how we are -- how I believe we are going to best achieve positive school climates in all districts.

We have found that what works for one district may not necessarily work for another, but there are standards and principles which guide the work of all districts, and can guide the work of all districts to improve climate.

REP. KOKORUDA: And may I just follow up with one: Do you feel right now, as a state, we're doing enough in this area to support our schools, or is there more we could be doing? I'm talking about really from Hartford down.

STEVE HERNANDEZ: Sure. This is a very difficult area because, as you know, there are -- there are two parts to our climate law which are equally important. One is interventions when we find incidents of bullying, intervening in the right way. And the other is really improving school climate as a tier I effort.

I think that as a state, what we could do more effectively is have -- is have examples of where it is that we are actually having successes in our state highlighted for other -- other regions and other districts to learn from.

There are -- there are successes to be learned from in this area, and there are standards to be -- to be benefitted from, so I think that sharing those successes is really important in this, as in other -- as in other areas.

REP. KOKORUDA: And I -- and I would just -- I hope we -- you can let us know what districts that -- that this is happening in. I'd be very interested to know what we could really find to model in other towns. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative Kokoruda. Are there any other questions for the witness?

Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me try this again. This is 1090 -- 99, correct? Yes.

First off -- yes, and we are in the Education Committee. Thank you.

I am pleased that leadership has recognized that we need to go forward and plan, because I think honestly, if we're going to make any meaningful changes, we need to have the stakeholders there. And I appreciate your comments on cultural competency.

So with that, just because there have been some conversations around that there may be some funding provided to this commission, do you see that there's an issue with bringing outside funds? And I only say that because there's conversation around the UConn Foundation and other money being put into education from outside sources. And I know we have the Gates Foundation that's given money, and -- and really working on school climate, academic -- reducing the achievement gap.

And so I'd just like your thoughts on that because, you know, I am hopeful. This is a great start. I love the idea that you're on board with this, and given us a definition again of cultural competency. And to that, would you see that we expand maybe the commission to include more parents and students? Thank you, and thank you, Madam Chair.

STEVE HERNANDEZ: To your first -- to your first question, I -- I remember you asking the question earlier, and I share your concern about -- about ensuring that where there is funding, and, you know, talk about innovation at the state level, in a -- in a difficult budget time, we should be open to having funding from -- from philanthropy, from foundations that are interested in these areas, in helping us achieve some of these outcomes that we'd like to achieve.

And -- and, you know, we do share your concern that where there is funding, that that funding be pure, and that it be really tied to the mandate, and to the goals that are in this legislation. Luckily this legislation is written in such a way to where the questions are very clear, the goal is very clear, and any funding that we would resource and maximize for this purpose would be -- would be exclusively for that purpose.

Secondly, to your second question, when parents are involved in the decisions that we are making as a state, as a community, as a district, when parents are involved, outcomes improve.

REP. STANESKI: I couldn't have said it better. Thank you, Madam Chair, or Mr. -- Mr. Chair. Thank you. Thank you, Chairs.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative. Any other questions from members of the committee? If not, thank you very much for your testimony.

We move now to New Horizons student, Terrance Draughn, who will be followed by Deputy Commissioner Salemi, if he's in the room.

Welcome. The floor is yours.

JUAN SANTIAGO: Good afternoon. I'm Juan Santiago. I am representing New Horizons High School, an alternative education school. I am 16 going onto 17.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Could you just repeat your name and your home town for the record?

JUAN SANTIAGO: Juan Santiago, New Haven, Connecticut.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: My name is Terrance Draughn. I'm 18 years old and I also go to New Horizons.

Before New Horizons I was at New Haven Academy. I -- I wasn't going to school, leaving school when I felt like it, and wasn't on top -- wasn't on top of my school work.

Once I came to New Horizons everything changed. I started to come to school every day. I got on top of all my classes, and I'm on the road to success. I believe schools should get -- I believe schools should get more support because there's a lot of kids like myself that never got much support in big schools, and never had anyone tell us we have your back like New Horizons does.

JUAN SANTIAGO: When I was first placed in an alternative school, it actually was interesting because I love new experiences. In the original high school, I wanted to get some type of special attention. I wanted to be the one that stood out from the rest. James Hillhouse High School was a school filled with more than 1000 students, and it was a big leap to make onto an alternative school. However, Hillhouse didn't treat me special. They -- they made me stand out from the rest, but as a horrible, bad student. I was excited to get away from Hillhouse and go to a smaller school.

It feels 100 percent better to be in -- in an alternative school, in my opinion. We have smaller classes, and teachers pay much more attention to every single student. They take time to get to know each student independently. Teachers don't feel like bosses or enemies; they feel like a family member, or even better, a close friend.

If I was to say find something to improve, it would be the lack of security in each hallway, which I already noticed they are working on without me saying one single word.

This school is just great and my dream school. I give a big thanks to you all for giving me an opportunity of leadership. Also I give a big thanks to my teachers and principal for picking me to come share.

I would like to add on that not just New Horizons has a so-called reputation of taking in the bad kids. A lot of kids are actually really smart, but choose to go through the wrong path due to classes and the students that get placed with them. I would suggest finding an adult that can actually connect to the students' lifestyle and what they've been through, so that way you don't say something that will come off offensive and have the student become defensive. Their usual response is, "You don't know me," or something similar.

All these kids are very bright, but you won't see it until you get close to them, or put them in a class where they have no choice to show off or do their work -- to not show off or do their work. No -- no alternative school that -- not a single alternative school is bad. I will keep saying this until people fully understand what -- what happens behind those doors. I am not going to sit here and lie, saying alternative schools are perfect. There are some flaws that may need a few tweakings to be fully fixed, and that's why I'm here to persuade you to support our bill, 10 -- 7 --

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: 7018.

JUAN SANTIAGO: -- 7018. As a student at New Horizons, I truly have people who care about me and my peers. This program has helped show me my true passion and that I can do it. I can make it to college, and I have something great. They will make sure that students who struggle in traditional high schools have a chance to get back on the right track, and receive the education that they need. It will make sure that the state keeps an eye on all the alternative schools, and make sure that they are giving us the education we deserve, and that we are only placed in an alternative school when it's the best place for --

By supporting alternative education, you give students like us, and me, an opportunity to graduate from high school, and to have a positive future as adults. I ask this committee to support this bill. Thank you all for listening.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Terrance, you're done as well?

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Thank you both for your excellent testimony, and for your advocacy on behalf of not just your school, but the -- the whole model of the school that you believe in.

Both of you mentioned a more welcoming environment and smaller classes. Could you give the committee a sense of the average class size at New Horizons versus the high school that you had left?

JUAN SANTIAGO: Well in New Horizons we have about seven or eight kids in each class which is actually more effort -- well, less effort for the teachers to handle, for us to actually focus. And in the average high school, such as Hillhouse or Cross, there are about 30 --

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: 25.

JUAN SANTIAGO: -- 25 to 30 kids in each classroom, which actually gives the student an opportunity to have less -- less efficiency to actually pay attention to the work, and to actually goof off and make a little reputation for themselves to get popular.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that clear and honest answer. Having -- having spent time visiting both standard, big high schools in Connecticut, and some great smaller alternative high schools, I've -- I've seen what you described, so thank you.

Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you. I'd like to add my words of congratulations to you for doing such a great job. You both are very articulate, and we're very proud of the accomplishments that you obviously have made.

And I think that the Chair basically went into the direction of the real first question I had for you, and that was: What was the one distinguishing change from your previous high school versus what you're experiencing now that made all the difference for you?

You mentioned smaller class size, one on one. Is it the structure, or is it the -- the instructor -- the instructor that you have. Are they -- is it different? Or is it, do you think, it's just -- it's set up for better success because it's one on one?

JUAN SANTIAGO: It's a better success one on one, and actually the instructor itself, because they actually don't have to jump from student, to student, to student over 30 times, and actually not show favoritism.

In New Horizons, and I believe in some other alternative schools, they actually give the same favoritism to each independent student.

SENATOR BOUCHER: You know, that is one of the more important comments that I think I've heard in a long time. Years ago, when I was on a local board of education, the big debate was oh class size doesn't matter, you know, in what -- what happens in the classroom, you know, and there was a case to be made that you could go up to 25 or 30. And yet, you know, in my view, that was wrong, and it was hard for me to argue that, and I often was, you know, debated and opposed on that view.

And there wasn't real data to show that you really can improve a learning environment, you know, if you reduced -- to me it made all the logical sense, and you're proving that, because what you're saying to me is that both the student and the teacher both can be more successful --

JUAN SANTIAGO: Uh-huh.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: Yes.

SENATOR BOUCHER: -- because you're setting up for failure if you get so large, that it's impossible, like you said, to go from one student to the other.

My final question for you is that in your school, do you find that some of your other friends or students may have some learning disabilities that may not have been identified previously, and do you -- do you see other of your classmates getting some extra help in that area?

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: Well for me, I was at New Haven Academy, so it's like I seen a lot of friends that I had, you know, go through the same problems, but learning no math and science and keeping up with class work. But I learned -- I figured out for myself that I had a problem. It took -- it took my friends quite a while, and like almost a year or so just to figure out they had a problem with math and certain subjects. So there was only one teacher at my school that really sat down and tried to really help out with kids that had problems. But other than that, the teachers and everybody else there didn't really pick up things like that. They just sat back and just watched.

JUAN SANTIAGO: And in New Horizons, the special needed -- well special attention needed for the students are actually given, the alternative teacher that they have for each class if needed. If they needed to be separated from the original class, they are sent -- they have permission to go see the alternative teacher to get their work done. No -- no student falls back on any work.

SENATOR BOUCHER: So if they have something like dyslexia or if they can't, you know, that they have a real way in which they learn that's different, they can take care of that with that special alternative teacher in that environment?

JUAN SANTIAGO: Yes.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: Yes.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Okay. Outstanding. Thank you so much for being good spokesmen for all of the other students that are getting this extra help. You made quite an impression today. Thank you.

JUAN SANTIAGO: Thank you.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: You're welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there any other questions from members of the committee?

Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: I'm going to put you guys on the spot.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: (Inaudible).

REP. SANCHEZ: Good testimony. No, the two young ladies that testified before you talked about the school menu. So what's your opinion about the school menu?

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: I knew that was coming.

JUAN SANTIAGO: Well as of me, I actually found a few interesting things that are going on with the food. In New Haven, there was $10 million given to the board of education, and $2 million that are put into each individual school for their meals, and each meal is actually given toward at least $1.25 each exact meal which doesn't give a good variety to get picked because they have to get everything that -- they have to get at least a type of meal that will suit everybody with -- like different stomach problems, or at least something that will suit everybody else.

In my opinion, I would say the food isn't that great.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: Yeah.

JUAN SANTIAGO: There is a lack of variety that we are given. The salad menu isn't really a salad menu. And I am -- I am a part of the student council for all New Haven schools, and I represent New Horizons as well, and as the two other girls were saying, we -- well Jerome was saying that we do have a lack of extracurricular classes such as languages. We only get English, no Spanish or something that we could actually use further in life.

REP. SANCHEZ: Good answer. And the food must be -- how should I put it, reflects the culture. Okay, can you get some -- so you -- the stuff on the menu, for instance, for the Latino community, I like to see a lot of rice and beans.

JUAN SANTIAGO: Yeah.

REP. SANCHEZ: Right. Thank you.

JUAN SANTIAGO: The rice and beans doesn't add up.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions for our witnesses that may go beyond their menu? If not, thank you very much to you, and to your classmates and -- and schoolmates from New Horizons. I think you've all done a real service in giving not just a face, but a very clear description to what alternative education can be in its best form. So thank you very much.

JUAN SANTIAGO: You're welcome.

TERRANCE DRAUGHN: You're welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We go now to Deputy Commissioner Bud Salemi, if he is here.

And the Commissioner will be followed by the RESC Alliance panel to talk on bills that they choose.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER SALEMI: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee.

The Department of Administrative Services and its -- and its Commissioner Currey -- and Commissioner Melody Currey thank the committee for raising Section 4 of House Bill 7022.

Section 4 proposes to extend the deadline for securing local funding for districts that require referendum for such local funding. The application due date would not change, but the review and approval of the application would be pending the successful passage of the referendum on or before November 15th of the application year.

This proposal was developed and is unanimously supported by the School Building Projects Advisory Council, which was established by the Governor pursuant to CGS 10-292(q). This proposed change will allow municipalities that require a referendum, and prefer to hold those referendums during the November general election, to put an estimate in front of the electorate closer to the date of the application.

Without this change, a district that prefers November referendums would need to schedule the referendum in the November preceding the application due date of June 30th. This causes the estimate to be another year older, almost always resulting in project cost adjustments. DAS would note that there is no financial impact to allowing towns this extra time to secure their needed local funding referendums. In fact, it could save funding for both municipalities and the state.

The DAS thanks the committee for raising Section 4, and we look forward to working with the committee on the Priority List for this next Legislative Session.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. We appreciate your having brought this concept forward since we have seen that delta develop between what is initially expected for the cost of the school, and then what the project costs ends up being, and folks have to come back to the assembly so this seems like a way to -- to reduce that -- that problem we've been facing, and we appreciate your bureau of construction services and your department paying attention to it.

Are there questions from members of the committee?

Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I have a very short comment, and it is thank you for bringing some flexibility to our local schools. It's refreshing. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER SALEMI: You're certainly welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there any other questions for Commissioner Salemi? If not, thank you for your testimony, and for your idea, and for the great work that you do over at the --

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER SALEMI: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So now we have Eileen Howley, Tom Danehy, Evan Pitkoff, Paula Cohen, Bruce Douglas, and Danuta Thibodeau, or whichever subset of that group is still left here to testify on House Bill 7016.

EILEEN HOWLEY: Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, and Members of the Education Committee, I'm here with Dr. Evan Pitkoff, who is the executive director of CEF, and Tom Danehy, who is the executive director of ACES, as well as Rob Parenti sitting in for -- for Danny Thibodeau, as well as we've also brought two members of our special education staff because they served on the Special Education Support Group for the MORE Commission, the working group, and that is Deb Richards and Mike Regan. So we have our whole team.

We're here as the RESC Alliance because that is what we do. We're here to testify in support of Raised Bill 7016, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION SPECIAL EDUCATION WORKING GROUP. So you have our written testimony, so I'm just going to summarize, to say that we are here because regional service delivery is what RESCs do best. We have -- we are -- stand ready to support the MORE Commission recommendations, and are ready to come to the table to work on regional solutions. This is the work that our RESCs were created to do, and we're appreciative of the hard work of the MORE Commission and its Special Education Working Group.

Our RESC Alliance Special Education Team provided a comprehensive articulation of the range of services that we provide and can expand those services based on the needs. We support the notion of informing this process with data collection from our local school districts so that we can provide the most appropriate interventions and at the most cost-effective and appropriate way.

So that's a summary of the testimony that you have in front of you, and I have a whole team here, because it is a team effort. The RESC Alliance represents the six RESCs across, and I serve as the chair of that alliance.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, not only for your testimony but for the -- the collaborational approach that you bring to this. I -- I'm not sure if any of you were present when the Speaker of the House was testifying this morning, and he raised an idea that I think is not currently in the bill that he wanted us to contemplate, namely that each RESC do a sort of an assessment of its region in terms of what the needs are in terms of special education services, and also what kind of resources there might be that each individual RESC might be able to bring to bear to address some of the needs identified.

He offered the opinion that -- that RESCs could probably handle this kind of a needs assessment with your current resources. I just wanted to give you a chance to respond to that, or offer any other ideas you have on that -- that topic that the Speaker raised.

EILEEN HOWLEY: I would say a phrase, then I'll turn to my colleagues, but we would absolutely support the notion of collecting data and really assessing what school districts are providing, the nature of the work that they're providing, how that service is being delivered. We have a team of staff who have the capacity to do that kind of work, and we would be ready to come to the table.

So I would just turn to allow my colleagues a moment to --

EVAN PITKOFF: I was just going to add that we -- we have done --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: You can bring the microphone towards you if you wish rather than bending.

EVAN PITKOFF: Thanks. Do you really want to hear me?

The RESC Alliance has done this in the past for legislative studies of this kind. About -- I guess it was about six years ago, we did a transportation study as well throughout the state for you. So we certainly have the capacity, and the people that we have in our systems have the knowledge, and the relationships with the school districts to get the most appropriate information.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: That's great to hear. Thank you. And in these -- in these times of constrained resources, it's great to hear that you think that you can do it, and that you're ready to do it. We appreciate that.

EVAN PITKOFF: Sure.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there other questions from members of the committee?

Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, and welcome to the panel.

I just have one question with regard to the MORE Commission, and -- and it may be that through your acceptance of doing an inventory of services, you may -- may be able to provide an answer to this later, but right now in Section 3, Regionalization of Services, it says: The regional plan for the provision of therapeutic services including, but not limited to speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

I happen to represent a district that actually -- they do contract for a lot of -- of services through the RESC, some for speech, physical, and occupational services, but they found it more feasible to do much of this in-house because they know the kids, they have the people on staff, and so I'd just like your comments on -- could you comment on whether the regional model plan would eliminate that local control over the area of service as you see it. Thank you.

EILEEN HOWLEY: I'm going -- I'm going to ask Deb Richards to come forward with the special education line to address that question --

A VOICE: With Mike.

EILEEN HOWLEY: -- with Mike Regan.

DEBORAH RICHARDS: I think there certainly -- I'm Deborah Richards.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, yes, if you could just identify your --

DEBORAH RICHARDS: I'm the representative from CREC, and I sit on the MORE Select Working Committee.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

DEBORAH RICHARDS: I don't think the fact that we would have some regionalized services would exclude districts from being able to go out and hire their own staff. I think there's a couple of challenges with doing that. A large district certainly can recruit large numbers of people, and also provide ongoing support and professional development for them, but there are some districts that have difficulty recruiting because of the shortage areas. So we have a -- a wider range in order to do that.

And also, if you're a small district, and you have just a handful of those professionals, providing the professional development, and mentoring, particularly for new staff as we're trying to recruit new individuals into the field, then frequently they will turn to the RESCs right now for that support, for professional development and mentoring.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your answer. But -- so I guess my question to -- oh I'm sorry. Mr. Chairman, may I? Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Go ahead.

REP. STANESKI: Is that if they already have those services in place, and they're providing the services at -- I hate to use the word "adequate," so the best services they could provide, you would not be recommending that those be taken away from the local district, correct?

EVAN PITKOFF: Yeah, our goal is really not to supplant the services. It's really to supplement what they already do, if needed. Our job as RESCs is really to build capacity within our region, so if folks are looking for assistance, or there's some way that we can lend our expertise to help them build that capacity, that's really our job. It's not to come in and take the place of what they already do.

REP. STANESKI: Excellent. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there other questions for the RESC Alliance?

Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's good to see you all today. And it - and it's exciting news what the Speaker of the House brought to us today, and -- and obviously in announcing this bill, hopefully going forward.

Something we've been hearing a lot about this year -- I just wanted your take on how this could work. One of the things we've been hearing a lot about this year, and we just had a public hearing on it, and passed a bill out of committee just this week, is on the issue of dyslexia. And -- and it appears to me that this is such a big problem, and -- and even really good school systems are not addressing it, and I'm wondering where -- where exactly do you envision the RESCs could really rescue this whole effort, and -- and do something about it for -- statewide with all your areas?

EVAN PITKOFF: I'm on the work group, the State Department of Ed's work group for dyslexia, and right now we're working on plans on how to address this statewide. So I would -- I don't want to respond prior to that work group developing their position on it.

REP. KOKORUDA: Should I should say just stay -- stay tuned, and I'll be hearing some good news?

EVAN PITKOFF: Stay tuned. You should be hearing soon.

REP. KOKORUDA: All right. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions? If not, thank you very much for your testimony and your public service.

Superintendent Paul Freeman, to be followed by Bob Namnoum.

Bob Namnoum, if you're still here, you're up, to be followed by Senator Ed Gomes, who I do see here.

BOB NAMNOUM: Good afternoon, Representative Fleischmann, and Senator Slossberg, and Members of the Committee. I am Bob Namnoum. I am the CEA appointee to the Special Ed Working Group under the MORE Commission, and I've heard a lot of conversations, and a lot of questions posed to people who participated. So I will -- I know that you've read my testimony, and I'd like to say a few words regarding that.

First of all, the depth and breadth of what the Select Group did in terms of special ed was very impressive, as a member of the committee, as to how we addressed these issues. But the bill before you on 7016, CEA supports this bill, but we have some reservations. These are in no rank order.

During the time that we heard testimony by -- at the committee, it became very apparent to us that there is no real tracking in this state of where the federal aid comes for the Individuals with Disabilities Act, nor is there any tracking of the money that comes from Medicaid for the purposes of special education. So we believe that it is important that that part of the bill is absolutely adhered to.

In listening to parents, there was a major concern for transition services. Parents unilaterally said school districts were focused on the academic performance and achievement of their -- of their children, but there was no real look at transition services for afterwards. And so this bill addresses that, and we certainly hope that you are supportive of that language.

And while it seems that it's a minor issue about the IEP form, the Individualized Education Form, it became clear to us that there's a crying need in this state for a couple of things. First, there should be just one form. It seems like different school districts use different forms.

But more importantly, as the Speaker said this morning, the issue of establishing an internet, web-based, digital IEP form adheres to the problem that we keep hearing about, and that is this: Students who are special ed identified in one school district, if they come to another school district, there's lapse of up to two to three months when the sending school does not get the information to the receiving school, so with a universal form that's on the web, it's readily accessible, and things should go well for the student.

The last thing in this part on the form, and it is not minor, it is major, as a former classroom teacher, I'm aware that IEP forms always had room for dissent from the classroom teachers. They currently do not, and so if you create a form, it is our wish that you have a section there, and it was typically at the end, for teacher dissent.

Lastly, the Individual Education Advisory Council that you're forming, it is incumbent that you have minimally two teachers on this council, one a regular ed teacher, and the other a special ed teacher.

And lastly, on Section 12 of the bill, where it's rather unclear as to the intent here, because in that Part A, it appears to be that its current language relative to teachers and programs take up to -- take 36 hours in special ed, but you've overlaid that current language, and the only change is you've added a new date to it. And it's puzzling to us as to why.

The second part is Part B. It talks to taking up to a course or courses (I believe the language says) and so which is it? We understand what the intent is, but I think we have to reserve judgment on this section of the bill because it's unclear.

I thank you for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your time and testimony, and -- and for the work that you did to help the MORE Commission subcommittee come to such clear and helpful conclusions. Are there comments or questions from members of the committee? If not, thank you again.

BOB NAMNOUM: You're welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Ed Gomes, to be followed by Randy Collins from CAPSS.

Welcome back, Senator.

SENATOR GOMES: Good -- good afternoon, Senator Slossberg and Representative Fleischmann. I'm happy to be up here before you today. And we're here for Senate Bill 1095, and I'm here -- and I'm here in support of our expert, Dr. Monty Neill. He will be testifying on a proposal where we have to replace the SBAC test with a model that will assess student growth and development over time, so that teachers can help students. So at this time, I would like to give my time to Dr. Neill.

MONTY NEILL: Thank you very much, Senator Gomes. Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, Members of the Committee, thank you very much. I'm the executive director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, headquartered in Boston.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Could you please -- could you please repeat your full name (inaudible) record.

MONTY NEILL: Yeah. My name is Monty Neill. Our mission is to promote fair, open, and educational -- educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers, and schools. We also work to end the misuses, and overuses, and flaws of standardized testing. So thank you for inviting me to speak with you, because our view is that Connecticut should overhaul its testing policies. It should end reliance on the Smarter Balanced exams which only assess a limited slice of what students should know and be able to do for success as adults.

The tests remain mostly multiple choice and short answer. The performance tasks are too few, and not based on any specific curriculum, which inevitably will help some students while hurting others.

SBAC is not the assessment Connecticut needs to guide instruction, or to adequately report on student and school progress. Continued reliance on tests like SBAC will particularly harm the most vulnerable groups of students including African-Americans, Latinos, English Language Learners, low-income students, and students with disabilities. The plan also correctly bars statewide testing in K-2.

To the extent it can, Connecticut also should remove high stakes from standardized testing. Based on developments in other states, this now appears feasible despite No Child Left Behind. A multiple-indicators approach is both doable and preferable. The state also should pressure Congress and its senators and representatives to reduce mandated testing, and end test-based sanctions on schools and teachers.

The CEA proposal, which they have given to you, provides for a far superior assessment program. It combines progress monitoring tests with district school and classroom-based assessments of the rich range of learning our youth need. These include critical thinking skills, creativity, the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively, self direction in the pursuit of continued learning, and engagement in civic, community, and global issues. It also mandates that these new assessment system address achievement gaps that may exist in each of these areas.

There's no doubt that teachers can construct such assessments and ensure that they are reliable and valid. Teachers have done so with the highly-successful New York Performance Standards Consortium, which I discuss in my written testimony, as well as in the state of Nebraska prior to NCLB, and are now beginning to do in New Hampshire.

Importantly, the plan requires that the availability of resources be considered. Now as resources are largely a state responsibility, (inaudible) a school should not be held accountable for whether they have adequate resources, but certainly you should pay attention to how well they use the resources they have.

Parents, students, and teachers across the nation are currently rising in rebellion against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests. Meanwhile, expansive evidence shows that high-quality assessment is a necessary component of teaching and learning, and most certainly the public deserves to know how well our schools are doing.

Connecticut has the opportunity to curtail standardized testing, and promote alternative assessments that will serve students, schools, and the community well. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I appreciate that. And I'm just wondering, for purposes of clarification, you've given a sense of the type of assessment model that you think most appropriate. Do you -- do you represent a group that actually offers certain types of assessments, or do you rather identify certain ones that are already in use that you believe are -- are best for capturing the growth model you've described?

MONTY NEILL: We do not market, sell, produce, or explicitly endorse specific assessments. What we've identified are successful models. The New York Performance Standards Consortium, what Nebraska was doing for nearly a decade before NCLB rather wiped it out, something called the -- the Learning Record, which is a specific assessment, but is not offered by any commercial enterprise at this time, and was very commonly used in Bureau of Indian Affairs' schools until it, too, was wiped out by No Child Left Behind. So we identify different models and approaches to assessment that could be used.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Well your -- your comments raise a point that was really going to be part of my follow-up question which is we are, you know, pre-empted by federal law in the sense that we must provide certain annual assessments in certain years according to the version of ESEA known as No Child Left Behind.

Given that federal mandate that's out there, are there models that you've identified that would withstand the scrutiny of the, you know, US Department of Education as being in compliance with their requirements?

MONTY NEILL: I think what the Connecticut Education Association has offered would do that. First of all it would do the -- the standardized assessment, the short ones, in every grade. That provides a certain level of statewide data that would meet the first part of the requirement of the federal law.

The other parts are filled in by the local assessments that get at the richer thinking. There's an irony in the federal law which calls for assessing higher-order thinking skills, but the tests don't do it, and the Department has never bothered to actually insist it does it. Now there is PR that Smarter Balanced will do that. Our view is that having -- it -- it remains mostly multiple choice, and is not really going to do that.

I think when you put the two together, you can meet the current federal law. Our hope, and it's a possibility that Congress will actually move to only requiring standardized statewide tests in three grades: elementary, middle, and high. We don't know if that's going to happen yet; it's on the table in Congress. If it does that, we would encourage Connecticut to follow suit. If it does not do that, what the CEA proposes would, I think, meet the requirements.

Now, last point, New Hampshire just got a waiver, and it's starting on a pilot basis, but the goal statewide is they will use a state assessment in really just three grades: elementary, middle, and high, and fill in all the rest (excuse me) on performance assessments that are locally designed to meet the state standards. The pilot has been approved. Whether that will continue to end up being approved down the road remains to be seen. If it did not, spending a few hours a year on a limited test such as the CEA proposed, could well fill in the blank there.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Just a last question, and I know others have questions. So if you take that New -- I'm sorry, New Hampshire model that you referenced, or the CEA proposal that was put forward a few weeks ago, as I understand it, the reliance would be upon progress tests that are developed locally.

Part of the impetus of reform that's gone on at the federal and state levels has been to try and ensure that a child in a school district at one end of the state is getting an education equal to a child at the other end of the state. What -- what is New Hampshire doing? What could Connecticut do to ensure that comparability if we were to move to the model that you're describing?

MONTY NEILL: Well one set of the progress tests, the ones that would be administered in essence statewide, the progress monitoring, and that would provide that statewide comparable data.

The second piece is that the local assessments of creativity, ability to cooperate, critical thinking, and so on, would be done according to a set of standards that a commission would establish. I want to give you just for a moment, if I may, what they did in the state of Nebraska that I mentioned prior to NCLB.

Under then Commissioner Christiansen, they decided to develop a statewide system of local assessments. These were all designed at the local level, but they had to meet a set of state criteria for meeting the content standards for validity and reliability, for being unbiased, and a set of others. Districts developed them.

They were then evaluated independently by the Buros Institute for Mental Measurements at the University of Nebraska, a long-standing measurement shop. Districts that did not do it right had another year to do it, and if they still didn't do it right, they'd have to adapt something that had been approved in another district.

I was out there a number of times looking at it, and what impressed me enormously was the -- the great speed with which the teachers moved from basically doing things like multiple choice and matching tests, with high reliability, to actually using ongoing student work: projects, tasks, report, papers, and so on, and found ways to evaluate those reliably.

Now the state had testing -- standardized testing in grades 4, 8 and 11, that provided statewide comparable data that was basically a mix of the Norm-referenced test and Writing to a Prompt. So there are ways of checking up on the system to ensure the comparability, while enabling the districts to dig really deeply, and to link the assessment to the actual curriculum that students do, and therefore support their engagement and their interests, as well as ensure that they have obtained the knowledge in schools they need to get.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. You -- your description raises one last followup. So what you've described sounds like it would match the goals of the US Department of Education currently. So if that's the case, why is that Nebraska system no longer permissible?

MONTY NEILL: What I was told, and I'm repeating something that was said publicly by the commission -- the then Commissioner Christiansen. Originally two states were looking to design a system like Nebraska: Maine and Nebraska. Senator Collins from Maine asked then -- then Secretary Paige if that was going to be permissible, and he said yes. Maine, in the end, didn't go that route. Nebraska did.

Paige went out there a number of times, met with them and looked at it. At one point he said this really is the kind of system that states should build for No Child Left Behind. It appeared he was on the verge of giving approval, but then he resigned.

Secretary Spellings, quite frankly, had a very different perspective. She would brook nothing other than a single statewide test. And they went to the mat. I mean she kept asking for materials they had already sent, just running them around in rings. That then dovetailed with a political debate in Nebraska, the impossibility of seemingly moving ahead with federal approval, and it basically killed it.

And what Doug Christiansen told me was a few years ago they started the conversation in Nebraska: We have a problem; we're not assessing the things we need to assess.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Very helpful testimony.

MONTY NEILL: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Dr. Neill. I really appreciate you being here, and thank you, Senator Gomes. Welcome back. It's -- I appreciate you bringing up this expert to discuss this very important topic with us.

You know, I -- I have a lot of questions, and I'm sure other people do, so very quickly, can you just -- the -- the proposal that you have, can you compare that to SBAC, in particular as it relates to students in high academic need?

MONTY NEILL: Well, one of the things we've noticed around the country is with any of the standardized tests, you know, it's kind of like, you know, one size fits few. If you're wearing shoes, and everybody has to wear a size 8, some people are in trouble. And that's kind of what happens with standardized tests. They -- they sort of override everybody's particular interests, capabilities, cultures, whether it be individual or group, and try to standardize everything, and it just simply tends not to fit very well with a lot of kids.

And kids who are at the margins, who aren't doing well in school, who come from backgrounds where they often have frankly not the best of relationships with their schools. Their parents might not have done well; that carries over. Those sort of issues make it harder to build a school around the things that engage students, while simultaneously ensuring the proper academic outcomes, when all the pressure is on to raise the stakes on a standardized test.

Now Smarter Balanced is another standardized test. It does have some performance tasks. The ones I've looked at, some look good, some don't look so good, and none of them necessarily fit anybody's particular curriculum. And there's only a couple of them. The rest use short answer and multiple choice essentially.

Now the New York Performance Standards Consortium, if I can take a minute to describe it. They were approved more than a decade ago, well before No Child Left Behind, as a small group of public schools -- public high schools, most in New York City. They graduate their students -- they have to take one of the five Regents exam, the English language arts exam -- otherwise they graduate students by extended performance tasks, one in language arts, one in math, one in science, one in history. The students pick their own tasks. It usually goes out of classroom work, but it has to meet the teacher's approval of being something that would be worth of demonstrating your capacities, that you deserve a diploma.

When it is done, it is defended before a committee that always includes at least one outside expert, often from a -- a university: Columbia, Rockefeller, CUNY. When approved, then the student's done. Now the question becomes well how well do these students do? So they did a detailed study, two years back, of 28 New York City schools. They're up to 40-some now. They've been -- the Regents liked what they did, so they gave them the right to expand.

On the Consortium, their student body nearly mirrors demographically New York City as a whole. The average kid comes in with lower test scores than the New York City average. Their graduation rate is higher than the city average; it's about double the city average for students with disabilities and English Language Learners. It is higher for African Americans and Latinos. Of that higher percentage of graduates, they send a significantly higher percentage on to college. Very good.

What's particular fascinating is that the percentage of students still in college in semesters three and beyond exceeds the national average, which includes all the suburban kids, all the wealthy kids, the middle-class kids, and so on. In short, in the real world, they do real well.

Now on standardized tests, their scores go up some. They tend to pass the language arts exam, but they've been able to construct an assessment system that gets the kids to collaborate, to display creativity, to certainly demonstrate critical thinking, persistence because they got to work at it, and if it's not right the first time, they have to go back and do it again. Not everybody graduates the first time around.

So that's the kind -- now this is designed entirely by the teachers. And it shows to me that teachers can do this, much as Nebraska showed they can do it. And in time, fairly quickly, they get significantly better. So if districts in Connecticut had that capacity, they would be charged with building the assessments, and they could collaborate and learn from each other, which might be a very smart move. That would complement those -- those rather limited, basically multiple choice performance assessments that also track progress.

So when you do this, and you're -- the students are doing this kind of work, you can see their progress in every subject area, their capacity to move from shorter papers to longer papers, to do a more rich investigation in history, et cetera.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So does this system allow you, though, to then make comparison between schools and between school districts as to how students are doing?

MONTY NEILL: Well what they do with the New York Consortium, the schools in it score the students by a common scoring guide, or rubric, so all the students are judged by the same guide. What they do every year is sample from the student-completed tasks and re-score them blind and independently, and provide that as feedback. So the goal is to keep everybody within a reasonable ballpark. Can you do that statewide? Yes. For example, the -- the CEA bill says the standards and the scoring guides would be state centralized.

So then the question would be how do you set up a way of sampling to make sure that you've got some consistency. They never did that in Nebraska; frankly I think they should have. And again you also have the -- the progress monitoring assessments that provide another check on the system.

There's another component that Connecticut could think about, and perhaps use on a more limited basis, particularly where the evidence suggests a school might do -- not be doing so well, and that's the School Quality Review Teams. They are historically -- the -- Her Majesty's Inspector in England, dating from the middle of the 19th century; Holland uses them; New Zealand uses them. Rhode Island was using them. These things are subject to political vagaries. A new superintendent came in and she kind of killed what was going on, although the evidence was that they were providing good feedback and rich information for schools that needed to get better.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And I just have one -- one last question for you, you know. I'm interested in learning more about this, but I think one of the big issues is -- is, you know, that we were talking about today and otherwise in terms of tests become, you know, these very high-pressure tests.

It sounds like, you know, with progress monitoring, and some other, you know, locally-developed tests, or state -- statewide develop tests, how do you prevent that from still turning into a high-pressure, high-stakes test for the -- for our students?

MONTY NEILL: Well I think there's a couple of things that help. I mean, first off, you know, Connecticut has an NCLB waiver, so that removes a good deal of the pressure on most of the district, but still there's the issue of identifying districts that are not doing well. I think with multiple sources of evidence rather than a simple ranking based on test scores, you can actually find out which districts or schools most need help, and provide that assistance. And -- and that would then become help rather than the sort of punitive feel to No Child Left Behind.

I think the other complicated -- and so I think, in other words, there's a way out of the pressure on the schools. What is more problematic is what do you do about teachers? And I think the rebellion frankly in many states against the way the waivers are requiring the evaluation of teachers, and the steady back-tracking of the US Department of Education suggests that this is going to go away as a problem fairly soon, and we're going to have a rational approach to taking a good evaluation process of teachers that is not instantly high stakes, and not rooted in the kind of tests that frankly don't tell us much.

With statistics -- I mean, the US Statistical Association said don't do this. The measurement profession says this is a bad idea. So I think we ought to pay attention to those experts and say let's move away from that, and I think the -- increasingly the feds are simply backing off. They know it's not workable.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. Thank you very much. You have very helpful answers, and we appreciate you being here today.

MONTY NEILL: Thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SENATOR GOMES: And I just want to thank you for letting me be a part of bringing Dr. Neill before you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you.

MONTY NEILL: Thank you, but I -- there's still another question for Dr. Neill, and Senator, you can remain up there, or move along as you see --

A VOICE: (Inaudible).

SENATOR GOMES: I enjoy the view.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Bartolomeo.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both of you for being here.

Dr. Neill, it seems as though every few months I hear different statistics about the Smarter Balanced tests or other similar tests being utilized for Common Core throughout the nation, and I wonder, can you give us a feel right now for what's happening in other states as far as choosing to do these Common Core standardized test assessments, those that choose, and then change, and pull out, and those that are using the performance standards? Do you have a feel for nationally what that looks like?

MONTY NEILL: Well in terms of the Common Core standards, those seem to be sticking. Some states are literally renaming them and tinkering with them a little bit. There seems to be very few states that didn't adopt them or simply want to ditch them. There -- there may be some more that ditch them, depending on the politics and Legislatures around the country this year.

The tests are another story. Essentially more than half the states in PARCC dropped out, and almost half the states in Smarter Balanced have dropped out. They just simply don't want to do them. Now all the states are required to have statewide assessments, and if you have a waiver, those are supposed to do, you know, college and career readiness. And so what we're seeing is that -- so ACT has developed a test that a few states are using. Other states are developing their own at this point. And some of them are actually taking pieces of Smarter Balanced and PARCC.

So the interesting example is that -- that sort of run a little counter are New Hampshire. Now New Hampshire is using -- and I don't -- I think it's Smarter Balanced, but they really only want to use it in three grades. And, like I said, they have a waiver to do that in the pilots at this point. And they're saying using that in three grades would be an acceptable use of a standardized test, but we think we can do much deeper and richer.

So the question is some states are already interested in that. What I've been hearing is a lot of states are waiting to see what will happen with New Hampshire. Vermont has asked; they essentially got told no earlier. But they -- they want to jump immediately to just three grades. They were told no, you won't get a waiver, so they didn't even ask for a waiver. But now that this has happened, they're likely to get back in the mix.

California is increasingly looking at alternatives. They designed a whole community-based accountability system of which testing is one small part, and they're now beginning to address what to do with the testing. Now they're committed right now to Smarter Balanced, but there's been a history in California, and a push of looking at other kinds of classroom-imbedded assessments. Will that be back on the agenda? I suspect so.

So there are -- and again, New York, which is -- currently has its own test, and may go to PARCC, but they have allowed the New York Consortium to expand from 28 to about 48 high schools in one year. And the Consortium, they don't want to go any faster than that, because they want to make sure they get it right. But you could have other consortia forming and developing these things.

I think the field is getting wide open now, and one of the interesting things with Smarter Balanced and PARCC is that the debates over them have really raised questions about what does it mean to assess well, and so I refer you to the Gordon Commission. Edmund Gordon was a Yale very prominent psychologist, and he founded a commission to look at the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests, and that commission, full of national luminaries in measurement and education, said yeah, they're a little bit better, but not much, and they're really not what we need if we want to have in-depth assessments of our students.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Thank you. And Mr. Chair, if I could ask a final question, through you? Can -- do you have the ability to -- to assess whether or not CEA's proposal for testing in the state would -- the financial aspect, would there be a cost to that? Would there be a savings to that? How does that play out?

MONTY NEILL: It's one of those savings and not savings. The savings would be that the -- the progress monitoring tests are a lot cheaper, about a third of the cost of what Smarter Balanced would cost. So a bunch of money would be saved there. The design of the local assessments would have to become part of teachers' ongoing work, so that's not free, but then neither is all the time they spend on testing and test prep, which in Colorado on a survey said up to 30 percent of teachers' time is now spent on testing and test prep, except that's not learning time.

When you get involved in these deeper assessments that are project oriented, you have a lot more serious learning going on that you really don't get with the test prep approach. Now how do you account for that? Nebraska built its system with essentially no money. They didn't have the money to give the districts to design these, so they made it part of what teachers did as part of their work. Yeah. That means districts have got to figure out how to do it, and not all of them will be necessarily happy, but in the long run, they'll end up with much better assessments.

Assessments should be an ongoing part of what teachers do, and in fact it is because they do assessing all the time in the classroom. This is an additional piece in collaboration across classrooms. So there's a cost there. There might be some professional development time, you know, some subs needed at times, and so on. I don't -- I don't have a cost estimate for you, but I suspect it's ballpark and could readily be done.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Actually I'm sorry. I don't -- I don't know if I was clear. I actually meant in comparison to the plan to use the Smarter Balanced tests.

MONTY NEILL: You know, I would say that the -- the immediate direct costs of buying the assessments would be about a third, but the development costs would -- would be a question of teacher time, but there's a good serious teacher time in the Smarter Balanced as well. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions for the witnesses? If not, thank you both for your time and your patience.

MONTY NEILL: Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And Dr. Neill I have to tell you you're the most optimistic person about flexibility and progress coming from Washington DC that I've heard in about ten years. I appreciate your optimism.

MONTY NEILL: Fingers crossed.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: That's right. I'm not sure I share it, but I appreciate it.

We -- was there anyone else in the room who wished to offer commentary on House Bill 7016, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION SPECIAL ED SELECT WORKING GROUP? Just the MORE Commission.

Ah, Representative Wood, you will be the last to speak.

Actually was there someone from the public? I think we -- we have to have folks from the public first, because we just had a senator, so -- and just to be clear, this is on Senate Bill -- I'm sorry, House Bill 7016, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION.

SHELLY DAVIS: Good afternoon -- good afternoon --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good afternoon.

SHELLY DAVIS: -- Senator Slossberger, Representative Fleischmann, and Members of the -- did I say it wrong?

A VOICE: (Inaudible).

SHELLY DAVIS: And Members of the Education Committee. My name is Shelly Davis. I have been a paraprofessional in the Hartford Public Schools for more than 23 years, and I'm also the AFT Connecticut jurisdictional vice president for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, PSRP.

I have the pleasure of speaking and working with paraprofessionals in many districts in and out of the state. On behalf of all these dedicated, hard-working professionals and the important work they do, I was appointed to the MORE Commission Special Education Select Working Group.

I am here to testify on House Bill 7016, A BILL IMPLEMENTING THE WORKING GROUP'S RECOMMENDATIONS. While all -- all the recommendations are worthy of support, I'd like to call your attention to Section 13. It permits the parent of a special education student to include the student's paraprofessional in Planning and Placement Team (PPT meetings) to develop the student's individualized education plan (the IEP). This is a significant change from current practice. Now paraprofessionals are mostly excluded from these meetings, and some have not even seen their student's IEPs.

Including paraprofessionals in PPT meetings can only help special education students. In the school setting, paraprofessionals often spend the most time with the -- the special education students. As a result, they know these students best, and often have important information and feedback to contribute to the PPT. This collaboration can greatly improve the quality of the IEP and overall student outcomes.

Paraprofessionals -- I'll wrap up -- paraprofessionals are responsible for implementing many of the provisions of the IEP under the supervision of a certified special education teacher. Excluding paraprofessionals from PPT meetings only creates silos and dilutes effectiveness. In order to better serve special education students, paraprofessionals need to be included and treated like the collaborative partners they are.

I urge you to act favorably on House Bill 7016 in its entirety, and offer particular support to Section 13. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that testimony, and for the work that you did with the MORE Commission, which obviously led to some thoughtful recommendations that we appreciate it.

SHELLY DAVIS: Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the committee?

Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony and for all of your dedication and commitment to our -- our task force, and -- and the vision of what we're trying to do.

Could you just walk me through why you feel that that section is so very important? Do you find that you all have problems now being a part of the PPT process?

SHELLY DAVIS: We are -- we definitely do have problems, because they either don't want to pull us out, or there have been other reasons why they don't feel that paraprofessionals need to be there. In a lot of cases, they'll take the work that paras have documented, you know, while they deal with the student every day, and they will try to take it in and explain it, but unless you did it, you really can't explain the process with the student.

So we're losing a valuable piece for the student, and it's affecting the process. And with the parents being there, there are certain things that they know that nobody else picks up on.

REP. COOK: And then one last question: Do you find that you, for all of the students that you are dealing with, the paraprofessionals and all of the students in their situations, do you find that you all are well trained for that? Or do you feel like that you should be better trained for the students of which you are being paired up with?

SHELLY DAVIS: Funny you should ask that. That's another battle that I've been dealing with. Paraprofessionals need more training and now when they have the new hires that are coming in, especially for our ADA programs, and our special education fields, they have no training. So they're set up to come into a program without knowing anything, and that's from dealing with autistic kids or whatever, so there should be more training, and that's something that needs to be addressed, and that way it will be a better effect for the students.

REP. COOK: And so in wrapping up, we heard extensive testimony the other day in this committee, hours of testimony actually from the dyslexic population that they did not have adequate supports in certain districts, and they were -- they were being paired up with somebody that didn't really understand the complexity of what their diagnosis was. So you're -- you're saying that you find that where you are, and that actually we could possibly be doing a hindrance to those kids if we're not giving them the services and the adequate educational support mechanisms that they need?

SHELLY DAVIS: That's correct. That's correct. It's detrimental if they do not have the adequate support, and after the training it needs to be still supported. And so the students aren't getting the support they need, and the paraprofessionals aren't getting the support or the training to do the work that they're trying hard to do.

REP. COOK: Thank you. Thank you very much --

SHELLY DAVIS: You're welcome.

REP. COOK: -- for again your time, dedication, and your work. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Bartolomeo.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

What grade or area of specialty do you work in?

SHELLY DAVIS: I'm sixth to the eighth grade.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Six to eight?

SHELLY DAVIS: Six to eight.

SENATOR BARTOLOMEO: Okay. Well I just wanted to say quickly that I wholeheartedly support what you're saying. My oldest son had special ed services and was on an IEP from preschool right through graduation from high school, and when I would sit in an IEP, if I didn't have the people there that were actually working with him to be able to speak to and answer my questions, it would infuriate me. And I understand the challenges that the administration has in coverage and all of that, but the paraprofessional, as much as the parent, deserves to be at that PPT in order to fully implement the IEP in the way it was intended. So I appreciate your being here today and I wholeheartedly support what you're saying.

SHELLY DAVIS: Thank you. Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Other questions for the witness? If not, thank you again.

I believe Representative Terrie Wood who is one of the co-chairs of this MORE Commission subcommittee is up, followed by a gentleman to the right side of the audience who also wanted to testify on the MORE Commission bill.

The floor is yours, Representative.

REP. WOOD: Thank you very much, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, Representative Lavielle, Senator Boucher, and a special shout out to co-chair Michelle Cook, Representative Cook -- sorry.

Thank you for allowing me to testify on behalf of House Bill 7016, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION SPECIAL EDUCATION SELECT WORKING GROUP. And I've just got a few notes; I'm not going to read everything, and I will be submitting testimony.

I also wanted to recognize one of our committee members, Bob -- Robert Namnoum from CEA who was a wonderful participant in our committee working, and we had 24 committee members. We met 19 times over 12 months. We learned so much. It was -- on a personal note, it was my favorite thing I've worked on so far here. It -- we were all engaged. Everyone brought a wonderful voice to the table, totally bipartisan. We didn't talk politics at all. It was all about the kids, and overall what we heard -- I mean I'm not going to go through these recommendations. I'm in strong support of all of them. Language and literacy is not delivered well in our state. I think we all know that. And having had a child -- two kids actually in special ed, it's not done well. It just -- we simply need to do a better job. And the kids who are really paying price are the urban areas.

Fran Rabinowitz, the interim superintendent for Bridgeport public schools, she riveted all of us in her public testimony in Norwalk, and that -- sorry, a sidebar. We had five in-district meetings in the evening: Southington, Torrington, West Hartford, Norwalk -- thank you, how could I forget Hamden.

A VOICE: The center of the universe.

REP. WOOD: Right. And we heard from people actually in the trenches, and their experience really informed, I think, the recommendations we came forward with. Language and literacy skills are the most critical, and that was the low-hanging fruit we really would like to see addressed.

Back to Superintendent Rabinowitz from Bridgeport, she said often it's not only special education kids, but their language and literacy programs are not strong enough that kids, when they're not reading adequately or writing adequately in the second or third grade, they end up going into special ed. So that's sort of a related -- I -- it makes me wince, too. It just is a pain beyond words. It shouldn't be; it absolutely shouldn't be.

Social-emotional learning, which is not in this document, but that's another piece that's really a crucial education piece. Do I get more than three minutes?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We -- we have had the bell going off for everyone. If you wanted to sort of summarize the -- but keep things that you want to say.

REP. WOOD: I will. Basically I would love to continue the conversation. We will be continuing with our commission. We learned a tremendous amount. Social-emotional learning -- you can't teach a kid if they're not ready to learn, that even though that's not special education, it's an important educational component, so that's why I mention it to you all.

The funding -- I'm not -- you saw the recommendations. I do support certainly what Shelly Davis had mentioned on -- the paras should. If the parent wants the para -- para there, they should be there, pure and simple. So any questions?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you very much.

REP. WOOD: Four minutes. Do I have to pay a fine?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Not in this life. Thank you. Thank you very much for your -- your testimony, and for all of your -- and for all of your dedication and hard work. You know, many folks are aware that the MORE Commission has subcommittees that have been out there working. Not until your testimony did I realize just how many hours you and all those who signed up for your subcommittee put in.

REP. WOOD: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And it explains the clarity, and precision, and depth of the recommendations that you brought forward, so thank you so much for your public service, not just in general, but on -- on that committee.

REP. WOOD: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions for the representative who's before us?

Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Representative Woods for your very spirited, you know --

REP. WOOD: Passion.

SENATOR BOUCHER: -- passion, exactly, for the work on that committee on a topic that is --

REP. WOOD: Yeah.

SENATOR BOUCHER: -- very, very important and affects every one of our school districts, not to mention the parents and the students as well, so it was good to get that kind of feedback. And also about the good working relationships that you're having on that committee. That probably speaks to the success or outcome that you'll have, so thank you very much for attending today.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions for the witness?

Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Good afternoon, Representative Wood. It's very good to see you, and thank you very, very much for your work, all of it. I know how hard it was. I have one question besides how are you, which is -- and I -- I did ask this earlier, but I would love to have your perspective.

Many of my constituents have spoken to me over time about how difficult it is for them sometimes to figure out whether their advocates are actually helping them through the process and making it easier, or whether they're actually pushing them too far into the process and making it too complicated and spending more time.

They're having difficulty assessing this, and I wondered if you felt that some of the measures that were taken in here would kind of take that pressure off, and help people understand the process and -- because I had the impression it would, but I don't know if I'm right.

REP. WOOD: I'm not sure what you mean by advocates.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Well --

REP. WOOD: Legal advocates, or -- ?

SENATOR BOUCHER: That was -- that was actually one of the questions, because sometimes there are legal advocates; sometimes there are people who just have experience, and consult; some of them are very good. Like in any profession, some of them are very good; others are not. People don't feel they have a standard for knowing that. They have to really judge for themselves. There's no, you know, qualification or anything. And some concerns were expressed to me about, you know, whether people's time was being abused by certain people, whether the process was being, you know, whether they were being sent to too many meetings, and so on. And I -- I think part of it is because folks with -- with kids who need special ed services don't always understand the process, and it's not that accessible.

REP. WOOD: No, and I think that -- that's a great question and to the point in re-doing the IEP is to let people know of the parent advocacy group. There's one called CPEC, Connecticut Parent Education Council, that is funded by the Federal Government, and it shows people what they can expect, what they should expect, how to go about the process. But from many of our personal experience, when you have a child who's having a learning disability -- experience a learning situation in school, you reach out to other parents, and the other parents are usually fully knowledgeable. I've never met an advocate that didn't really know their stuff. And the ones who may not know their stuff don't get a reputation, and they -- you don't hear about them.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Uh-huh.

REP. WOOD: But both from the attorneys, the special ed attorneys and the advocates, when people do work with them, I think they find them very helpful. They cut the time in half because they know effectively what the law is, and they know how to advise the families what the law is, and what they're entitled to. I mean most people, we didn't know. You just don't know.

It -- it -- you -- you fall into an abyss of -- of frustration, of obfuscation, of -- and it's wrong. I mean we are there to educate our -- our children, and it doesn't happen as effectively as it should when a child has a learning disability, across all districts. High-performing districts, urban districts, they all pay a price, and it's simply not right. We should and can be doing a much better job.

SENATOR BOUCHER: I think that answered the question on the advocate. Well your work will be very helpful in that regard, I'm sure, and thank you so very much. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions?

Representative McCarthy Vahey.

REP. MCCARTHY VAHEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Representative Wood for your work. My question is this: Is your work complete, or will you continue to meet with the group?

REP. WOOD: We are definitely not complete. We will continue meeting. We've got more to do, and I think we all feel very passionate about continuing and working together.

REP. MCCARTHY VAHEY: Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, and I'd like to just remind members of the committee that there are questions that can be asked off-mic as well as on-mic. Thank you, Representative Wood, for your good work. We -- I believe that there was one other individual who indicated that he wants to testify on House Bill 7016, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION.

A VOICE: No.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: No, we're just on 7016 right now. Thank you for the clarification. So we go to Mr. Orlando Rodriguez, if he's still here, and then we'll be going to Senate Bill 1099 and Randy Collins.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Good afternoon, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, and Distinguished Members of the Education Committee. My name is Orlando Rodriguez, and I'm an associate legislative analyst with the Latino Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.

With direction from its board, LPRAC supports Senate Bill 1098, and supports Senate Bill 1096, but opposes Senate Bill 1102. I'm going to jump around a little bit in the interest of time.

Regarding bilingual education teachers, we support efforts to increase the number of bilingual education teachers by increasing certification reciprocity with other states and Puerto Rico.

Furthermore, the proper use of certification is to place qualified teachers in the classroom, and not to create excessive barriers for otherwise qualified candidates. It may be sufficient for Connecticut's bilingual certification requirements to be comparable with other states that are having greater success than Connecticut, which is most states, in ELL education outcomes.

LPRAC opposes Senate Bill 1102 because it reallocates unexpended bilingual education funds to the recruitment and training of bilingual educators. It is preferable to redistribute unexpended funds to districts with bilingual education programs. The recruitment and training of bilingual education teachers should be funded separately from bilingual education programs targeted at students. Furthermore, Senate Bill 1098 has much of the same certification language that's in 1102.

Regarding charter schools, LPRAC wants to be clear: We are neither pro-charter nor anti-charter. We are pro-accountability. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a pro-charter organization, has developed a model state law to evaluate charter schools nationwide on a variety of measures.

In January 2015, Connecticut charter schools received the 35th lowest ranking out of 43 states. In comparison, New York ranked seventh. Among the findings, Connecticut's charter school law contains insufficient accountability.

Separately, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which is also a pro-charter organization, compared state charter schools based on eight state policies that can facilitate the development of successful charter schools, and enhance accountability of -- for schools. Among 21 comparable states in 2014, Connecticut ranked lowest on a composite measure of these policies. I'm almost done.

Furthermore, the study reported Connecticut lacks all of NACSA's recommended policy provisions for charter school and authorizer accountability. LPRAC believes there's a need for greater charter accountability from charter schools in Connecticut, and supports S.B. 1096, and asks for more specifics on measures of accountability in the final version of this bill.

LPRAC is grateful for the committee for its ongoing focus on the needs of Latino children in Connecticut, and thank you for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your time, and your thoughtful, well-informed testimony.

Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Orlando, so much for being here. I wanted to ask you about your opposition to Senate Bill 1102 with regard to the reallocation of unexpended bilingual ed funds. And I understand your opposition, but I'm wondering if you are aware of why districts have those funds unexpended? Why do they not use them?

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: That's a good question and -- and we have asked the Department of Education, because if you look at the statute, they -- there should not be any unexpended funds. We're waiting on a reply.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. Thank you.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: But our concern is that if you co-mingle funds like this, you -- you create -- it -- it can get touchy going forward. So we'd just rather keep the monies aside. And if you can help us get an answer from the State Department of Education, we'd appreciate it.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: All right, well I mean I do know, because I actually asked the question of them, and I did get the information back as to which districts were sending money back where they had, you know, those lapses. But not the question is to why -- to why were they unexpended. So that's -- I'm -- you know, all right, well that's a good place to follow up for all of us then. Thank you very much. That was my only question, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Other questions? If not, thank you very much.

ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Randy Collins, you're up next.

RANDY COLLINS: Good afternoon. First of all, I'd like to --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Please -- please go ahead and press the button to make sure your mic is on.

RANDY COLLINS: Good afternoon. First of all, I'd like to express Superintendent Freeman's apologies. He had to leave, but he did submit written testimony supporting Bill 1099. And secondly, I'm slated to schedule -- I'm slated to testify on two bills. Do you want me to try to get them in the three minutes?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Sure.

RANDY COLLINS: The first bill that CAPSS is supporting is supporting is Senate Bill 1099, it's the CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONNECTICUT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM. Over the last few years, many new features have been added to the Connecticut system, but they have not been grounded in a vision -- an overall vision for Connecticut schools which creates a -- a lack of coherence and leads to frustration and confusion, which leads to resistance to the changes. So CAPSS has issued a report many -- several years ago called NextED, and also a recent white paper that centered on student-centered and personalized learning which addresses this.

However, CAPSS does not -- does not have standing to develop a vision for the state of education, the Legislature does. So we strongly support this bill and look forward to working with you. I'm glad to see this. There are four superintendents recommended from different types of school systems, and we are anxious to work on this with the other caretakers of public education in Connecticut.

The second bill is 7019, which is the MBR bill. I was here when the speaker spoke this morning. I have enormous respect for him. However, I have a slight disagreement with him. We do not support this bill. Even though I listened to the statistics he mentioned, the correlation between declining enrollment and increasing budgets, there's not a pure correlation there as the -- as the Chair pointed out to -- to -- during that testimony.

We understand clearly that with declining enrollment and the issue in MBR, that there's got to be a discussion here, and we're anxious to enter into that discussion, and to work with the Speaker's office, or anyone else regarding what is a good resolution for that.

However, one last thing, and then I'll finish on that and take questions if there are questions. The public school system -- systems in Connecticut are about ready to get hit with a very large Cadillac tax from the Affordable Care Act, and it's enormous for some systems. And you -- so you have to look at what expenses are coming in to school systems, not just what history, in terms of the -- the correlation, which isn't pure correlation.

Having said that, I'll be glad to answer any questions.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony, and for bringing to light something that I'm sure many people hadn't considered.

Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you so much for your testimony. You've hit on a -- an important issue for so, so many of our towns, particularly those that really are undergoing a very dramatic reduction in enrollment. And they are, as the Speaker very -- very accurately portrayed what is going on and the dynamics of many of our districts. And we are, as you well know, still the two Connecticuts, because in fact in many of our urban centers, enrollment is actually going up. It's even a more challenging enrollment with a lot of -- of barriers to education, so that -- and it was put in place, essentially, to protect those students and those budgets because so much -- so many were under, you know, funding, and in fact we need that standard for those particular places. But in so many others, in fact, the Speaker really was speaking on behalf in a very accurate way.

You said that you were willing to work together. You have some ideas on that front. Do -- can you share at least one of those ideas that would significantly help the situation since you're willing to -- to compromise and -- and look at some solutions here.

RANDY COLLINS: Well I'll be glad to share a thought. I'm not sure it's an idea per se, but we understand that with declining enrollment -- student -- student declining enrollment, that in fact there was -- there's a -- there's an assumption that costs decline, too. It depends on where the declining enrollment occurs. If, in fact, you lost 30 first graders, then you would have significant cost savings. But if you lost 30 kids across 12 grades, you would not.

So what we would suggest is that we look at a way to -- to pin the savings that are realized to the reduction in MBR, not -- not an arbitrary $3000 or $6000, or half of the net pupil cost. I think there's a way of calculating what the real savings is when declining enrollment goes down, and -- and pin it to that.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you very much for your answer. Would a percentage rather than a per pupil cost be more helpful, in your view?

RANDY COLLINS: I -- I know, and I'm speaking now just off the cuff, I don't think any fixed figure, be it $3000 or a fixed percentage is the answer. I think it has to be calculated based -- based on what the savings are for the system, agreed upon with the town and officials if you will, so that you could lower the MBR by that amount of savings, or that you split the savings, and -- and keep some in education, and some savings to the taxpayers.

So I -- I don't see how arbitrary, either percentage or dollar amounts, are any better.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Well thank you for that. It sounds like you're advocating for a little more flexibility so that those town boards can work more -- collaborate together to come up with something that would work for their -- their system.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Just to ask a follow-up question, and if this is something that you can't answer at the moment, but you want to go back to your colleagues at CAPSS and return to us, that's fine, too.

It's clear to me what you're against in the MBR bill that's before us. I'm not 100 percent clear on what alternate approach you advocate. It sounds like something that is more nuanced, but I'm not quite able to make out what it is. So if -- if you wanted to -- to either let us know now, or to circle back to us since you know where to reach us, I'd be very interested to hear what kind of a -- a moving standard you would support that would account for, you know, variations among districts.

RANDY COLLINS: I -- I would -- I would welcome the opportunity to get back to you, because I would like to talk to Joe and some other people at CAPSS on that.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, we'll look forward to the fruits of those discussions. Any other questions for the witness?

Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you. Just to -- one of my frustrations up here, since I've been up here has been sometimes the disconnect between associations and their members. And certainly in the case of your organization, I do feel that way. And I know for myself, when I meet with, and I'm not talking just my superintendent; I'm talking about area superintendents, maybe in the southeastern portion, they are certainly not saying everything you're saying. So I do welcome a continued conversation.

I mean I know -- what I worry about is we -- we also have to bring in, because we're hearing from our towns, one more issue: Ability to pay. And in some of these small towns, what we're seeing is the -- the grand list might be there, but we're talking seniors on fixed incomes. And I am concerned about that group of people in our state, so I think that's what a lot of superintendents are hearing also when they're trying to get budgets passed.

So I do think we do need to work together, and I do urge CAPSS to continue to, you know, reach out to all the superintendents. I'm sure you do, and I don't mean to say you don't, but I certainly do hear two stories, and it's -- it's a little frustrating when -- when you're up here, but thank you very much.

RANDY COLLINS: May I respond?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Briefly, please.

RANDY COLLINS: CAPSS -- I actually was the superintendent of southeastern Connecticut for 20 years in Waterford, so I know southeastern Connecticut fairly well. CAPSS has a process it goes through in terms of getting to legislative priorities. We have a legislative committee; we have a board of directors; we get out to the members and all the regional groups to discuss it. However, at the end of the day, whatever the priorities are, are not satisfactory to every superintendent in the state of Connecticut.

We continue to work with them. For example, there was testimony submitted I think on this bill, 1099, from 12 superintendents, some of them in southeastern Connecticut, which we agree with in terms of -- of what they're asking.

So I think the issue is sometimes things crop up during the session that you're unable to run through the whole process, so you have to rely on previous positions, or -- or what you have as positions, but I hear what you're saying.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time.

RANDY COLLINS: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: It has been brought to my attention that there is still a student in the audience who wanted to testify, who is here with her mom. So if that student and her mom would approach, we'll -- we'll get them in.

The Education Committee has a policy of always trying to make sure students get their chance to speak, and get a chance to go home and do their homework, and get -- get a night's rest, that others in the room might be foregoing today.

Welcome.

JOANNE WILCOX: Thank you for that.

RILLEY WILCOX: To the Chairpersons and Members of the Education Committee, I submit this testimony on behalf of the families and children who find themselves in alternative schools, in support of Raised Bill 7018.

My name is Rilley Wilcox. I am 12 years old and my brother goes to an alternative school in New Haven. This issue impacts me because of the warnings they are giving to my (inaudible). I am late for school almost every day. If kids are given an environment that they love, I think that that will help to get kids -- to get kids to school in the first place.

Students should be involved in their learning and they should enjoy it. I think that there should be fun things the students could suggest, maybe a club or a soccer team, and definitely a student senate, things that make the students feel heard.

Even though kids make mistakes, they deserve a second chance. This bill supports that.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That was beautifully written and -- and delivered. Mrs. Wilcox, did you have anything that you wanted to add?

JOANNE WILCOX: I have written testimony submitted. I do bring a message in that from Mr. Conaway who is the teacher at New Light High School, which is the son -- where my son is attending, and it's a much smaller program than the kids that you heard from at New Horizons. There are, I believe, 38 kids at -- at New Light this year, and they're working on part-time staff shared with another program. So those schools are each losing out on that, that they're not getting, you know, full connection to their -- their population. And I agree with Mr. Conaway that that's an important need that needs to be met, that they get full services.

I also wanted to address the fact that their place is important, that they feel like it's a dignified and loving environment and -- and why not build a dynamic education for them and -- and really engage them, because it's a positive environment that really snaps them into their bright futures and -- and not lose sight of -- of that.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Very well said, and as a parent I'll just say if -- if the alternative approach is something that actually makes children punctual, I'd definitely would like to hear more about it. I -- I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but it sounds like my children may be good candidates for an alternative educational program.

Are there questions from members of the committee? If not, thank you so much for your testimony, not just, you know, on behalf of yourselves, but your -- your older brother, your son. We really appreciate it.

JOANNE WILCOX: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Dr. Winifred Hamilton still here? Dr. Hamilton, you have endurance, and you'll be followed by Melodie Peters of AFT.

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: Thank you for this opportunity. I apologize in advance. I have a little bronchitis so it makes me sound raspier than I am. Thank you, Representative Fleischmann. I wanted to also thank Senator Slossberg and Senator Bye in particular for taking the long, not very appreciated, unpopular drive to Stamford at 8 o'clock for the rush hour to meet with us on Monday to hear individually, and of course our own supportive Representative, Patricia Miller.

I'm here today to talk about the House Bill 7022, EXPANDING THE INTERDISTRICT MAGNET FUNDING. I think it's important to find out a little bit about who we are. Stamford's enrollment and -- and demographics are we have 16,149 students, 20 schools, 12 elementaries, 4 magnets, 5 middle schools, and 3 high schools. Two of our schools are interdistrict magnet: Rogers which is a K-8, and Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, a 9-12, very popular interdistrict magnet at the high school level.

Our demographics are we have 8.7 Asian; we have 18.6 percent black; 38.7 percent Hispanic; and 32.7 percent white. We have 65 home languages, 53 free and reduced lunch, 10 percent special ed, and 12 percent English Language Learners. And Stamford has done, I think, a wonderful job of recognizing the importance of our demographics. We have a 10 percent advantaged and disadvantaged percentage that we use, and all of our schools are balanced.

The enrollment growth in Stamford has been somewhat an anomaly in Connecticut. You heard about reductions. Stamford, since 2007, and our mayor alluded to it, has had a gain of 1200 students, and this is across the spectrum, but of those 939 have been elementary students. You heard the mayor refer to earlier that our elementary schools are at 652 as an average. We have them up to 750 in an elementary school in -- in models that were originally four and five classroom models that now have six, seven, and eight classroom models.

We have -- we have mandated, as you know, small group instruction in our ELL population, which is growing rapidly, and our special ed populations. All of that added with our overcrowding has really added the need for additional classrooms. Right now we know we have a 41.5 percent deficit in classrooms to fit the students we have.

2016 was the end of my Plan B. We moved fifth graders to middle school. We moved kindergartens out and placed them in other schools. Next year we plan to move another six. After that there really is no room at the inn to move around and -- and move students. That was a -- a short-term solution to the issue.

We have, right now, an elementary magnet middle in Rogers Elementary. It's interdistrict. It is incredibly popular. It has a wait list of over 500 students, and of those more than 25 percent, 66 are out-of-town applicants for that school, also. And so it's a -- it's a school that has shown interest. It's a school that has a wait list, as our AITE, Academy of Information and Technology.

The mayor passed around some pictures of where we have very creatively found space to place students. In some cases we have copy machines in the hallways. You saw stairwells, and you saw other areas where we've had to create small space, even in our media center by putting up bookshelves to separate classes.

We're hoping to construct a K-5 expansion, a satellite campus of that Rogers Interdistrict Magnet, with opening in 2016 for a kindergarten and a first grade. It would be a six-classroom model with 20 students in each one of those classes, and the magnet draw would be around our four most overcrowded schools where we've had to move children out of every year. And that expansion would be the 200 Strawberry Hill that the mayor referred to earlier.

We're on the A-list, we understand, for the -- the list for capital from the -- that was approved in December, at least moved through that phase, and I -- I just want to point out quickly because I -- I can talk -- this would mean rapidly, that would be a modification of the language for Senate Bill 942, to create in Section 30, where we would be inclusive of that freeze that you have on funding. We have -- part of what our interest is, also, we -- you heard about ES -- or school funding, ECS. Stamford actually has the lowest (inaudible), $635 per student.

We've had reductions in state grants, as everyone has, in our agency placement, public transportation, adult ed, nonpublic, our school accountability, and even our extended school grant.

So we here today in hopes that a problem that you can certainly help us with, a -- a place for students, and an exciting successful school to expand to with lots of interest, and there certainly would not be a worry that we wouldn't be able to fill that magnet, and the magnet application process. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Madam Superintendent. I have a very simple question, which is: You and your mayor have done a -- a very effective job of showing the overcrowding that is happening in a lot of Stamford schools now. It's completely understandable you would be seeking to build a new school to relieve that.

The State Department of Education was tasked with presenting the General Assembly with a statewide plan for -- for magnet schools in 2009, and that plan was supposed to come to us in 2011. And the law makes explicit that there's a moratorium on magnet schools until such time as the State Department of Education gives us a plan. We still haven't received a plan, so as I read the law, the moratorium remains in effect. So I'm just wondering, given that fact, whether there were any questions asked of you when you submitted your proposal to the State Department of Education regarding how your proposed new magnet building complied with the moratorium that's on the books.

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: We did send a letter. We talked with Ken Emperada and he suggested we ask for an amendment of that Bill 942. We did in that language of Section 30, under if we modify (c) of that section to read: Increases in enrollment to an interdistrict magnet school program that is moving into an expanding, or into a permanent facility for the school. That language change would make us eligible because it's not a new school, which there -- there is a moratorium on, but it's an expansion of a very successful magnet.

Or if we modify (e) of that 942 bill: New enrollment for an expanded magnet school program commencing on or after July 2015. That amendment would answer that question about the moratorium, I hope.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well it does, and -- and your comment that this is an existing, successful magnet that's seeking additional space also helps clarify that. Thank you.

Other questions from members of the committee?

Senator Bye.

I think -- I think people are getting tired --

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: Yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and hands are waving around.

A VOICE: No, I was pointing at you. I was (inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I -- I think we had -- you do have a question?

Representative Mulligan.

REP. MULLIGAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just real quick: For the magnet school, you said there was a waiting list of 500 people, and you --

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: For kindergarten.

REP. MULLIGAN: For kindergarten only?

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: Well we were concerned about opening a school that right away is kindergarten and first grade so --

REP. MULLIGAN: Yep.

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: -- those numbers are 66 out of district, and among those 500 total for kindergarten applications alone.

REP. MULLIGAN: So making this extension will accommodate the waiting list, and will also free up some of the overcrowding you have in the current school?

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: Absolutely.

REP. MULLIGAN: Okay. Great. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions for the superintendent? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience, and for your sticking it out despite your laryngitis. Appreciate it.

DR. WINIFRED HAMILTON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We go to Melodie Peters, to be followed by Jackie Hoffman if she's still here.

MELODIE PETERS: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, thank you and Members of the Committee. My name is Melodie Peters. I'm president of the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut, 30,000 members, 15,000 educators.

I'm here to speak briefly on a number of bills, the first one being 1099. I really applaud this committee for the vision of finally sitting down and doing a strategic plan that's going to take the state in a direction that we can all travel in. I would respectfully suggest that a few additions be made in order to fully represent, one of them being someone from the English Language Learners or bilingual educators; an educator from the Connecticut technical high school system; and a representative from the Office of Early Childhood, and this is in my testimony.

On Senate Bill 1103, this bill would allow districts to customize strategies to best address their student needs rather than employ the off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter intervention. We urge you to include in this process an opportunity for the public to have some input.

And we strongly support the provisions of the bill that require districts to share successful efforts. I mean this is such a concept to -- to talk about best practices and really try to move what we're trying to do in the right direction for the benefit of our children. This was Al Shanker's vision when he first started talking about charter schools, and would like to get back to that.

In Senate Bill 1096, we -- we want to point out, and this has been in other testimony, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a pro-charter school organization, ranks Connecticut last in transparency and accountability with our charter school laws. And I believe the last time we talked about this was the Governor's bill. I gave you a copy of that on The Road to Better Accountability.

By calling for a moratorium on new charters, really it goes back to what 1099 is trying to do, and that is let's, you know, let's put the brakes on this craziness, and look at what we have, look at what is working, and apply it so that all kids have the same opportunity. And they -- they will lead if the direction is given -- given to them, rather than being piecemealed. So I do really appreciate that.

I also, in the -- the bill, like requiring CMOs to -- to be nonprofit organizations, and subject them to the Freedom of Act -- Information Act. This is part of the transparency piece. It -- it makes total sense to me. I would like you to consider, and we've had this in other testimony, to add a piece about whistleblower protection with charter schools and CMOs.

And the big piece, since I'm part of this alum, is that the General Assembly have final approval. Because you are the elected representatives of the people of this state, and it makes perfect sense that you, in fact, exercise that which you were elected to do. I have included in my testimony the same stuff I had before.

I quickly would like to say on House Bill 723 -- 7023, we were part of the discussion about the Special Master; I didn't like the application if Special Master. I felt like I was on a plantation, quite frankly. I like the idea that we're doing -- moving this to a District Improvement Officer. We do oppose Section 11 in this bill; you have my testimony for that. And we oppose Section 13 in this bill, and you have my testimony for that as well.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you very much for your well thought-out testimony. We have testimony that's -- that's come in already from a lot of parties, and I just wanted to bounce a perspective off of you and give you a chance to respond.

Some of those who are concerned about Senate Bill 1096, AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS, have said that creating this moratorium sends a message that would make it harder post-moratorium for us to attract the best charter school operators, the best charter school creators. And so while they can understand how a state budget crisis would slow down the creation of new charter schools, they're concerned about the placement of a moratorium in statute. I just wanted to give you a chance to respond to that concern that's been raised.

MELODIE PETERS: Well I -- I do have some concerns because it -- it sounds like we're more interested in putting profits before practical policy. I think that, you know, the message is, and should be interpreted as this state really wants to do it and do it right. If you have a product, or you have a system that you believe is right, then that's going to be part of the blend. But it's the State and this General Assembly that needs to set that direction, and the only way we can do it is to put the brakes on, and just talk about what the best practices are in all of our education venues. I feel so strongly about that. And if you can't deal with that, then you're into -- you're into it for the wrong reasons.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that very clear response. Are there questions from others on the committee?

Representative Kokoruda, to be followed by Senator Bye.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for testifying today. I know this is home to you, from what I hear.

A couple of things: I wanted to ask you to explain what you meant by "profits before policy," but before that, I know we've heard a bill about already -- about a bill about accountability, and more transparency, a previous bill, I'm sure, and this addresses that, also.

What I'm confused about is if most of us agree with that, I think -- and people I've talked to feel it's a good idea, the more transparency, the more accountability, which you have with all education. If -- if we believe that, why would you have to have a moratorium? We deal with reform issues every day in this state. Since I've been here -- this is my fifth year. and we're reforming, and we would never think to put brakes on a public school -- education, so I just don't know why this part of public school education, we can't work on this reform, work on this changing in accountability and -- and we -- we can't do it without a moratorium, but I'm a little confused about that -- that part of it.

MELODIE PETERS: Well we -- Representative, we, you know, we haven't put the brakes on public education in this state, but we've certainly turned it up on its head with the education reform that we've gone -- that we've -- we've implemented over the last two years. So, you know, it's -- it depends on what your definition of brakes is.

I say profits, because the CMOs are -- are corporate driven, and from my perspective, and call it I'm, you know, I'm the next hippie from -- I'm always a hippie from -- from the sixties, but when I look at profits I really -- I get concerned about what's, you know, what -- what's driving this. So, you know, I may lose -- may use that term that you would not appreciate, but I appreciate it from -- from where I come from.

REP. KOKORUDA: And, Mr. Chairman, just a followup. So -- so when you say "profits over policy," are you saying that that -- that there are corporations making money on these charter schools, is that your point?

MELODIE PETERS: You know, I honestly don't have the time to follow it to the end game. I just -- I just -- I know when something sends up a red flag, and when I look at the mess that we had to deal with in Hartford, then that tells me -- which is still under investigation, that -- that tells me that, you know, there's some real concerns here. And, you know, when you have concerns like that, I am told that you follow the money.

REP. KOKORUDA: And would you also agree -- and I know what you're talking about in Hartford; obviously we all do; but there are many success stories in this state?

MELODIE PETERS: I absolutely would agree.

REP. KOKORUDA: Okay.

MELODIE PETERS: I absolutely would agree, you know, we have a charter school in Windham now that's just starting up. I have great, you know, my colleagues at the CEA are also involved in some charters, you know, but the fact is that if we really want to do this, and we want to do this right, there is no reason why we can't put the brakes on for a couple of years and just look at this comprehensively.

REP. KOKORUDA: All right. Thank you.

MELODIE PETERS: You're welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Bye.

SENATOR BYE: Hi, Melodie. Thank you so much for your -- your testimony. Just to -- to follow up, because the part I agree with you the most about is that we haven't had a plan, and so in the absence of a plan, people with the most sort of push, and the most support behind them have been able to push for increases in funding, and you won't see like every day public school kids come up and say, come on state give me money, because they see it as a part of their town -- as a part of their town function, not understanding the whole complex relationship, but organizations that rely wholly on the state are up here advocating, and I think in almost every case, advocating for kids, and advocating for programs that make a difference for kids.

So what I like that you said was you talked about the bill that's about having a statewide plan, because at this committee and other places I've said I'm very worried that we keep moving forward without a plan; oh, let's try this approach; let's try that approach. And it's hundreds of millions of dollars, and getting far down the road with systems before we know if they work.

So it sounds to me like your testimony is not never again, no charter schools.

MELODIE PETERS: Correct.

SENATOR BYE: It's make a plan that helps all kids, and part of that may well be charter schools, but let's have a plan, and once we have a plan, move forward. I just want to make sure that's your testimony.

MELODIE PETERS: It absolutely is my testimony. Does it mean that there are things about charter schools that I don't like?

SENATOR BYE: Uh-huh.

MELODIE PETERS: For example, not taking all kids. There are some things, not -- we're not talking about apples and apples when we talk about standards and the application of state statute. But I think that's part of the discussion as well, you know.

SENATOR BYE: Right -- right, and not to cut you off, but I mean I think that's the point of the plan, is to look at everything that's happening, --

MELODIE PETERS: Uh-huh.

SENATOR BYE: -- bring everybody to the table, and say who are we as a state, and where are we going. I have to credit Representative Willis for her fortitude in pushing for a plan for higher ed that came out, and I think is really going to be a good guide for us, because you see some of what's happened there as we kept trying different things, but without a plan. I think now we have a better plan and this Legislature can make good decisions, so.

But I just wanted to be clear about your testimony, that everyone should be at the table. We need a plan that helps every town, because I'm afraid, as I've said here, we might be helping 100 kids here, which is awesome, but slowly hurting 1000 kids in a system because of that. So I think the either/or sometimes gets us into trouble --

MELODIE PETERS: Uh-huh.

SENATOR BYE: -- but we can't get to the both/and unless we have a good plan. Because what I've watched is just some of the power of organizations, and the power of marketing can outweigh a good-reasoned plan that has input from all stakeholders, and I would argue, you know, with the 1400 percent increase in charter funding in the past 12 years, a 1600 percent increase in magnet school funding in that same period, and at that same time only 60 percent increase in education cost sharing, that there have been winners and losers, and so I appreciate your testimony.

And I think what's important is that, as a union, step before us and say: I'm ready to sit at the table and support a plan that makes a difference for kids, and not say absolutely not this, absolutely not that, but education is too important in Connecticut to get this wrong. And right now we're going forward without a plan. So I give so much credit to Representative Fleischmann and Senator Slossberg who's been a champion on this issue --

MELODIE PETERS: Yes.

SENATOR BYE: -- for saying let's stop and have a plan.

MELODIE PETERS: Yes.

SENATOR BYE: Let's -- let's have this system make sense. It's too important to keep tossing, you know, darts at the board, or following the latest new craze, and say let's get it right. So I'm sorry for that long answer, but I -- I just sort of want to hold you to this idea that you're open to everything as the plan goes forward.

MELODIE PETERS: Absolutely, and I appreciate your -- your comments, Senator. In fact, I appreciate the fact that you put out the statistics that need to be in this mix as well. But I do thank the co-chairs for having the vision to and --

MELODIE PETERS: -- and all be tied together, having the vision to really say, okay, let's look at this. The one thing that we forget as people are throwing darts at you for suggesting this, the one thing that we forget is, we lose sight of why we're here to begin with, and that is to give the best experience to our children in the education system.

And by the way, let me just say, have them enjoy being learning, but also let the teachers enjoy teaching again, and we're not talking about that, and I hope to see that in this discussion.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there other questions for the witness? Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon. Thank you for your testimony. I'm glad that Senator Bye brought that up that you're so wedded to the idea of a plan. I think I appreciate what the Chairs have done as well in pushing that idea because for several years now we've been running after grants or waivers to get the funding, but without maybe the first thought of, what do we need and then let's go get the money.

So I think it's great. But I do have one question for you. We have some other similar initiatives under way, for example, with magnet schools, and I think that's a good move. We're going to look and see how many we have and what they're doing and what our policy is going forward and take a few months to do that.

As with all the schools, we've got all the types of schools, we have policies under way for regular review.

Why do you feel that we need a much longer period for charter schools than for magnet schools and really the system as a whole?

MELODIE PETERS: Actually, I am not saying amount of time. That's up to the wisdom of the Co-Chairs and how they discuss with their Committee and the stakeholders going forward. But I don't think that magnet schools should be treated any different than charter schools should be treated, any different than alternative schools or any different than our public schools.

I think that if we're going to look at a plan, you know, implementation in stages just doesn't work because then we just get caught up in the same stuff that we're caught up in now. I think we have to look at it holistically and make a decision as to how we're going to move with our plan, so.

And I'm sorry that it upsets some people that already have magnet schools in discussions going forward, but I do think that the brakes need to be put on that as well, so that we can look, you know, if it takes a year, fine. If it takes ten months, you know, it's just, let's begin the process and let's go down the road together.

There isn't going to be a lot of Kumbaya moments, but at the end of the day we should all be able to achieve what it is that we want and that's the best education for our kids.

REP. LAVIELLE: Just as a follow up, if I may, do you have any thoughts on how long that might reasonably take?

MELODIE PETERS: Honestly, you know, honestly, I've been in working groups that have taken forever and not given good results and I've been in working groups that because they're motivated, they're driven, they're focused on what the end product is, finish up in a fairly decent amount of time and you go forward. But that, I can't say how long that would be, Representative. That's up to the Committee.

REP. LAVIELLE: Well, thank you. I think forever is definitely not an option.

MELODIE PETERS: No, forever is not an option.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Other questions? Representative Bumgardner.

REP. BUMGARDNER: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's great to see you, Melodie. I have a couple questions about the last piece of testimony you provided, which is on H.B. 7023, so minor revisions to some of the education statutes.

MELODIE PETERS: Uh-huh.

REP. BUMGARDNER: And you talked a little bit about the, just the name changing, the special master to a district improvement officer, and you also sort of proceeded throughout your testimony that, you know, obviously, that your organization worked with the Education Committee here and many other stakeholders on developing that legislation.

I know AFT doesn't necessarily represent any teachers within those respective schools districts that have seen a special master program and by the way, which I think is a very egregious mean title to begin with. I happen to represent New London and I think a lot of folks within the district and citywide had significant issues with that name change and you discussed it a little bit in your testimony, but again, you wrote in your testimony that the an officer or special master was, you know, to respect the integrity and autonomy of those local board of educations.

So, I mean, I know you just offered suggestions or proposals to change that name, but overall now that that legislation has been on the books now for four or five years, do you have any thoughts about, you know, any other reforms that could take place with that program now that we've seen results over the last couple of years?

MELODIE PETERS: I thank you for your question, Representative, and it's nice to see you as well.

In fact, AFT has had experience with it and a very negative experience in Windham, and this developed out of a relationship that occurred with our members' federation in Hartford as well.

I think that, you know, we were part of the discussion back when this was talked about and it was a great, and I think it can work, that you have somebody that works in the community with the board, with the community itself, with the educators, to try to bring about a troubled district and turn it around.

I think that that was, that was the intent so that a community wouldn't have to file for bankruptcy, and go into and ask the state for receivership. So it was a step, it was a step to prevent that.

Like anything else, the value and the worth of the program largely depends on the personality that's doing it and approach to things and I would just say that you know, because you have a bad apple doesn't mean that you throw the baby out with the bath water.

That was kind of crazy, but, you know, the program can work if you have the right mix.

REP. BUMGARDNER: Well, thank you very much for your testimony and no further questions. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions? Representative.

REP. MCGEE: McGee. We're all getting tired. And thank you for your testimony and I enjoy hippies. I think you mentioned that earlier.

I've just two questions for you, and they're, after reading Senate Bill 1096 AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS and I read your comment here, my first question to you, what CMO is a nonprofit?

MELODIE PETERS: I don't know.

REP. MCGEE: Okay. Just wondering.

MELODIE PETERS: But I can certainly try to find out for you.

REP. MCGEE: Yeah, that would be helpful. And then secondly, the more we talk about the moratorium on charter schools and just having this large conversation about charter schools, do you think placing a moratorium on charter schools will help to close the achievement gap? I know it's a big question. I just want to --

MELODIE PETERS: It is a big question, but we've been nipping at the heels of closing the achievement gap for years now, and in my opinion it's largely because we don't have a plan. We've just been, you know, as Senator Bye said, we're throwing this out, we're throwing that out and we're seeing if this sticks to the wall and so I do think that you're going to see big changes in the achievement gap if we do have a plan and we start working toward that goal together.

I don't see the achievement gap with respect to charter schools because of who they are and what they do. I mean, they take, you know, the best kids, the test scores they say are much better because they do do that and I'm happy for those parents and those kids in that experience.

But, you know, why can't all our kids have a similar experience is my question?

REP. MCGEE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, for your answers. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative Brandon McGee. I was about to call you by your first name, that's why I stopped. Any other questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much.

MELODIE PETERS: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I believe Jackie Heftman of the Stamford Board of Ed is up next, to be followed by Rachel Leventhal-Weiner.

JACKIE HEFTMAN: Good afternoon. Good afternoon, Senator Slossberg and Representative Fleischmann and Senator Bye again. Nice to see you and wish a hello to our Representative Miller. In 2013, oh, I'm sorry. My name is Jackie Heftman and I'm President of the Stamford Board of Education.

In 2013, the Stamford Board commissioned a capacity enrollment study done by Malone and McBroom. This testimony is to House Bill 7022, which would allow us to expand an existing inter-district magnet school.

The study showed that our elementary schools would all be over capacity by the year 2016. The previous speaker referred to putting the brakes on from expansion and in our case, we don't have that luxury. The students are coming and we have no place to put them.

In order for us to continue to deliver a high-quality educational experience, we need additional space and the state's participation will ensure our ability to provide that space.

We have a very aggressive construction timeline to occupy an existing historic building for the 2016-17 school year, but it won't happen without your help.

The other bill that I would like to testify on is H.B. 7019. As a member of CABE they had asked me to testify on this bill and so I'm happy to do that.

Stamford does not currently have an issue with decreasing enrollment. Ours is just the opposite. We could, however, in the future find ourselves there and I'm happy to testify just in hopes of helping other districts that might be in that situation.

This bill will significantly weaken the minimum budget requirements. Providing for a reduction of the MBR in cases of declining enrollment of 50 percent of the net current expenditure per pupil will leave many boards of education unable to meet the ongoing costs of salary, health benefits and transportation.

The general statutes already give the Commissioner the opportunity to approve additional reductions in the MBR when a district realizes savings through inter-district efficiencies or regional collaboration.

CABE members have adopted a position specifically urging the Legislature to provide discretion to the Commissioner of Education to adjust the MBR in situations wherein local or regional board of education seeks relief through the significant enrollment changes.

It is imperative that this request come from a board of education, which is charged with meeting the educational needs of the state. That is our responsibility and we have to keep that in the forefront.

This bill could be, hopefully, amended to include a collaboration between the cities and towns, the board of education and the Commissioner, to make sure that the children are the ones who are at the forefront.

I understand taxpayers, we have the same argument all the time in Stamford. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but we are charged with that responsibility of meeting the educational needs of the students in Connecticut, Thank you very much for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your time and your patience and your very good timing. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Pat Billie Miller.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon, Jackie.

JACKIE HEFTMAN: Good afternoon.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: And welcome and thank you for staying so long, your perseverance. Jackie, I didn't want to ask the superintendent because I know she's not feeling well, but what do you envision happening if you don't expand the new school, or not the new school, expand Rogers.

JACKIE HEFTMAN: We've been having this ongoing conversation in Stamford for the last year and a half. Parents do not want, a lot of parents do not want fifth graders in the middle school

We have accomplished moving some of them into middle school into our magnets, and so that has been well received. But the majority of the parents have come to the board of ed and to tell us that they would prefer that their fifth graders remain in elementary school.

Our middle schools are the places where we have some breathing room. Our only alternative, I should, or the alternative that would solve the problem the quickest for us would be to move all fifth graders into middle schools. That is really something that would be a battle in Stamford. So what's the alternative?

We have some school buildings that are located on properties where we can expand. But for the short run, that would mean adding more portables. We already have 30 portables in Stamford in our schools at the present time.

This new school is not going to remove one portable because as the superintendent said, we're 41 and a half classrooms short. That's more than a school.

So, not even with the addition of this expansion and this new school that will be the expansion of Rogers, we still are going to be having to have that conversation. What are we going to do for more space?

I wish that in the communities that have to close schools, that we could pick them up and move one and put it in Stamford, that would be great because the aggressive timeline that we're going to have to follow to get this school open in 2016 is incredible, and that's why we need the commitment from the Legislature as quickly as we can get it so that we can move forward with our architectural design and so that we can put K-1 into this new building in 2016 because there is no, literally, there is no room at the inn.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: Thank you very much, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JACKIE HEFTMAN: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions for the board chair? If not, thank you very much for your time, your testimony, your public service. Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, are you still in the room? Welcome.

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: Good afternoon, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann and distinguished members of the Education Committee. My name is Rachel Leventhal-Weiner and I'm the Education Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, a research-based advocacy organization working statewide to promote the well being of Connecticut's children, youth and families.

Several of my colleagues have submitted written testimony on House Bills 7018, 7020, Senate Bill 1101 and 1096, but today I am here testifying on behalf of Connecticut Voices for Children in support of Senate Bill 1099 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONNECTICUT EDUCATION SYSTEM.

The work of this commission will be crucial in overcoming persistent barriers to opportunities for so many children in resourced-poor communities, children who deserve the opportunities that their more privileged neighbors have, and I'm here today to offer three comments on the bill, so I'll summarize my written testimony.

First, as the proposed commission develops a strategic path for Connecticut's public education system, we hope that it will focus particularly on residential segregation and concentrated poverty.

Our most recent research that we published this month, shows that concentrated poverty and racial segregation of districts is associated with limited access to important school resources, like small kindergarten classes and experienced teachers.

Our research also shows that towns with greater property wealth are more likely to provide these valuable school resources to children. Yet, the detrimental short-term and long-term consequences of racial and economic isolation of our students often go unaccounted for in our conversations about education reform, so the commission's willingness to address out-of-school like factors like extreme residential segregation in the context of its strategic division is extremely promising.

Second, we would like to encourage the Education Committee to charge the proposed commission with identifying opportunities for greater synergy between our existing early care and K-12 systems, and some of my colleagues from, who are doing early care and education work are going to be testifying about some of this later in the hearing, so I won't belabor the point.

But I just wanted to say that linking together these constituency groups already working to improve the (inaudible) opportunities from cradle to career will ensure better integration of the early care in K-12 system in this plan going forward.

And finally, we see an opportunity for this Committee to embolden statewide stakeholders to work in tandem with this commission. The bill's language charges the commission with identifying and analyzing the most significant factors. May I finish? Thank you.

There are many local and statewide organizations that are already deeply engaged in work around poverty, socio-economic and racial isolation, language barriers and parental engagement in students' education.

The timeline for this commission's important work stretches out for another two years until potential implementation, so we respectfully encourage this Committee to work with the State Department of Education to make any data used by the commission available to outside stakeholders so that external partners can actually support the work of the commission.

This is an important turning point for education reform in our state and we support the bill. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your thoughtful testimony. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much for your testimony. You know, I'm wondering, the first point that you make requesting that we identify, hoping that we'll focus particularly on residential segregation and concentrated poverty, you know, I'm wondering, and I don't know if you've been here all day or not, but in light of some of the conversation that you heard from Norwalk and Stamford has the same sort of experience, that they have great property wealth and yet they're talking about not having, you know, reasonable dollars to actually support their educational mission and struggling with that.

Stamford gets $635 per pupil and Norwalk is just barely ahead of that and they're struggling with that, you know, and they're talking about that.

And we also know that, our recent data tells us that poverty is migrating to the suburbs and that a lot of families are actually moving back into the cities who have wealth and a lot of poverty is now moving out into the suburban rings of those urban areas, and I wondered where that fits into your whole focus on residential segregation and concentrated poverty?

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: Thank you for the question. For the research that we recently published. The title is, the report is called Unequal Schools. In that project we were looking at the resources that were offered to schools, the resources that were offered to students in districts that had greater property wealth. In many districts, though, where there is great property wealth, there are higher tax rates but there is less wealth among the residents to actually tax out of and add greater funding to that particular system.

The reason that we brought up this particular point, though, is focused not only on the residential segregation and concentrated poverty in districts, but also the fact that out-of-school factors are really necessary just to consider broadly, and so we brought this point up specifically because we wanted to make sure that was part of the commission's charge.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So then, your focus then is really on the out-of-school factors, you know, what are all the things that we're talking about that are impediments to learning and success and looking at things that are not just related to school, looking at the bigger picture.

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: Yes, most definitely, but residential segregation and concentrated poverty are out-of-school factors --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Right.

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: -- and so they're sort of all of part of the same bucket.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. I think I understand that better. Thank you very much for your testimony and your explanation.

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there other questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, patience and testimony.

RACHEL LEVENTHAL-WEINER: Thank you for the opportunity.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We move now to Jacob Easly, Dean of Students for the Board of Regents of Higher Education. Is he still here? And Dean Easley will be followed by Robert Hannafin, Fairfield University. Welcome, Dean and thank you for your patience.

JACOB EASLEY: Thank you to the Committee and I am here, Jacob Easley, as you said earlier, Dean of the School of Education Professional Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University and I'm representing the Board of Regents for Higher Education as well as the Schools of Education for the Connecticut State University System and I should respectfully acknowledge the co-authorship of this testimony of my colleagues, the deans at the other CSU institutions, Mike Alfano at Central, Stephen Hegedus at Southern and Jess House at Western and so we want to talk specifically about Bill 7021 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY.

So before I give part of our testimony, I'm not going to read it, but I'll just give some highlights, I do want to say that we are all committed to ensuring that we prepare the most qualified and highly effective teachers for, that can face the challenge of the schools in Connecticut and that we are not shying away from notions of program accountability.

In fact, we realize that items three through seven in the bill are things to be addressed, we feel those are being addressed with the EPAC work, which is the Educator Preparation Advisory Committee. Interesting enough, each of us is being, is either on the committee or on the subcommittee, so we are definitely working with the state to address issues of accountability.

However, with items number one, we want to make sure that the Committee is aware of what we perceive to be limitations and/or unintended consequences. And while we recognize that linkages between teacher preparation and the academic achievement of students that they work with once they've graduated our programs is important.

Currently, there's not empirically, it is not empirically possible to directly determine that effect with adequate precision. This is actually an issue that's being faced at the national level, so I'm sure that many of you have heard about it.

I think in particular, we think about one of the shortcomings is how do you measure impacts without accounting for a cohesive data system or information system where you look at factors globally. So how do you isolate teacher preparation alone without thinking about factors of learner diversity, school characteristics or school traits, which we heard from the students earlier, many of the students, shall I continue?

Particularly students who are at the charter schools talk about the changing conditions or how the conditions of the school have impacted their learning, so I think those are things we need to think about and the root cause of student learning outcomes.

In addition to that, I would just move straight to the last point, which was brought up earlier by our colleagues from Teach for America about Section 10-262u requiring teacher candidates to have experience throughout their curriculum and field experience for the student teaching for example, that bucket of curriculum.

In Alliance districts as well as districts that are not Alliance that we perhaps think a bit more strategically about that, expanding that time around notions of diversity, particularly given areas like in Windham where we are.

We gave Windham High School and I want to point out specifically our secondary candidate, that we don't have enough placements to place all of our secondary candidates into high school and placements continually (inaudible) so of course they would have to go to other districts like Coventry, et cetera.

But we realize that even though they may not be Alliance schools outside of Windham that there are issues of diversity in those districts as well, particularly in relation to the candidates we're preparing and the students that we're working with, so those are our comments around the bill.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for those comments and for being the dean who took one for the team. I know Mike Alfano, Steve Hegedus and Jess House are all very committed educators and you're all busy and we appreciate your having put your heads together and offered this thoughtful testimony.

Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you, and please know that we will be taking this into account as the bill moves forward.

JACOB EASLEY: All right, thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Robert Hannafin of Fairfield University. Are you still here? If not, is Representative Morris in the vicinity? Don't see him. Mark Waxenberg of CEA.

MARK WAXENBERG: -- where absenteeism is a good thing. It moves you up.

Good afternoon, Representative Fleischmann and Senator Slossberg. My name is Mark Waxenberg. I'm the Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association representing over 43,000 active and retired teachers in Connecticut. I'm here to speak in favor of Senate Bill 1099 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONNECTICUT EDUCATION SYSTEM and also to comment a bit on Senate Bill 1096 AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

On 1099, the need for the development of a strategy master plan for public education in Connecticut is long overdue. We have seen mandate upon mandate from the state and federal level that has a significant impact in the classroom across the State of Connecticut.

It is time we assess all these requirements, resources and inform initiatives to a comprehensive fashion rather than the piecemeal reactionary process we have been using over the past decade.

So we are in strong support of 1099 and look forward to sitting at the table with that task force as it's been formed and suggested to move Connecticut forward in the best interest of students, teachers and public education.

On the issue of charter schools, we're pleased to see what the progress has been regarding, the last time I spoke we were in favor of the charter school bill. We still would like to see a local option in there prior to the charter school being authorized to begin its operations in the district that a local board of education must authorize the beginning of such operations, but we are largely in support of that piece of legislation.

My colleague and friend, Melodie Peters spoke to that issue before, but I did want to say regarding the timeliness concern. Some people talked about the concern for two years. I think I need to bring to the attention of the Committee that it took three years for us to debate, discuss and create the first bill in 1996, so it takes a little while for the stakeholders to sit around the table and get it right.

So I think that we do so with the time available, and I think the two-year time window that moratorium period, for us to debate and discuss those issues, I think is warranted.

The other issue, which was the issue of the effect that a moratorium may have on the achievement gap. I think what we have to remember is the charter school bill originally was 20 years ago in 1996. We had the largest achievement gap 20 years ago in 1996, or 18 years ago, I'm dating myself a little bit.

But, so to infer, we still have the largest achievement gap now. So to make a reference or an inference that by creating a moratorium we're going to lose advantage of closing the achievement gap, I would say that that's correct if we had seen the closing from our last charter school bill in 1996.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I don't think there's a direct correlation between having a moratorium and falling prey to the achievement gap being widened, if you will. I think we need to sit down and figure out this strategically and therefore, we are in support of such bill, and I'll come back to deal with how we could close the achievement gap on the student assessments later. Thank you for this opportunity.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your timely testimony. Questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your support, particularly of, you know, the bill that involves creation of strategic plan and vision for the state.

We weren't sure what kind of receptions we'd get and we appreciate support of the (inaudible).

MARK WAXENBERG: It's a wise thing and we strongly support it.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

MARK WAXENBERG: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Bruce Morris, are you in the vicinity? Oh, from the corner pocket. Welcome.

REP. MORRIS: Thank you and good afternoon, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg and distinguished college of the Education Committee.

As Chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, I would like to express our strong support of S.B. 1098. In recent years, this Committee has led the Connecticut General Assembly to make real progress on issues of education and S.B. 1098 will assure Connecticut continues progressing forward.

This bill seeks to address Connecticut's struggle to recruit high-performing teachers of diverse backgrounds and looks to provide training of cultural competency that will include instruction concerning the awareness of students background and experience. This cultural competency training will develop the skills, knowledge and behaviors that enable educators and students to build positive relationships and work effectively in cross cultural situations.

As you all know, research shows that the benefits of a well prepared, engaged and highly-effective teacher are many, but a growing body of researchers also are beginning to suggest that teacher diversity has a major impact on the success of students.

In fact, studies have shown that students of color taught by teachers of color perform better on a variety of academic outcomes including school attendance attention, standardized test scores, by advanced level course enrollment discipline rates, high school graduation and college enrollment.

Furthermore, teacher retention improves in our highest need districts when the workforce is more diverse and teachers of color are more likely to work and remain in urban and high-poverty schools and districts.

From positively affecting student attendance rates through increasing high school graduation and college enrollment levels, students benefit from having teachers and role models that they can relate to.

Yet even as evidence grows that educator diversity has significant benefits, we find that diversity within school teaching and administrative staffs are sorely lacking across the nation as well as in Connecticut.

In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, Connecticut ranks 41st in the country on its teacher diversity index rate, which measures the difference between the diversity of students and teacher populations.

While students of color make up nearly half of Connecticut's public schools' enrollment, only 7.9 percent of our teachers and only 12.5 percent of our administrators are represented by people of color. Your actions today will determine whether we are able to continue all of our efforts to better our public schools in Connecticut and ensure all of our children and our state remain on a path to a bright future. Thank you, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg and Committee members for the opportunity to present testimony.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Not only for your testimony, but for your advocacy. I just want to publicly acknowledge the great role that you and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus play. The proposed bill that you submitted, the ideas that the Caucus sent to the Committee to help inform the legislation that we have before us today.

I also want to just acknowledge that this Committee has made efforts in the past with leadership from both the Committee and members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and there's been a lot of frustration and Representative McCrory took the lead in helping set up a minority teacher recruitment program that was very well designed and got defunded during one of the budget crisis. It was part of a budget rescission.

So the situation that you've described is accurate and troubling. The demography of our educators should look like the demography of our student body and if it doesn't, we have work to do.

So I just wanted to acknowledge all those great points that you made and let you know how deeply shared they are by the Committee.

REP. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm sure all of our Caucus members who sit on this Committee are certainly appreciative of the attentiveness that their colleagues on this Committee give to our issues, and again, the way we continue to partner, moving the State of Connecticut forward for all children.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions for the Representative. If not, Representative Morris, thank you again for your time and your advocacy.

REP. MORRIS: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We have been hearing testimony on Senate Bill 1099 AN ACT CONCERNING ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONNECTICUT EDUCATION SYSTEM. There were a few folks whose names I called who didn't respond initially. Is Robert Hannafin still here by any chance? If not, we do have Mr. Hannafin's written testimony.

Is there anyone else who had planned to testify on this bill, Senate Bill 1099 about a vision and strategic plan for the state education system?

If not, we'll move on to House Bill 7017 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT DATA PRIVACY and Maria Naughton has signed up first. Welcome. Thank you for your patience.

MARIA NAUGHTON: Start?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: You have the floor. With the red light on your microphone and you have the floor.

MARIA NAUGHTON: All right. Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Maria Naughton. I'm form New Canaan. I am here in support of Raised Bill Number 7017. I would like to thank the Education Committee for raising this bill for discussion.

With Bill 7017, Connecticut is joining 22 plus other states in working toward protecting personal student data. However, there are some improvements that should be made so that we are all in line with the other states, and which will engage more informed parental involvement in the entire process.

Student data privacy is extremely important and as innovations and opportunities for students increase, risks and potential for misuse also increase.

We are presented with opportunities to try to latest technology or innovation as a means to inspire and engage students. However, as products continuously evolve and the notion of personalized learning continues to grow, it is important to involve both parents and students in the process.

When local and regional boards of ed and the State Department of Education engage in contracts with on-line of web-based services provided the students, they must be able to manage and protect the data in their care.

Equally important, parents and guardians must be made aware of contracts or data sharing that involves these on-line and web-based service providers, including those made with organizations that will deliver assessments on line.

As such, it should be incumbent upon the local and regional boards of ed and the State Department of Education to make parents aware by direct notification to garner informed parental consent.

In addition, when on-line services or applications are used for student learning, the adoptive natures of the products which deliver personalized instruction gain an intimate knowledge of the student's behavioral responses, in addition to using that data to remediate instruction to improve student's educational outcomes.

I've waited a long time. Can I keep going?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Yes.

MARIA NAUGHTON: I'll go faster.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Although, since we have your written testimony if you wanted to try and summarize the key points that you're working to make, probably helpful for you and the Committee.

MARIA NAUGHTON: Well, one key point is that in order to improve educational outcome for students, the program needs to understand the student's behavioral responses. In doing that, it understands a lot about a student. That's the whole idea behind personalized learning.

However, in doing that, they are also using some of this information to improve products, which makes students basically unaware an unpaid product developer. You know, there's an element of experimentation when using these new methodologies that are delivered on line. That's, you know, it's sort of a recursive process. The data comes in. They improve the product.

You know, we're told, and I've heard this many times. This is the way the world is going and I understand that, but by informing parents and guardians that these products are usually so evolving, the parent may understand if it's going to have an impact on their child.

If the child is put on a learning program and it's not meeting that child's needs, but that's the only option for the child, it may be an experimental thing that's not the best thing for that child and so parents have to understand what programs are used with children.

As a former teacher, we see the accelerated reader. It was off line. It was with the old floppies and as a teacher you could control that experience for the children. However, if this is done systematically, like our high school will be having an on-line course, you know, where's the control if the parents don't know about it.

In the past, well even currently, if a child is 13 and under and the program understands who the child is, they have to give consent, so that's the kind of thing at a minimum local, regional and state departments should get a consent from parents.

I just wanted to say in this bill it said that the information would be de-identified but there's a recent MIT study that basically says you only need, no data is de-identified. You only need three points of information and you can re-identify a person.

So with the recent American Institute for Research, they are a vendor for the Smarter Balance. They had a security breach where 6,500 personal records were hacked into.

If a parent is not aware of who has information on their child, you know, we actually, the (inaudible) upload information to the vendor, how can we know about, that wouldn't mean anything to us unless we knew that was our vendor, if we read about the breach.

Just, in closing, I think we can all agree we share the goal of ensuring a solid and successful educational experience for our children. We can't be product focus. We have to stay child focused and we can't compromise current or future impacts on the privacy of student data, and I would highly encourage the Education Committee to study the other protections states are doing and include parents, guardians and actually the students themselves in the process.

When students are in high school and they're taking AP on-line courses or anything like that, they should understand where their data's going. They have to know.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Not only for your testimony and your patience but for all of the thought that you obviously went into it. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon and thank you for your patience and thank you for your testimony and your thoughtfulness.

I just, I want to, because you have put so much into this, I just want to be clear on what concretely you would like to suggest that we might consider adding to the bill.

I understood you to say that, just, and that way we can make it shorter. I understood you to say that people who are contributing data to the system and their parents and so on, should be clear on what it is and notified as to what's going to be done with it. Was that the essence or was there more?

MARIA NAUGHTON: No. I think that's correct. Parents should be notified what the vendors are, what data's being collected and the policies of the agencies that hold the data.

Some say they won't share it. Some say explicitly that they will share it.

Also, there should be some notice of what happens during a breach, so I as a parent will know if I'm going to be notified if there's a breach and anything that keeps parents in the loop.

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay. Thank you. That's very helpful. Appreciate it. Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. We're on to Madam Chair.

REP. LAVIELLE: Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: We've had a slight here, but I thank you, and I thank you for your testimony and especially that last exchange was very useful to understand exactly what it is that you're looking for.

You know, one of the concerns that we had in terms of vendors collecting data, and you're talking about notification and consent. I think for me also as a parent of a teenager who's, you know, doing a lot of these on-line tests and whatnot, you know, I think one of the things we were talking about as a Committee is potentially saying to vendors, you can't use that data. It's not a question of, are you going to use it, but you cannot use it if you're collecting it from our students in this environment.

What would you think about that? I don't know if it's possible for us to actually make that statement, but if we were to go in that direction, is that something you would be supportive of?

MARIA NAUGHTON: Well, in New York State there's the organization called In Bloom. They were sued because parents uploaded records to them. They ended up filing bankruptcy. When their organization was sold in bankruptcy, those records went with the proceeds of the bankruptcy.

So in that case, they've lost control of the data. So I'm not sure it's enough to just make them promise that they won't use it because I think in many cases they don't have enough control. You know, they could get hacked.

So I really feel like it should be consent from families to understand where the data's going. To me, that stops it right at the, you know, with the full understanding.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Understanding, notification and consent and then you're, and then it's buyer beware after that because you don't have control over it.

MARIA NAUGHTON: Right. I mean, my daughter's in college. She's taking on-line courses and you know, students really should understand when they are commenting on someone else's artwork and education. Those comments are public, are out there.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Sure. Yeah, I know. I live with a techie in my house. One of my kids is a techie and reminds us all the time that even if it's deleted and even if it's gone, it's all still there and if you have the right mind and the right technology you can find anything --

MARIA NAUGHTON: Yeah. Absolutely.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: -- connect anything and get it back to somebody, so I'm painfully aware of exactly what you're talking about. Are there other questions for this witness? Thank you very much for your information and for your advocacy. Appreciate it.

MARIA NAUGHTON: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Senator Kevin Witkos. Good afternoon, Senator.

SENATOR WITKOS: Good evening, Senator Slossberg. How are you tonight?

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Evening for me is at 6:00 o'clock.

SENATOR WITKOS: A couple minutes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: But we'll be here then, too.

SENATOR WITKOS: Well, good evening, good afternoon to members of the Education Committee. It's a pleasure to be here to testify before your Committee. I want to testify on House Bill 7019 AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT, and our Caucus had submitted a bill similar to yours and we're glad that you're raising your bill, because I think our goal is the same.

As you know, there are over 200 education mandates on local school districts set in state statute and these range from the fundamental ones such as the minimum length of a school year to teacher professional development, to the health and sanitation of schools, to the mundane ones such as a public school information system and transfer of student records.

But the MBR is one of the most costly unfunded state education mandates on our municipalities and it doesn't allow municipalities to find savings and efficiencies in their education budgets and I'm not talking about the efficiencies and savings that deal with education, but things like energy efficiency initiatives or plan maintenance or outsourcing food services, things that don't have a direct impact on the education quality of a student but it does have an impact on the budget.

So requiring one local budget to remain flat has forced many of our municipalities to find cost savings in every other local department or increase property taxes.

You do a lot of different things in the bill so I won't get into it, because you have the bill at your Committee, but the Senate Republican Caucus strongly believes that House Bill 7019 goes in the right direction. We thank the Education Committee for considering this important bill. I'd be happy to answer or take any questions you have.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Senator. We appreciate your support and the Republican Caucus support for the bill as a whole. I don't have any questions. Are there members who have questions for Senator Witkos?

SENATOR WITKOS: Thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Well, thank you. Our next speaker is Cheryl Hill. Welcome.

CHERYL HILL: Hi. Good afternoon, Representative Fleischmann, who stepped out, Senator Slossberg and distinguished members of the Education Committee. My name is Cheryl Hill, and I'm here on behalf of New Milford United for Kids.

We'd like to thank the Education Committee for raising H.B. 7017 and 1100. We support both of these bills and respectfully offer additions.

New Milford United for Kids recognizes that there is merit to collecting data and doing research. But to the extent that it's being done via our schools puts us at a crossroads. The safety of our children and teachers is being compromised and balance needs to be restored. Filling today's bills begins to accomplish this.

The need for parameters around the data collection is prompted in part by use of tabbed curriculum and adaptive assessments, use of affective instruments and psychometrics, loosening of FERPA in 2011, having no HIPAA protections with the schools, including medical data, formation of SLDS and the formation of Connecticut P20 WIN, which is the collect all for this information.

We're collecting more data than ever before on our students and teachers. The nature of the data has changed, too. Biometric data that can include things like facial expressions, galvanic skin response and eye tracking, non-cognitive and predictive modeling data, including attributes, dispositions and psychological resources.

Other data, including student and family political, religious and even sexual beliefs and practices are also being collected. A knowing minimum of 400 data points are collected but Ed tech companies like Newton at the White House both said as many as 10,000 data points are collected on students daily.

Most data falls under FERPA exclusions. None is protected by HIPAA. The data is accessible to agencies, third parties and vendors. Once collected, all data is vulnerable.

We learned just last week the data being stolen from within the Department of Education breaches, misuses and child endangerment are inherent. With these facts in hand, other states have already passed corresponding legislation with a whopping 133 bills proposed this year. Connecticut has none passed, but with these two raised today.

Shouldn't our Connecticut children and teachers have at least the same protections as children in other states?

Today, the Education Committee has that opportunity. These bills are the vehicles, if you will, ready to be filled. The content from other states would be amending Connecticut's P20 WIN with these five points.

Ban biometric data collection.

Collect PTRA --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Cheryl, if you'd just summate.

CHERYL HILL: Yes, ma'am.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: We have your written testimony, so if you'd just like to conclude, that would be great.

CHERYL HILL: Yes, ma'am. Only with informed written parental consent, provide annual parent notification of P20 WIN, grant parent access to this information and an effective, enforceable data breach policy.

We're not reinventing the wheel. Other states have had the same conditions that we have, and they've been able to protect their children and teachers.

I've provided in my testimony links to several of those and also provided sample language for your consideration. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your testimony and for being here all day, and for the research that you've done. It's always very helpful to have that here.

Can I just ask you a question? Biometric data. Can you tell me under what circumstances that's being collected at our schools?

CHERYL HILL: Sure. Now, this is, all of this is, you know, reads like science fiction, so it's something that we've had to really research to understand and to understand also that this isn't some future land. It's actually here.

So there's things that are in the works and things that are being used now. So an example would be, for example, in the U.S. Department of Education documents specifically grit, tenacity and perseverance, where they show the pressure-sensitive computer mouse or a chair that will assess your posture, facial recognition, there are a lot of different instruments.

They've actually said ideally, they'd like to have MRIs in the classroom, but they're developing smaller scale, less expensive instruments to do this.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: My question is, in Connecticut, are you aware of any biometric data being collected on our children in our schools at this time?

CHERYL HILL: At this time I am aware of beginning to do some fingerprinting and also our use of cameras in the schools.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. All right. That answers that question. And then the other question I had is on, you said the Connecticut's P20 WIN system.

CHERYL HILL: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Can you explain to me what your understanding of that system is?

CHERYL HILL: Sure. The Connecticut P20 WIN system was created via executive order, so that bypassed the normal processes. That would be the collect all system where we are collecting all of this data.

P20 stands for Preschool to 20. WIN is workforce information network. We know that it's actually backed up to before preschool now so we're looking at when a woman is pregnant and it goes beyond workforce to, into retirement, the idea being that you could track, you could track very detailed information about a baby all the way up to the workforce and you would understand their contribution to the economy.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Cheryl, I'm going to be honest with you. That's not my understanding at all of what P20 WIN does.

CHERYL HILL: Okay.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So I know that there are a lot of people that have this understanding that it's like a data warehouse where we have all this information.

CHERYL HILL: Okay.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: My understanding of it is it actually just creates an MOU between our agencies so that if this body or you know, a school district was looking to try to come up with some understanding or perhaps our higher education system was trying to determine what makes a difference in a school, you know, what particular cohort of students is doing, what, it's aggregated data that they would then be able to seek that information and coordinate between systems that do exist, but it's not a data collection warehouse of something that exists there because you know, I think that there are a lot of people who believe that and that's not actually what P20 WIN is doing.

It's giving us the tools at a very high level of understanding to go between them, but your point is still well taken and I understand what you're talking about and the concern for feeling like we're sharing too much data.

CHERYL HILL: And that would be (inaudible).

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Excuse me?

CHERYL HILL: I just wanted to make sure I understood that you were saying that it's more of an agreement between agencies.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Yeah. It's not a data collection warehouse. There's not a warehouse of data that's going to exist somewhere in, you know in the cloud or in the fiber world of this. So, I, at least that's my understanding with it, after having met with them and hearing their explanation of that.

But having said that, though, I do appreciate the work that you've done and will definitely take a look at the other statutes from the other states.

Are there questions for Cheryl? No. Thank you again. We really appreciate all the work that you've done.

CHERYL HILL: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Representative Vargas. Good afternoon.

REP. VARGAS: Thank you, Senator Slossberg, Senate Chair of the Education Committee and also Ranking Member Lavielle and all the distinguished members of the Committee for the opportunity to be here today.

First of all, let me thank you for raising Senate Bill 1096, which deals with the issue of the moratorium on the construction of new charter schools. I'd just like to say, I'm not going to speak very much on this because I already had an opportunity to testify before this Committee on this issue and my testimony's in writing, so.

But I would just like to express my gratitude that the Committee has listened to some of the concerns and is going to, giving an opportunity to our State Department of Education to evaluate our existing charters and refocus them on their original mission, which is a mission of assisting our neighborhood public schools. That was the original concept and I am happy that we're moving forward a public hearing on this and hopefully it will be joint favorable to the floor of the House and the Senate and we'll be able to act on it this year.

As I said in my original testimony, I'm an original supporter of the charter schools and I believe they may have a role to play as urban laboratories and this in no way takes anything away from the existing charters. It just allows our State Department of Education to slow down and take a look at what lessons we can glean from those existing charters.

And who knows? Perhaps after a period of moratorium, charter schools will re-emerge stronger than ever. I have no preconceived notions about this, but I do believe, like I said earlier, that we need to verify the statements that are being made and make sure that we are getting the value from our taxpayer dollars.

So, I appreciate the opportunity to be here again and to congratulate the Committee on raising this issue. It shows that this system does work. If there is any question, I'll be happy to answer it.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Representative. Thank you for your advocacy and for coming back to visit us at the Education Committee. Are there any questions for Representative Vargas? Yes, Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Representative Vargas. Just thinking. If this bill just had talked about transparency and holding charter schools accountable and moving forward, would you be okay with a moratorium not being part of this bill.

I mean, we're asking them to be more transparent about how they do things. Do you think we're kind of punishing them twice, so to speak, as we're telling them to provide us and be more transparent and tell us what's going on because of the issues they had in Hartford earlier in the year, last year?

Do you think you would be okay with there not being a moratorium with them, requesting, because it doesn't mean that we're going to give it to them or grant it to them because you know, we have a money problem issue here in the State of Connecticut, so, but moving forward, allowing them to ask for funds to build charter schools. They still have to get permission from the state.

REP. VARGAS: That's correct. Well --

REP. SANCHEZ: What's your thoughts on that?

REP. VARGAS: Well, Representative Sanchez, yeah, I've been approached by a couple of people who said, wouldn't this be better handled through the Appropriations Committee, and if it's a fiscal matter, strictly a fiscal matter.

It's not a question of punishment. I believe that the moratorium is necessary for a couple of reasons, but I would say the principal reason why the moratorium route is more effective was, we had a previous Commissioner of Education, Commissioner Pryor, and unfortunately, commitments were being made, the community out there for the proliferation of charter schools before those things you're talking about have taken place yet.

So I believe that when you have a tin ear that sometimes the only way you can address it is statutorily. Who knows? Perhaps we'll have a Commissioner of Education in the future that will make it their business to evaluate and to hold accountable all schools, not only charter schools, all schools in Connecticut.

Unfortunately, that was not the case in the previous Department's history, so the moratorium fulfills that role to make sure the commitments aren't made out there, aren't being told well, you know, once people make the commitment you have to fund it.

Well, I don't believe that's necessarily true and I don't believe commitments like that should be made, so that's why I favor, that's the primary reason I favor the moratorium, not any animosity against the charter schools, but if we're going to evaluate them, and we're going to hold them accountable, let's see what we've been getting for our money before we make a further investment. That's the basis.

REP. SANCHEZ: Okay, and I just want to clarify something. The punishment part didn't come from me. It's just that I've been approached by some people that feel that it's kind of being punished because they're being asked to be more clear and more accountable and be more transparent and then they're also being asked that they can't approach the state to build more charter schools, so I just wanted to clarify that.

But thank you for your testimony.

REP. VARGAS: Thank you, and like I said, we're not punishing anybody because all existing charter schools are save harmless. If there's a moratorium, it only applies to future charter schools.

You know, after the moratorium's over, if we feel the need for more, we can always authorize more.

REP. SANCHEZ: Okay, thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.

REP. VARGAS: Thank you very much. I thank the Committee.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG; Senator Winfield has a question for you, Representative. He's right next to me.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Right next to her?

REP. VARGAS: Over here?

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: No, right here, Senator Winfield.

REP. VARGAS: Oh, Senator Winfield. There we go.

SENATOR WINFIELD: It doesn't matter if you see me. You just said that you've been told that once the commitment has been made we have to fund it and you don't believe that. There's a lot that people believe about what the law is and is not, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the realities of the law. So we don't have to fund it.

What does having a moratorium have to do with that?

REP. VARGAS: Well, the moratorium makes sure that our State Department of Education when approached, can make the statement, the Legislature at this time wants to evaluate existing charter schools and has taken a position that no new charter schools during this moratorium period will be funded. There will be a clear message coming out of our State Department of Education. That's all, Senator.

SENATOR WINFIELD: We could make that very clear, too.

REP. VARGAS: We can.

SENATOR WINFIELD: We have a job here. We could make that very clear. We don't need a moratorium to do that, do we?

REP. VARGAS: Well, let's put it this way. As a Legislator, I don't feel that it's my role to micro-manage the State Department of Education and I don't want to be in the position down the road that if there's contradictory signals being sent out that I have to join some activist group out there picketing our own State Department of Education or being seen as contrary to initiatives that a group of enthusiast parents or teachers want to put together.

I think that the moratorium issue puts the issue to rest. It gives us a respite to do our jobs in terms of evaluation and accountability of existing charter schools.

SENATOR WINFIELD; Are budgetary decisions our job?

REP. VARGAS: How our money is spent internally in the State Department of Education?

SENATOR WINFIELD: I mean, do we or do we not allocate the money?

REP. VARGAS: We allocate the overall budget, that's correct, and there's a State Board of Education chaired by Mr. Alan Taylor from Hartford that makes decisions in terms of priorities and policies.

However, there's a clear statute on a moratorium. I believe that that would prevent or preclude the Commissioner and the State Board of Education from authorizing new charter schools for that period.

SENATOR WINFIELD: What would like to see happen at the end of the moratorium? What are you looking for at the end of the moratorium?

REP. VARGAS: I'm looking for a period where there's no new constructions of charter schools until we evaluate our existing charter schools, and make sure there are systems in place so that the problems that have come to light in the past don't recur.

I'm not looking to punish the existing charter schools, by the way.

SENATOR WINFIELD: I'm not suggesting anything about, I'm asking you a question about what you're looking for at the end of the process.

REP. VARGAS: At the end of the process, I'm looking for us to be able to make informed decisions about charter schools.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Madam Chair. I got that right this time. Representative, good afternoon.

REP. VARGAS: Good afternoon.

REP. LAVIELLE: We, I have a question for you. We heard a couple of testimonies today, one from Melodie Peters, who said that her goal was to have a plan. She didn't want to do any new ones until we had a plan but she didn't have any time horizon for a plan. It could be very quick, in her view. She said it could also take forever but we agreed that wasn't an option.

So, plan. Not a set moratorium, but wait until you have a plan, however much time that takes, or little.

Then, we also heard the Acting Commissioner say that there is an ongoing and periodic review of charter schools that is regular. So given that we have some material already, and if the goal were to have a plan, and just to wait to have a plan, is there any magic for you in the two-year period or would you be very happy with just having a plan and then going ahead?

REP. VARGAS: Well, it depends what kind of plan we're talking about. When I supported the charter schools back in '96, I supported the charter schools as urban laboratories that a group of educators and parents that had a different view of how to educate children would be able to experiment with different methodologies and engage students in different, more creative ways than the traditional neighborhood public schools, and that if they were successful, these new ideas would be shared with the neighborhood public schools.

That was the plan.

REP. LAVIELLE: Uh-huh.

REP. VARGAS: And that's the plan I'd like us to re-focus on again, and I'd like our State Department to do that. It makes me wonder if they really have been keeping that close tabs and supervision on our existing charter schools, how some of these problems were allowed to develop over the years.

So it leads me to believe that either they're exaggerating their supervision of the charter schools, or they weren't very competent in carrying out their responsibilities of supervising those charters.

REP. LAVIELLE: Well, there are provision in the bill that say the whole process would include a process for sharing, oversight, et cetera, et cetera, and the question that I asked was, are you tied to a specific period. Is there some magic in the notion of two years of fixing a moratorium as opposed to saying, put all this work together and if it takes three months, I'm making that up, to put the work together, is that just as good for you as if it took longer.

REP. VARGAS: Well, if that's the case we could always come back next Session and lift the moratorium. I don't believe that there's, you're right. If our State Department of Education were able to put a plan together as quickly and was able to put in the safeguards into place and come up with such a plan, a comprehensive plan, then yes, I might be in favor of shortening the period.

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay. So your goal is the plan and the safeguards.

REP. VARGAS: I think it's a good idea to have a plan in place of what we expect. I think that's a wonderful idea. Who said that, Melodie Peters from AFD Connecticut?

REP. LAVIELLE: Well, she answered some questions on it, yes.

REP. VARGAS: I think it's an excellent idea.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much for your testimony. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative Miller.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER; Thank you, Madam Chair and thank you, Representative Vargas for your testimony. I have a question.

What happens if there is no plan after two years and I want to add this, that we, Representative Fleischmann had stated earlier that in 2009 the Legislature put in place that in 2011 there would be a moratorium on magnet schools, so until the SDE came up with a plan.

So it is now 2015. There is no plan. There are no additional magnet schools or new magnet schools opening, and I see the same thing happening with charter schools.

So my question to you is, again, what happens after the two years? What do you see envisioning after the two years if there is no plan?

REP. VARGAS: Well, during the two-year period, I would like to see our State Department of Education engage our local neighborhood public schools in terms of what lessons could be applied for the benefit of all Connecticut public school children from our existing magnet schools.

I'm not aware of what's going on with the, I mean of the charter schools. I'm not aware what's going on with the magnet schools. I didn't realize that there was a moratorium on new magnet schools, but if there is a moratorium on new magnet schools there should be work going on in terms of what direction magnet schools are going to take in the future, what direction they're going to take and what purpose they're going to serve.

In the Hartford area, we were under the Sheff mandate, so I believe there was a court order, so I'm not sure that we have the authority to issue a moratorium on that, so I'm a little confused about that issue.

I have to say that going back to the initial Sheff v. O'Neill court case, I was very involved with Attorney John Britton and helped him get some of the plaintiffs for the original Sheff case because we felt the kids in the inner-city were being racially isolated. We wanted a more diverse education.

We had schools that were 95 percent African-American enrollment. We had schools that were 95 percent Latino enrollment and we thought that that was wrong and we worked toward that case and we won the case at the Connecticut State Supreme Court that there would be magnet schools.

However, I have concerns about magnet schools as to whether they're serving middle-class suburban minority kids rather than the inner-city kids and poor kids, so I'm not sure about the magnet schools, but that's the same concern I've heard about the charter schools that mostly serving high-achieving students, rather than dealing with the students that really need the help the most.

Now, it could be that these perceptions are wrong. I haven't seen data. I've heard the charter schools say they are carrying their fair share of ELL students, poor students, special needs students, but I hear the contrary from teachers in those schools and out of those schools and from community members and from parents that have tried to get their kids into those schools, and from parents who did get their kids into those schools but whose kids were finally in a way, pressured, out of those schools.

So, the truth is that most of the data I've seen and heard, come from those schools themselves. I haven't really seen it from the State Department of Education. I know that Senator Winfield has said that there's a regular ongoing evaluation from the State Department of Education. If there is, I haven't seen that.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: If I may, Madam Chair? So, I'm not really asking you about magnet schools.

REP. VARGAS: Right.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: The point I'm trying to make, and by the way, there are non-Sheff magnet schools in the state as well.

But the point I'm trying to make is, in 2011 SDE was supposed to give a plan, give the Education Committee a plan regarding magnet schools. That has not happened, and that was due in 2011. It is now 2015, so that means we cannot open a new charter school, I mean magnet school unless we receive a plan.

REP. VARGAS: Who is --

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: Hold on. Let me finish, please, let me finish.

What I'm saying is this. If the moratorium says two years until there is an evaluation, suppose the evaluation never happens, what happens to charter schools? Do we open charter schools or no charter school can open if there is no evaluation? Do you understand what I'm saying?

REP. VARGAS: Representative Miller, I think I do. Which was the organization that said they would do the plan again? I heard the initials.

REP. PATRICIA MILLRE: No, we passed a law, in statute.

REP. VARGAS; Right. And which organization was supposed to have done this?

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: State Department of Education.

REP. VARGAS: The State Department of Education was supposed to do an evaluation and come up with a plan?

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: Regarding magnet schools.

REP. VARGAS: And your concern is that if we pass a similar bill for charter schools that the State Department of Education will not follow through? Well, that's an interesting question. I'll have to think about that.

I would think that, you know, I really don't want to be in the position of defending the State Department of Education because for the last few years I've been completely in disagreement with our former Commissioner.

Whatever people may feel, I had strong feelings that the Department was not really putting enough emphasis on our city schools and that while I was happy to see new models of education, I don't want to see them proliferated as a parallel school system that continues to grow and draws resources from our neighborhood public schools.

So, if our State Department of Education doesn't follow through, that is an interesting question. I think that's a question we have to discuss with our Governor, on who leads that Department.

REP. PATRICIA MILLER: All right, thank you. And I wish we could do this another way. I understand the concerns about state dollars being, I'm not going to say misused, but not managed properly. But I don't want to close the door of open choice for parents. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Representative. Representative Staneski, for a question for Representative Vargas.

REP. STANESKI: Yes, ma'am. Thank you very much. Thank you for being here, Representative Vargas.

I just have a question based on earlier testimony that you gave where you feel that charter schools are educating and I'm paraphrasing, the brightest of the group.

I thought that our charter schools were a lottery system and therefore it was blind and so they would, naturally if the lottery was a fair lottery, have a cross section of the neighborhood or the area that they're serving.

Could you comment on that a little further for me, please?

REP. VARGAS: Yes. The, my perception and I could be wrong, but my perception, and that's the reason that I'm supporting the moratorium and I'm supporting the accountability bill, is that they are geared toward the high achievers.

Now, in discussions I've had with the boosters for the charter schools, they've said that it's, if it is tilted toward higher achievers it may be because, or if there's less representation of the groups that need the support the most it may be because the middle class parents are savvier in terms of following through for their children on these, making sure that they're in the lottery and that they may be over-represented in the lottery to begin with, which gives a higher percentage of opportunity. So this is kind of the excuse that I've heard.

But they do claim some kids do get in and that they do have a share of ELL students and special needs, but I don't doubt that.

But on the other hand, Achievement First had a school with the highest rate of suspensions and expulsions of any school in Connecticut and to me, if some kids do get in there and you bust them out because they don't fit your model, you know, anyone can run a school if they run a school with students that fit their model and are successful, and if kids aren't and you can remove them and send them back to their neighborhood schools, it's very easy to have a successful model.

That was not the purpose of these schools. We have an educational gap. I mentioned this in my earlier testimony, that we have an educational gap and largely it's a socio-economic gap. It's a gap of poverty students, students living in poverty, students who have limited knowledge of English, students who have special needs. These are the kids that really need the most help if you want to close the educational gap.

Someone had suggested, one of our colleagues had suggested a legislation of an opt out program. Have everybody enter the lottery and only if parents opt out, then they would go back to their neighborhood school.

But I am concerned with the rate of expulsions and suspensions. I know that especially for parents, if they have to hold two or three jobs to survive, if they get called by the school on a regular basis about problems with their kid, sooner or later they're going to pull the child back to the neighborhood school because they can't afford to be going to the school on disciplinary issues.

And you've got to know that if a kid has social maladjustment problems or is hyperactive, they're going to be the very same kids that are going to be getting into trouble regularly. So, neighborhood schools don't have that choice. Neighborhood, traditional neighborhood public schools accept every student that walks in that door and I want to make sure that there's a level playing field.

And I'd just like to know. Maybe it is a level playing field. I don't have that feeling, because the level, the decibels of complaints coming in lead me to believe that there is more to this story than we as the Legislative Body know.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you for your answer, Representative. We appreciate it.

REP. VARGAS: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your testimony here.

REP. VARGAS: And thank you for allowing me to testify before the Education Committee.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: It's always a pleasure. At this time, I'd like to invite up, I understand that we have students here and since normally they go first, we're going to invite them up to speak as a panel. The names I have and please correct me if I get them wrong. I apologize in advance, so I'm going to try. Kadejah Gamble, Timeasha Gamble and Ahjani Llewellyn, and then whoever else. My understanding is that there's a group of them from Achievement First in Hartford, so come on up to the microphone. Good afternoon. Welcome.

AHJANI LLEWELLYN: Good afternoon. Good afternoon, members of the Education Committee. My name is Ahjani Llewellyn and I am in tenth grade at Achievement First Hartford High.

I am here to speak against the bill, Senate Bill 1096 that would stop new charter schools from opening because I believe this is very unfair and more kids from Hartford need better schools.

I started going to a public school in fifth grade and it pretty much changed my life. Before I came to Achievement First when I went to my old school, I was a child who was sitting in a chair, my work was mediocre and I wasn't applying myself.

Now it's totally different. I'm standing out. I'm on the Dean's List. I just got accepted to a summer program at Philips Exeter. It has been an amazing experience for me.

Now I know where I want to go and where I want to be, at college. I want to be successful in life and I know that I am on my way.

There are so many kids just like me in Hartford but instead of attending a school that they want to go to like I do, they are on waiting lists. There are never going to be enough seats at school that exist now and there are too many people in Hartford who are waiting for seats at these charter schools.

They've been waiting for so long, and they keep waiting and waiting and waiting. In the meantime, they are going to schools that are not setting them up for success. We definitely shouldn't stop more good charter schools from opening. We should be doing the opposite and starting more great charter schools.

Don't make students wait any longer. Oppose this bill and thank you for listening.

TIMEASHA GAMBLE: Hello. My name is Timeasha Gamble and I am a high school student at Achievement First Hartford High. I am here to oppose Senate Bill 1096 and tell you about how much public charter schools can help students in Hartford.

We need you to do everything you can to support high performing charter schools. Let me start by saying, I love my school. I am getting a good education. My teachers challenge me academically, help me understand difficult subject matters and are pushing me to go to a four-year college.

I have made so much progress. I brought up my grades and I stay away from things that I know will get me in trouble. My school has given me a better chance in success in life.

You see, I never cared about school or thought much about my future before I came to this school, but now I care so much. I want to go to college and become a doctor. My school, a charter school, has helped me believe that this future is possible.

We need more great charter schools and we shouldn't stop new ones from opening. Please support the creation of more public charter schools because they help kids like me get a great education.

KADEJAH GAMBLE: My name is Kadejah Gamble and I am an 11th grade student at Achievement First Hartford High. I speak to you today as a student who has changed so much because of a great public charter school and I urge you to oppose Senate Bill 1096, which would prevent much charter schools from opening.

Achievement First transformed my living experience. As I started going to Achievement First, I went from a student who did not want to learn to an enthusiastic learner. I went from a student who skipped class to one who attends all my classes and started growing academically.

I went from a student who disrespected my teachers to a person who reflects on how I treated people. Today I'm an honor student at Achievement First Hartford High. I'm also the Vice-President of my 11th grade class. I am interested in attending Connecticut College and then go on to become a psychologist who helps children and teenagers, so that I can use what I have learned to help others in my community.

When I think about the charter school moratorium that has been proposed, I think about my little niece who is only five. She should be able to receive a good education just like I have and we need more grade schools for that to happen.

I know I was one of the lucky ones. I got a seat at Achievement First. Other kids in my neighborhood aren't as lucky. We need more great schools to give more opportunities to people who currently don't have access and that motivate all students to succeed.

I had this great opportunity to go to a good public charter school that prepared me for success, but if this bill is passed, that opportunity will be taken away from someone else. I want other kids in Hartford and everywhere to have what I had.

Please vote against Senate Bill 1096 and support the more great charter schools.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Kadejah. Is anybody else going to testify on that panel, because I know some people may have questions for you. Anybody else going to speak? Yes? No. Okay, so don't go anywhere, though, Kadejah.

I just wanted to say to all of you to Timeasha, Ahjani and Kadejah, you did a great job testifying and thank you for being here today, and I know you probably had a full day of school and then came here afterwards and that's pretty great.

Can I just ask you, Kadejah, did you go to, were you at a Hartford public school before, a neighborhood school before you moved over to Achievement First?

KADEJAH GAMBLE; Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Can I ask you what school you were at?

KADEJAH GAMBLE: Martin Luther King.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. And how did you decide to end up going to Achievement First.

KADEJAH GAMBLE: My mom had looked into Achievement First by, with a mouse and she had signed me up for that school then.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. Well, that's great. And how about you, Timeasha? I know you said that you love your school now. Do you want to come back up to the microphone just for a minute and just tell us what school you were at before? What school were you at before you came to Achievement First?

TIMEASHA GAMBLE: Martin Luther King.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Also same school. Okay. And can you just tell me what is it at Achievement First that makes a difference. You know, I think Kadejah, actually you talked about before you were in a school where you didn't care and you were skipping school and now you feel obviously very differently.

What is it that makes a difference for you? What turned that around?

KADEJAH GAMBLE: Their academics.

TIMEASHA GAMBLE: The same thing as my sister, because while I was at Martin Luther King, that school did not offer a lot of education (inaudible) like I did not, I wasn't on a reading board. They wouldn't let you leave the classroom any time you felt like you it. But going to Achievement First I was a huge turnaround and also was a huge challenge because I did not understand passages or I couldn't comprehend the passages as quickly as other scholars, but now I'm on board on a reading level as other scholars. I maintain staying in the classroom and getting an education that I also get, which makes me an honor student that I am today.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: All right. Well, we're proud of you for that. Good work.

TIMEASHA GAMBLE: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: I'm really happy for you about that. All right. Are there any other questions? Representative McCrory.

REP. MCCRORY: Thank you, Madam Chair. I just want to say you guys did a great job at Martin Luther King and Achievement First right across the street from (inaudible). I probably represent you so go back and tell your mother Representative McCrory saw you (inaudible). You did a wonderful job talking about your schools and I appreciate your advocacy and keep up the great work and make Hartford look proud. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Are there any other questions? All right. Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it. Very valuable to have you here. Keep up the good work.

Our next speaker is Lon Seidman, if Lon is still here? You've got staying power, sir. Thank you for being here.

LON SEIDMAN: I don't know if we're up to good evening, yet, but --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Not yet. Wait until 6:00.

LON SEIDMAN: Okay, Good afternoon, Madam Chair. Thank you for having me. So in about 20 minutes I need to leave here and go to my board of finance meeting to present my school budget for the next year, and at that meeting I'm going to have to tell them that $40,000 of our budget, which in a small town like mine is not insignificant to taxpayers, is in there because of the minimum budget requirement, and that's why I'm speaking in favor of House Bill 7019 tonight, because what's happened in our district is that we don't have just declining enrollment, we have free-falling enrollment.

Our district in the Essex school is down almost 35 percent from where it was five years ago. It's got 150 kids since I took over as Chairman about seven years ago and we've been making reductions along the way to just class sizes because we just don't need as many staff to support the students we have.

What's prevented us from hitting, we call it the MBR Jail up until now has been the fact that our special education increases have been going up at a higher rate than our reductions were.

What's happening this year though, is that we have a special education situation leaving the district, so now we are finding ourselves in an MBR situation.

This year because of the declining enrollment we're reducing two full-time classroom positions as well as reducing our assistant principal's position from a 12 month to a 10 month, so we see, you know, we're making some very reasonable changes to our spending because of the overall need that we have and we typically only ask for what we need when we present our budget to the community.

So we're in a situation where we have really no option for pleading our case to the state or anyone else because our only option at the moment, because we have such a large reduction to make is to either fund it, or break the law and then hope we can get forgiveness later from the State Department of Ed. So you know, the bill as proposed would certainly help us.

The other issue we're finding is that this is a compounding issue, so if we don't do anything or the Legislature doesn't do anything with this over the next two years, we could see that MBR requirement be about $320,000, which is a significant impact to the taxpayers in the town.

So we do have a very complicated regional system, which might be a part of why we have this issue and I can, I've written testimony submitted that kind of explains all that we're doing with our neighboring towns.

Chester, which was brought up earlier today is another town that dealt with this last year. They had this issue happen after their budget was approved by the community. They're already into their next fiscal year and they actually had to have a town meeting to call everybody in to vote, you know, for this MBR allocation or else they would have been fined on their ECS.

So it is an issue out there that's impacting us. I do very much understand the need for the MBR and I think it's an important piece of policy and I think we need something, especially for smaller communities because we are doing everything right.

We're trying to regionalize all our services as best we can and we're just asking for a little bit of relief here to help us get through this period of declining enrollment. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay, thank you very much. And so, it is your testimony, though, that the bill before us today would help your community.

LON SEIDMAN: Absolutely.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And then the understanding would be that you are, you've got enough of an enrollment decline that you would be able to reduce your budget by $40,000, still deliver the same services, not affect anything but you're being required to, you know, basically put that money into your budget and it's not to good use.

LON SEIDMAN: Right. What really hit us was the fact that we lost that special education requirement. And in our case, when you talk about percentages, you know percentage in our community, 1 percent or 2 percent could be a single special education case.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Uh-huh.

LON SEIDMAN: So we get two or three, you know at once, that could be a 5 percent increase in a small town like ours. So, you know, the numbers, the formulas are really difficult.

And I think if we just had an opportunity to say, hey, look, this is all that we're doing. We're not cutting services. We're really doing the right thing by kids here. We just, we don't think classes of five kids are reasonable, so we need to make some reductions along the way.

And it's hard to do that. We are (inaudible) teachers now, whereas before we were doing attrition and it's very difficult for us to do that, but you have to do that for our taxpayers.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: All right. Thank you very much. Are there questions? Yes, Senator Bye.

SENATOR BYE: Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the Committee, forgive me because I haven't been here for a lot of the testimony on this so I just want to get it right.

So as I understand it, this bill would change the MBR for education cost-sharing dollars. Correct, or?

LON SEIDMAN: No. It would change the amount that we're able to reduce our budget by. Maybe it might impact ECS somehow, but --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Total allocation.

SENATOR BYE: Okay, your total allocation.

LON SEIDMAN: Right.

SENATOR BYE: So how does it interface with the ECS? Because like, should we be saying if (inaudible) for your students, the ECS should go down because what's been happening is, over time the formula is not really running because we're holding people harmless and so certain communities are getting more and more shortchanged. Some communities get well over 100 percent of what they should get, 41 communities. Nineteen get less than 50 percent, so that this just compounds that problem by keeping the dollars going to districts that maybe have fewer students so the ECS should go down.

LOU SEIDMAN: Right. Well, no one in my community would say we're being over-funded on ECS right now. I mean, you know, it's a very small portion of our budget compared to what is being paid for by our property taxpayers and that's something that we've heard earlier today as well, that you know, it is impacting seniors in our town.

A lot of times they're in homes for generations that are finding suddenly that they can't afford to live there and I understand the issues there.

Our ECS grant, when you look at the total percentage is very small. I think it's maybe $300,000 to the Town of Essex from one year to the next, so you know, we do make use of those funds and we do have issues with students that are on the free and reduced lunch program, students that are, you know, intensely involved in different areas of not just special education and language and everything else and those dollars are important to us.

SENATOR BYE: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Madam Chair. First, I want to thank Senator Bye for not using the word over-funded, because I know for a lot of us in small districts, that's really hard to listen to.

How much students in your district in Essex?

LON SEIDMAN: It's a little complicated so we have what we've done in Essex is we have our grades 7 through 12 regionalized as part of the Valley Regional School and the (inaudible) Middle School in Region 4.

What's happened over the years is that as mentioned earlier, the communities wish to keep their own elementary schools. So what we did as a way to cost share, and this started about 50 years ago is we combined a lot of our operations under a cooperative agreement, which is in statute. I think it's 10-158a. And we were able to realize a lot of cost savings there. Nothing that we could prove to the State Department in the MBR discussion because it's been so long that it's hard to say, oh, yeah, we definitely saved X amount of dollars that way.

So overall, though, I think within my Essex school we have 406 students this year. I believe that number is declining by about 30 or 40 for next year, so we're still plummeting.

REP. KOKORUDA: And that's in your elementary school?

LON SEIDMAN: In our elementary school.

REP. KOKORUDA: So you're proposing, you think you're going to go down about 10 percent?

LOU SEIDMAN: Well, we're already down 30 percent. We're going to see a drop in half in the next five years.

REP. KOKORUDA: All right. And with the children, I don't know if you can actually do this, but do you have any idea of your ECS per pupil, what you get from the state per pupil?

LOU SEIDMAN: I don't, no. It's a difficult formula for me.

REP. KOKORUDA: Because of the regional nature of it.

LOU SEIDMAN: I will say, though, that as our population declines, so does our cost per pupil, and that impacts our excess cost grants also.

REP. KOKORUDA: Right. Right.

LOU SEIDMAN: So we're going to see, you know, some changes there, too.

REP. KOKORUDA: We heard best testimony about that the other day. Thank you.

LOU SEIDMAN: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Are there any other questions? No? All right. Well, good luck at your budget hearing this evening.

LOU SEIDMAN: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you for being here. Okay, going back. Now we're back on track here. We're done with all our public officials. We're done with all our students signed up, and we are now back in line on House Bill 7017 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT DATA PRIVACY and our next speaker is Kimberly Norton followed by Jennifer Jacobsen.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Thank you for your patience.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak. Good afternoon, Senator Slossberg and members of the Education Committee. My name is Dr. Kimberly Norton, and I'm here to testify today on Raised Bill 7017.

The State of Connecticut is in good company with the proposal of Raised Bill 7017 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT DATA PRIVACY. In 2014, 36 out of 46 states at legislative sessions introduced student data privacy bills.

Twenty states passed 28 data privacy bills into law. I would like to commend you for beginning to tackle this issue by raising Bill 7017.

Public education has changed dramatically with the advent of technology. There is so much data being collected on our children through the use of on-line services, apps, websites, as well as through the development of state longitudinal data systems.

The parents are confused and have been left out of the discussion, especially with 2011 changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA.

Parental consent is now a thing of the past. Not only do parents not know what sites, apps or on-line platforms the kids are using, they don't know who has access to their child's data, how it is being used and how it will be used in the future. Combine these advances in technology with significant FERPA changes not requiring parental consent to access student records and the flood gates are open to all kinds of issues to arise regarding student privacy.

For Connecticut parents, Raised Bill 7017 starts the important work of protecting children's educational records and privacy. While I think it is a good start, I would like to recommend that the bill be amended to exclude any allowable data collection that is not in the sole interest of the education of children.

Being pro business is great for businesses, but children should not be required to participate in on-line activities that enhances the profit of private companies. So by allowing private companies to use kids' data for product development, enhancement and marketing doesn't seem like a good idea.

In addition, allowing companies holding very profitable established data bases to merge, purchase, or require companies without written consent of families is also not a good idea.

Furthermore the bill also makes reference to quote, current industry standards and holding private companies to these standards. However, these standards are a work in progress and cannot be counted on to protect children's data, which is why 20 other states have passed 28 student data privacy bills in 2014.

Let's define those standards and be explicit. Section 3 of the bill allows local and regional boards to disclose directory information to quote, any person requesting it for a good reason. This provision is too broad and needs to be more explicit or deleted altogether.

In addition to data collected by on-line companies, which is the focus of this bill, districts collect data as well, which includes student responses to standardized assessments.

Bill 7017 specifically excludes student assessment data from its protection. It needs to be included in the definition of student generated content as does sensitive survey data that is collected by districts.

District collected data used to be kept in file cabinets. Now with a click, it can be forwarded out of the district, out of the state and to other authorized representatives without parental consent.

The rest of my testimony is, you have it, so it's all written down.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Well, thank you very much. I did, actually, I do have the rest of your testimony right in front of me and it's very useful and I think you give some good recommendations.

I would like to ask you if you have any thoughts about the current industry standards, and you said there's 20 other states that have passed 28 student data privacy bills. Let's define those standards. Did you have any thoughts of what those standards should look like, or would you just refer us to some of the other states that have done that?

KIMBERLY NORTON: I think that a lot of the standards that have been brought up aren't usually enforceable, so there's pledges that have been signed by companies, but it's not really anything that involves a state department or any entity auditing the companies and having enforceable penalties for breaches.

There's also usually not parental notification measures that are put into place in many of the companies.

I would love to see, you know, either on a state level or a district level have a chief privacy officer where parents could actually look on line and see all the companies that X school district is using and look at, you know, be able to actually click and see what the contract is between the district and the company so that parents can get a sense of what's going on.

But a lot of the students don't necessarily as they get older, especially in high school, don't necessarily know the privacy policies. I think it would be a great thing to teach students as well.

When we go to Face Book and we click, you know, see the terms of contract and you click, oh, yeah, I'll do all that because I want to be on Face Book, the students really need to get a better understanding of what they're actually agreeing to and that's not a part of the curriculum in terms of what's being taught in digital learning.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Yes, thank you for that. We actually do have a bill that we passed out of the Committee already about middle school curriculum and some of it does require some teaching around social media and literacy and understanding what is you're doing and where does your information go and signing up in that regard.

My instinct is it's probably not as extensive as probably something you're looking for but it's certainly more than what we have right now, so thank you for that. I think this is some very good information.

One of the other speakers talked about parental notification and consent, getting more information. Is that something that you would be supportive of as well?

KIMBERLY NORTON: I would definitely be supportive of that because a lot of, if there's any notice that goes home, for instance in an acceptable user contract, which is something that came to me when, just in terms of agreeing for my kids to be on line, and it cited FERPA protection.

And then it was kind of click on FERPA. Most parents think that FERPA is the old FERPA, which was developed in 1974, which was actually, protects student data. Any time data left the school district the parent would have to sign a form, go into an office and say, okay, my doctor can have that form or the psychologist can have that form.

Now, parents essentially do not have any privilege in terms of their children's records, which I think is really not a good thing, and most parents don't know that.

So part of my testimony said no news is good news. Parents think oh, there's nothing alarming going on here. I don't really have to think about this, but when in reality, everything is fair game. All the kids' information can go anywhere without them knowing.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much. Are there questions? Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you for your testimony. It is really very useful. I just have a quick question for you.

You referred to Section 3 about the directory information --

KIMBERLY NORTON: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- where the information would, directory information, which is very specific, very rudimentary, would be available to any person requesting it and you said it's too broad and needs to be more explicit or deleted.

Well, you could delete it. What would you do if you made it more explicit? Do you have any thoughts?

KIMBERLY NORTON: I mean, I think just to define who would have access to directory information. All of my directories, and I have four kids, and I have four directories. There's a legal disclaimer that says this cannot meet the use of commercial purposes and it just basically prohibits you from using it anything other than communicating within that particular school. So I'm not quite clear as to why that's in there other than possibly a company wanting to take the database of another company and selling it, or either saying, I want to send out a mailer to all these parents who are in this database.

So I'm not really clear why it's in there but if it's going to be in there I just think it needs to be more tightly defined as to what would be the reason that someone would be able to gain access to directory information.

REP. LAVIELLE: Can I just ask a follow up question?

KIMBERLY NORTON: Sure.

REP. LAVIELLE: If, I know there has been some discussion, various bills we've seen in the past using the same data that's collected by the K-12 system in our public higher ed system.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: Is that an acceptable repository of data for you or would you draw the line there?

KIMBERLY NORTON: I'm not clear on what kind of information is in the higher ed system, so I don't really know what to compare it to.

REP. LAVIELLE: As I recall some of the legislation I saw last year was yeah, just academic information, again, name, date of birth, that sort of thing, so that there is the same identifier for the same student going all the way through the system in Connecticut from K-12 into the higher ed system.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Oh, you're talking about the state longitudinal data system.

REP. LAVIELLE: Yeah.

KIMBERLY NORTON: And I'm sorry, rephrase your question about that information.

REP. LAVIELLE: Well, do you, I guess my question was in terms of others having access to directory information, is that, do you have any feelings one way or the other about, simple information going to the higher ed system?

KIMBERLY NORTON: Right. I mean, I guess I'm not really clear why it would need to go there without parental consent. I think it goes back to someone applying to college or family applying to college and maybe if it does have academic information.

If I needed to get my son's transcript, I'd have to fill out all these forms and so I'm not really clear as to why it would just be passed on without any consent at all.

In terms of the state longitudinal data system, there is a national model to build data systems with 400 data points and my sense is, only collect what's necessary. Only send ahead what's necessary.

Everyone's on the Internet these days. Anyone can go on and say, I want to Google that company. I want to get that, you know, I want to get information on that company, so I think it should come more from the families and the children, not from companies and also from government, necessarily, getting information on them that they may not want them to have. If that answers your question?

REP. LAVIELLE: It does. Thank you very much. Very useful. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, and thank you for helping to bring some sunshine into an area that is increasingly a concern for so many parents.

And it also brings to light that there was a recent inquiry I had by a very well thought of nonprofit group that actually advocates for children and for, particularly those that are troubled and for children living in poverty. In particular, it's very well known to the General Assembly and they provide a lot of background information to lots of bills, and they were very interested in going in the opposite direction of this particular bill because they were really interested in getting arrest records to be released of those in our secondary school system or even younger in order to make the case.

And I brought this concern to their attention because we seem to be at cross purposes. So do you see in any case an organization such as that, that should have some unique access to records such as that.

And of course, they made their case stating that of course it wouldn't be identified with any individual, necessarily, that how, you know, would you feel reassured if they were to say to you, well, we're only going to, you know, access a number that will be identified to an individual. Does that give you any comfort if that would be the case that they would propose?

KIMBERLY NORTON: Right. Is this for the purposes of research?

SENATOR BOUCHER: Actually, it's not just research, but also promulgating published information that would support a bill that they may be pursuing in the General Assembly. Even if they're an outside nonprofit, but they work very, very closely in coming to testify in front of multiple committees on issues regarding this particular school population.

KIMBERLY NORTON: I mean, if it were my child, I would not want arrest records being released and if it was a friend's child, I would give them the same advice.

There was a study at MIT that looked at three data points that could be associated with the person's identity, three random data points that could then trace back to the identity of an individual.

So in other words, you're seeking to use a PII or a number associated with a person. It's very easy, whether it's a hacker or just the person's privacy at stake to identify who that individual is and I think that information could be very damaging to that student or child if they're applying to college or trying to get a job and I don't think it's fair.

SENATOR BOUCHER: So you would question, really, the security of keeping someone anonymous, so to speak?

KIMBERLY NORTON: Well, I would recommend, you know, somewhat with a research background, I would recommend aggregate data and just not use any personal identifiers at all.

So you could say 20 percent of the people in this population were arrested under the age of 16 for larceny attempt and you know, I would just stick with the aggregate data. I don't understand what the purpose would be unless you're doing individual profiles of students, which doesn't sound like they need that to get a bill passed.

It's just fishing for things that they don't need to prove their point. That would be my argument.

SENATOR BOUCHER: To get that aggregate information, though, they might make the argument that they need individual information to aggregate it in order to make, you know, a valid point to get the proper information. So you see what some of the opposite points of view are, coming at the very same time this Session.

I would just conclude that it seems ironic to me as a parent of three, you know, children that went to college that as soon as they turned 18 you weren't privy to the grades they got in college, even though you were paying 100 percent of the cost.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Yes.

SENATOR BOUCHER: And it always, you know, concerned me that even though you were supporting that college education, you weren't privy to their records, but yet now we're discussing those records or data being given to commercial interests that want to sell them a credit card or any other thing.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Yes.

SENATOR BOUCHER: So I think you guys are on the right path with this. I think we need to do a great deal more, given the kind of technical environment that we live in today. So thank you for coming and testifying today. I appreciate it.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Thank you for your help. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Are there other questions? Seeing none, thank you very much. Appreciate you coming.

KIMBERLY NORTON: Okay, thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Jennifer Jacobsen. Good evening.

JENNIFER JACOBSEN: Good afternoon, everyone. Hi. You're going to be data'd out by the end of today.

Good afternoon, everyone. First, before I get started really quickly, I just really want to say thank you so much to the Senators and State Representatives that we have met with and sat with earlier in the year that took the time to listen to our concerns with this and raised a bill and to the full Committee for listening to them and raising the bill.

I submitted written testimony, so I'm going to let that sit as it is. That talks in more technical details of what I'm looking for in terms of additions to this bill. Most of them were based on some guidelines that came out of the USDOE in January of this year that pertained to on-line guidelines.

So a couple of things that they actually are recommending are missing from ours, so I just kind of stuck those in and I'm going to spend the rest of my time, with what little left I have to speak a little bit more as a mom.

I think this is a really important conversation, and I do think that actually the state longitudinal data system is a part of it.

I've spent a lot of time researching it, a lot of time. And I feel like they are doing a lot in schools pertaining to data collection that parents have been left out of the conversation entirely, actually. I'd like to be back into that conversation.

I've done so much research so that I could understand the other side of this. That's really why I did it was to understand why is it used and how is it helpful and I know it's incredibly helpful to companies and researchers and to you, too, to make decisions.

But what I don't read in all of these manuals and documents and contracts and applications and MOUs is, I don't see anyone talking about the kids. I don't hear anyone saying, how can you protect them while we do this.

I don't hear anyone saying, let's make sure we let parents know about this. I hear a lot about people saying, we want data. We need data, Data is important to make decisions.

But we're leaving parents and kids out of the picture and protecting it first, before we go about collecting it and storing it and transferring it and giving it out to people.

So as a mom, that concerns me because the reason why FERPA got stripped so that we could get individual level data. That was why that had to be done. Congress didn't say that was okay. There was a lot of uproar about that, but it was just done. I don't like the way that was done.

I'm not going to have any more time to finish up, but I would say that it's just gotten out of balance a little bit with the all take and no give because we don't notifications. We don't get disclosures. We don't have access.

If you ask questions, no one answers them. Not where I am, because I've asked. And it's scary in this day and age of knowing that your kids' record could be given out to people without your knowledge and consent and you have no clue, and they have no clue. So it is actually a very big deal. It's a very big deal and I think the fact that 39 states this Session have 138 bills on the table surrounding the SLDS', not only on line, says to us as a nation that this is a big deal, that we are collecting a lot of information on kids and we haven't done the right thing.

We've done a great job collecting it and building things to collect it, but we haven't doe a good job in making sure that they're safe within it first. So I really would like for you to take it a little bit further and consider those things.

Sorry I get upset about it. It's just I've read a lot of documents and seen a lot of pictures and you know, and I hear people that own my kids' data and it's not them, and it's somebody else. That upsets me.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: I understand that. You're being a protective parent and that's not a bad thing and you're up here advocating for everybody else's kids, too, so don't apologize for that.

JENNIFER JACOBSEN: But anyway, I'm sorry to, I did in my written, I did give suggestions and the whole technical and examples and all that. I just wanted to spend my time a little bit more why I'm doing what I'm doing.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. Well, we appreciate your advocacy and being here and the suggestions in your testimony. Are there questions? Yes, Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll just make a very brief comment. I want to thank you and all of you for bringing these concerns to us early in the Session. It is a concern among many of my constituents and many folks that I've spoken to. They are very, very concerned with the explosion of technology how all sorts of things about our kids and our families and even ourselves are getting away from us, and you've highlighted that very well, I think.

Some of you came with the concrete suggestions usually in writing and you really highlighted the emotional side of it and how anxious it is making people feel, and that's why I think this may be one of the most important bills that we work on in this Committee during this Session, even with all the issues swirling around us.

So thank you for giving us the opportunity to take up the subject and I hope that we will make some very definitive progress. Thanks to your input.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Senator Boucher.

SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you also. I will add my voice to that. But more importantly, not only your highlighting this for a vast number of families and parents, I think what you've done was constructive is that you didn't come to just ask for help. You came completely prepared with research, data and suggested language, which is very rare and did a lot of leg work in advance and also went back again to answer questions and do that leg work.

So thank you to all of you. We've got some really smart women and moms up here. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Representative McCarthy-Vahey.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you, Miss Jacobsen for your testimony and all the hard work. I think you've highlighted an issue that is one that perhaps some parents know about and many others do not.

And my question to you is, how, when you talked with other folks back at home, or elsewhere, do you find that there are a lot of parents who are aware of this or is it just a small handful?

JENNIFER JACOBSEN: I don't think so, because I think that the standard practice in at least our district and many, is that they're issuing a FERPA sentence. And that FERPA sentence gives a false sense of protection because the sentence says, usually, that we are compliant with federal and state privacy laws. That's it.

It doesn't say, and by the way, that federal law was gutted and now we can share your kids' information. So I think if it said that sentence, that maybe they would be more concerned.

So, and then I don't think really anyone knows about the state longitudinal data system at all. So I don't think that they know that there's linking from birth through, like that everyone has an ID number and that we're going to track them on an individual level. I don't think anyone knows about that and that's why I'm here saying that I think people, that parents should know about that because when I found it, I was kind of shocked that I didn't, how could I not be told about this?

You know what I mean? So I asked. I did ask our superintendent, who's had access and you just, no one answers you. So, I mean, it's like you're totally helpless.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: Well, Miss Jacobsen, thank you, because I think you're getting an answer here today by this Committee highlighting and agreeing with all of you that it's an important issue that we need to address and I want to thank you again and thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JENNIFER JACOBSEN: I would just like to finish by saying I know it's important to have useful data for you to make decisions. I think we've just gotten so out of balance with it in terms of taking it but not providing the give back in return if you ask a question or letting people know about it.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Miss Jacobsen, this measure's before us because we are very aware of the lack of balance and have always been committed to protecting students' privacy and anonymity. Are there other questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, your advocacy, your passion.

JENNIFER JACOBSEN: Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Art O'Neill, to be followed by Sheila Cohen on Senate Bill 1095.

REP. O'NEILL: Good evening, Chairman Fleishmann and members of the Committee.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good evening.

REP. O'NEILL: I want to thank you very, very much for giving me the opportunity here to testify on Bill 1096. I would be testifying in opposition to the bill.

This is a piece of legislation, which I fundamentally don't believe is really necessary. I think that we have a charter school system that is working, not perfectly, but that the remedy of a moratorium on any future charters for at least the next two years is drastic, and that the studies that perhaps should be done about the effectiveness of charters and problems that they might be having can certainly be done while the system continues along as it has been.

I think a couple of the other aspects of the bill, which I know the Committee drafted but I feel need to be highlighted, because there's been a lot of focus on the moratorium as the approval of the plan, a comprehensive plan to be put together by the State Department of Education, which could take some time. It's called for it to be done within two years but nothing really is going to be able to move forward until a plan is delivered to this Committee and it is approved by this Committee, and that could be a longer time.

And then the review that's called for of all of the existing charter schools, whatever that really is meant to encompass, would have to be approved by this Committee. So there are a number of points at which all future charters could be stopped.

And then finally, there's a provision in this bill that calls for the final authorization to be done by the, effectively, the Appropriations Committee and then the General Assembly in appropriating money, otherwise the charter never happens. It's only an initial approval of a charter and again, that's a stopping point at which there won't be any charters granted unless the Legislature through its appropriations process, authorizes the money for those charters.

One of the reasons why we have charters and I'm I think, one of the relatively few members left who was here when we started with the charters was that we wanted to do something, to sort of paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt. You know, try something. If it doesn't work, try something else and that's what the charter movement and effort really has been all about.

Finally, I'd like to say that normally I don't testify about educational issues. That's not my area. I've never served on this Committee and occasionally I think I should have testified last week. You raised one of my bills and thank you for doing that, and I hope it moves forward in spite of my lack of testimony. Anybody has any questions, please give me a holler.

But the work on this was done by a constituent of mine who is very near and dear to my heart, Ruby Corby O'Neill. She happens to be a member of the LPRAC Commission, which you may or may not have heard yet. I'm not quite sure if they testified at this point, but I was there at the meeting last night and there was a vote to approve support for 1096 but it was a 6 to 5 vote with one of the members with a flat tire unable to get to the meeting and with someone else abstaining. So I'm not sure that that group's support was kind of overwhelming endorsement that one might wish to have in favor of a piece of legislation like this.

It is a problem, I guess, from listening to Representative Vargas, in his district. I think maybe the real solution, like so many others is that we enforce the law we have, which is 100 lines of regulatory language in the existing law that could be utilized and if that were done, then maybe the problems that this bill is designed to try to address could be solved much more expeditiously. Thank you;

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Representative. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Representative O'Neill. May I just ask you, this last group you were talking about, the 6/5 vote, what is that group and you're saying they're the ones that wrote this bill --

REP. O'NEILL: No, no, no. The Committee wrote the bill. The group is the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission and they endorsed the bill last night at their meeting. But if you're being told that somebody endorsed something it sounds like everybody's behind it or it's a solid endorsement.

In fact, it was by a 6 to 5 vote and it would have been a tie vote if one of the members hadn't had a flat tire on his way to the meeting. So that was the point that I was trying to make about that.

Not to take away from it, but just by accident I happened to be in the room when the vote was taken, so I understand what happened there, and as I said, it was controversial within that organization, just as it has been controversial in front of the Committee here today. There's a lot of opposition to it.

REP. KOKORUDA: And through you, Mr. Chairman, I hate to put you on the spot, Representative, but a moratorium seems like, you know, a real reach here. Can you compare this to anything in all your years here that we've done anything like this?

REP. O'NEILL: Oh boy. I can't think of sort of saying we're going to stop a policy. Usually, if we want to stop a policy, we just stop funding it or we repeal it off the books. That's my recollection of how we change policy that way.

The easiest way is to just don't fund it.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both. I guess I would observe that there was a moratorium put in place for charter schools in 2009 and continues to be in place today and we're still awaiting a plan from the State Department of Education to address that.

REP. O'NEILL: Excuse me, was that magnet schools? You said charters.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I'm sorry. I mean to say magnet schools. I'm getting tired but yes, that magnet school moratorium was put in place in 2009 and it's been on the books and has been enforced. Any other questions? Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Good evening, Representative.

REP. O'NEILL: Good evening.

REP. LAVIELLE: And thank you very much for coming. It's always good to hear from you and by the way, thank you for the bill that you provided us that we, I believe did pass just a couple of days ago. So, in any event, thank you for bringing us the tidings from Dr. O'Neill. It's much appreciated and I thank you for your commentary on existing law. It gives us real food for thought.

I think we've heard today that there's thought that needs to be given to this, but your feeling on, this is my question, your feeling on that is that again, as a lot of people said today, there's no magic in it in a timeframe. You can give thought as quickly as you can give thought?

REP. O'NEILL: Right.

REP. LAVIELLE: Very good. Thank you, Representative. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions for the witness? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good evening as well, sir. You have been here a long time, and I guess as a new Legislator, I'm sitting here looking at bills that we are possibly going to pass into law and become statute, and I hear feedback, one from our good Chairman with respect to a moratorium on magnet schools that it still exists because a report did not, was not delivered to this body in a timely fashion, still hasn't been delivered.

And one of the things that you said in your testimony was, we have existing law. Let's enforce that law, hold people's feet to the fire, and this isn't the first time that this has been said in Committee here on reports or requests from agencies.

So I ask you, when you say that, how do we do that? Because I'm sitting here kind of scratching my head saying, where is that report on the magnet schools and whose feet do we hold to the fire, and now you know, there is, Representative Miller asked the same question of Representative Vargas. What happens to the moratorium here if we don't get that report.

So I'm asking you in your wisdom and your sage wisdom of being here for the time that you have, if you have an answer?

REP. O'NEILL: Well, as I said before, I think the power of the purse is the most powerful weapon that the Legislature has at its disposal and short of impeaching someone, you know, removing the Commissioner from office for failure to carry out the dictates of the law, the softer approach would be to cut or perhaps eliminate budget items from the people who are not doing their jobs, and that usually gets their attention.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions? If not, thank you, Representative O'Neill.

REP. O'NEILL: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So I aired a few moments ago, I thought we were going to move on to Senate Bill 1095, but it's been brought to my attention that there's someone who still would like to testify on House Bill 7017 the act concerning student data privacy. So I would ask that Miss Myrna Martinez please come forward and if there is anyone else that wants to testify on that bill, they should approach the Clerk's desk and give their name. Miss Martinez.

MYRNA MARTINEZ: Good evening. Good evening. My name is Myrna Martinez. I'm from New London. I am a board of ed member in New London. I'm not speaking, obviously, for the board. I'm speaking as an individual. I am a Connecticut certified teacher, an elementary certified and also a K-8 dual language teacher as well as the mom of two young children.

On the topic of data, the testing via technology is new and we can't even conceive of the invasion of privacies that the repercussions that will amount from what we're doing, and so I just caution us to not test this out with our students.

I'd also like, you know, please to speak on another of the bills while I'm here.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: As long as you're within your three minutes, you've got the floor.

MYRNA MARTINEZ; Thank you. So I wasn't planning on speaking to this but I heard Melodie Peters and I was moved on her testimony on the moratorium for charters, and I as well agree that they're not all that, that they're not all ill consequenced, but there have been plenty of warnings from educational historians from educational equity advocates of the clear documentation of disparity of those who benefit of the systematic issues, of perpetuation of what we're doing instead of solving within our own systems.

As far as the topic of them being public, they're public when a district must take in all students. They are public when a school must comply with the transparency of the public funds.

Schools, hopefully those that will be under locally elected municipal officials, to the topic of those that are succeeding on closing the achievement gap, yes, there are successes and you will hear testimony from successful stories of individuals. But we need to think of the success of the whole and of the system and the responsibility of elected officials.

Our public municipal schools can do this. What we do need, though, is a total and utter commitment for our students to succeed, so we need to pay out as we roll out efforts that create equity within our system. We need to pay out, let's say, for I heard, I believe it was Representative Lavielle speaking to needing to sometimes pay out to have smaller class sizes, which are proven at the elementary level to have repercussions for their education throughout.

To be willing to identify and service students with (inaudible) needs (inaudible) them to learn strategies that (inaudible).

We need to be able to address difficult topics such as race and discrimination, which happens. But anyway, this utter and total commitment means not passing the buck, not passing the bill from the public eye. We need alternatives and earlier we (inaudible) from students from (inaudible) successful with their efforts within our public system. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Miss Martinez. Are there any questions? Representative Bumgardner.

REP. BUMGARDNER: There is one question.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Go ahead.

REP. BUMGARDNER: Just a brief comment. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for coming our, Myrna and as you said, you're a member of the New London board of education and I just thank you for the work you do, so thank you.

MYRNA MARTINEZ: (Inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: No, I'm sorry. There was no question. You've run past your time. Thank you. I have a note that there's another member of the public who wants to testify on data privacy, House Bill 7017, Deborah Stevenson.

DEBORAH STEVENSON: Good afternoon, Representative Fleischmann.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good evening, Attorney Stevenson.

DEBORAH STEVENSON: I apologize. Good evening. Committee members, I am Debra Stevenson. I am an education and civil rights attorney and I'm a consultant for the recently formed Connecticut Parents Rights Coalition, made up of about a dozen different groups dedicated to preserving parental rights, all of whom support more action for parental rights in the state of privacy issue.

I'm here today testifying on Bill 7017 and I do appreciate you coming out with the bill, but we do think it needs improvement.

Children are at risk from data collection today. I have submitted testimony in the form of two articles about these risks. One of them about Pearson using data collected to spy on kids through social media and to put pressure on schools to take action against the child.

Another, talking about the kind of data being obtained, including psychological and behavioral information that is also sent to third parties.

Much of the data collected today in the classroom and through testing, is uploaded into a longitudinal data system, the P20-WIN system, and that system does share that with 49 other states by the agreement of the contract, 49 other states, in addition to the federal government.

So that data does not stay within the public school system, contrary to popular belief. Not only that, but teachers are being trained as we speak today as part of professional development on something called PBIS. That stands for positive behavioral intervention and support. PBIS emphasizes the use of behavioral student data to determine effective behavioral practices. That data also is collected and uploaded and shared.

In addition, the SBAC test is a computer adaptive test, which means it does test on behavioral how much the student can take in terms of how hard the questions are, and that data is also shared. In fact, it is sent to an out-of-state psychological and behavioral research entity for analysis. That's called The American Institute's research. That's where the SBAC data goes for analysis.

Why would it go to an entity that is there specifically a psychological and behavioral research entity for analysis if that kind of information is not being collected and shared out of state and to third parties.

Parents and children, I'm sorry, do not lose their constitutionally protected rights simply because they choose to attend a public school. They in fact, have the legal right to determine what data may be collected from their children and about their children. They have the legal right to protect their children from harm and the data being collected is not protected, so there is no right now.

There is no provision in the law recognizing that parental right and ensuring that that right will be respected. There's no provision for informed consent for the collection of data, no provision for parents that know or consent to what data is collected, no provision for parents to know or consent to where it is shared and no provision to hold anyone accountable for breaches.

When other states are protecting their public school children, why isn't Connecticut? Don't delegate your authority to lawyers or to others. Please, read and understand that the state already is collecting data and allowing that data to be widely disseminated.

Please do something to amend these bills and help parents who simply want to protect their children's privacy. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. And I guess I would observe the bill is before us because we share your concern about protecting children's data privacy. Questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time and your testimony.

DEBORAH STEVENSON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Anyone else to testify here tonight on data privacy? If not, we move on to Senate Bill 1095 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENTS, and Sheila Cohen, who has waited patiently.

SHEILA COHEN: Good evening. Thank you, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, members of the Education Committee. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to testify before you.

My name is Sheila Cohen. I am President of the Connecticut Education Association. CEA's Executive Director Mark Waxenberg and I will testify on Raised Bill 1095 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENTS, and you have my testimony before you and rather than reiterate every single thing that's in there.

You did hear me speak last week about a recent statewide survey that we had done among voters in Connecticut and by a two-thirds majority, those voters say that there is too much high-pressure testing in our schools and they want their Legislators to do something about it and they want their Legislators to do something about it now.

The same is true across the country. The states are taking action to reduce testing and as you heard from Monty Neill, there is more and more of an outcry to diminish the amount of toxic testing that's going on.

You also heard from Monty Neill about the fact that 22 states have designed their own assessment system and interestingly enough in 2010, 44 states were signed up for either SBAC or for PARCC and today only 29 are still doing that. Now, you can do the math and it doesn't add up to 50, but that's because the District of Columbia is counted separately.

And CEA believes that our students deserve change now because Connecticut's high-pressure test, the SBAC test, is just not right for our children. Although I have included it in my testimony, I would like to underscore the points that I made in that testimony and I'll do it as quickly as possible.

The test itself takes between seven and eight hours to take. Many days of classroom time are lost not only to the testing but to the pre-testing, to the post-testing, to the practice testing and to teaching to the test. SBAC has not been vetted by classroom professionals for age and grade level appropriateness at every single level.

The poorly designed software of the test penalizes students who lack regular access to computers. Test results are not available until the end of the year and cannot be used to help students in a responsible and timely manner ensuring the fact that appropriate and effective instruction is going on throughout the course of the year, not having to wait until the next year to find out what should have been taught the year before.

The test is administered over many, many weeks and as you've just heard from the last two witnesses who were testifying, the threat about what's going on with the high-pressure test is so real that Pearson, the testing corporation working with SBAC is literally spying on students who comment about the test on social media.

Mark is here to discuss the CEA plan that we have forwarded to you.

MARK WAXENBERG: Seeing how the time has been exhausted, because you have Marcia Ferriera, I believe as one of your speakers, I just want to share with you she is ill, but she has given you testimony that I think would have been enlightening.

So what we tried to do is attach to her testimony the various screen shots on our proposal of the progress monitoring test, which will show you the valid, reliable and significant robust data that the teacher would get under our proposal that you have attached to your bill. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Kokoruda.

REP. KOKORUDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony. First of all, I looked at your proposal that you had sent all the Legislators and mailed to us. The idea of establishing a commission, your seventh bullet, would that have the, would that be accomplished in your mind with H.B. 1099. Is that, do you think we're going in the right direction there with what you're proposing?

MARK WAXENBERG: I think it could be. It could be as a, if we were to amend 1099 to incorporate that idea, I think that's a marriage that could take effect, yes.

REP. KOKORUDA: All right. And then one of my towns is one of the ones that didn't do SBAC last year. So we're doing it, actually I think it started last week, this week for the first time.

MARK WAXENBERG: Yes.

REP. KOKORUDA: When we, we're all concerned about teaching to the test, but when we hear the term teaching to the middle with regards to the test, can you tell me, what does that mean, teaching to the middle?

MARK WAXENBERG: Teaching to the middle is a term of, that's just been developed, if you will, or a term of art that's been discussed. Now regarding standardized tests, let me share with you what that means in a second.

This is a high-stakes test, meaning that there's a lot of determinations being made about a school, about a student, about a teacher, it's a high-stakes test.

The test therefore has to be valid and reliable, which SBAC has not yet been done. You heard Monty Neill, who is an expert in the field say that.

Well, as a teacher, my classroom, when I was teaching the mastery test, which was less of a high-stakes test, what happens to a teacher is this, and they've been told to do this.

Twenty students in the classroom. Five of them are gifted and talented. Five of them are unfortunately, in need of improvement. Ten are middle of the road, if you will, middle students.

What happens when you have a high-stakes test what teach to the middle says is, you don't worry about the students that are on gifted and talented. They're going to pass anyway. You don't have time to deal with the students that are in the lowest percentiles because you're never going to get them to the point of passing this exam, which is your high-stakes test, so you teach to the middle, the ten, and you try to get to those ten as best you can to combine with the five so that your high-stakes can be achieved.

So teaching to the middle has become a real downfall and is prevented, if you will, by our proposal, because our proposal basically talks about a progress monitoring test for each individual child, you don't teach to the middle because every child has his or her own portfolio of work in front of that teacher on a daily basis.

So therefore, I'm not teaching to the middle. The student is telling me, as a teacher, how to instruct him or her based on what I see in front of me.

REP. KOKORUDA: And Mr. Chairman, just to follow up. Thank you. You know, when we talked about the reform three years ago and all, it was all talked about being able to assess improvement. That's what it was all about. And you've just mentioned this progress monitoring, which I know.

Is that a new phenomena in education, or what's the status of that issue?

SHEILA COHEN: The progress monitoring test sometimes are called PMTs, sometimes they're called PMAs, progress monitoring assessments, has been something that has been going on, I have been in education now this is my 44th year and when we were doing standardized testing throughout the course of the year, you can go back to the Gates McKinsey tests in reading, which goes back a long, long way.

And when we talk about standardized tests, it doesn't necessarily have to be a snapshot in time, high pressure, high stakes test that is taken once during the course of the year and then forgotten about until the scores come back and everyone starts wringing their hands.

When you do a PMT or a progress monitoring tool, what you are doing is, you are taking a look at how far that child has come since the last time you did that, and it doesn't have to be from a year ago and adjust, monitor, review, re-teach, move forward or move to the next level depending on what that child is doing and we have been doing that in the classroom for years. That is what good teaching is all about, taking a look at the individual child, moving that child along in a progressive manner so that the teaching is most effective.

I don't even like to use the word best practices because there is no best practice. Every child has his own unique learning style.

REP. KOKORUDA: Okay, thank you for those answers.

MARK WAXENBERG: If I might follow up a second. Progress monitoring tests have been around as Sheila as said, for over 30 years. What has happened in the last five years since the reforms initiatives, these progress monitoring tests have become vehicles, for example, our model aligns with the Common Core.

The present progress monitoring test, Marcia Ferriera, if you look at her testimony, all of that data is aligned with the Common Core. So when somebody says, can you do a cross-district analysis, absolutely.

Can you compare school to school? Absolutely, because it's advanced so far from when Sheila was in the classroom, we don't want to date ourselves, but when Sheila was in the classroom and I was in the classroom, it's really grown to the area.

We just got a phone call today from North Carolina that, whose board just made a determination to go from a one test to a (inaudible) test, they want our plan. This is another state that called us and said, we just heard about what you're doing. We just voted to do this. Can you send us your plan?

So all I can share with you is, that I tell people is this. As a parent, would you rather have a portfolio of information in front of you regarding your child when you have that conference in December or January and in June, or would you rather be waiting for a score that says your child is one, two, three or four? Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions? If not, thank you for your testimony and your patience and (inaudible).

SHEILA COHEN: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Alana Callahan still here? We're on Senate Bill 1095 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENTS. Alana Calahan? How about Ann Cronin? How about Helen Moran? Welcome.

ANN CRONIN: Good evening, Chairman Fleischmann and members of the Education Committee. My name is Ann Policelli Cronin and I have been a designer of nationally award-winning English curricula and a supervisor of English teachers in Connecticut for more than 25 years.

I am here to tell you tonight that the Common Core standards and SBAC tests for high-school English lack rigor, and will not make students college and career ready.

If Connecticut continues with SBAC testing, all of Connecticut's high-school students will be harmed and it will be impossible to solve Connecticut's greatest problem, greatest educational problem, closing the achievement gap.

All students are harmed because SBAC doesn't measure what it means to read thoughtfully and write effectively. Not one teacher or on expert in adolescent cognitive development wrote the standards on which the SBAC test is based.

Instead, the standards were written by test makers, who decided what was good for students to learn was what they could measure on a standardized test. That is not literacy.

The SBAC test has not been field tested, and even the executive director of SBAC has said that without field testing that test lacks validity.

No one knows if a good score means a student will succeed in college and no one knows if a poor school means the student will struggle in college. SBAC also doesn't assess key skills that are vital to the global workplace.

Students in schools with histories of low test scores will be hurt the most because in an effort to raise test scores, much instructional time is spent on test prep. So the very students who need experiences of reading and writing and corroborating the most will be denied them. The gap between these students and their more affluent peers in schools with traditionally high test scores and therefore, less prep time, will widen.

The rich will get richer as readers and writers and the poor will get poorer without necessary literacy skills.

Also with the passing rate of 40 percent, many labeled as failing will be students from poverty because scores on all standardized tests always correlate with family income.

How long will a student be motivated to learn and how long will that student stay in school if he or she fails the test every year? Not only are impoverished students receiving an inferior education but their drop-out rate will increase.

I have three recommendations. I'll just say them quickly.

Don't spend money on SBAC.

Truly level the playing field, not by testing and punishing students but by addressing the needs of those disadvantaged by poverty and racism.

And empower Connecticut educators to design assessments to measure with students' needs, both for their future and for developing their potential. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there questions for the witness? If not, thank you for your patience and your time and your testimony.

Is Helen Moran still in the audience? If not, is there anyone still here wishing to testify on Senate Bill 1095 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENT?

Hearing no one, we will move on to House Bill 7020 AN ACT CONCERNING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS AND INITIATIVES. First on the list is Liz Fraser from the Connecticut Association of Human Services. Welcome.

ELIZABETH FRASER: Welcome. Oh, thank you. Good evening, Senator Slossberg and Representative Fleischmann and members of the Committee. I'm Liz Fraser from the Connecticut Association for Human Services and CAHS is a statewide nonprofit agency that works to reduce poverty and promote economic success through both policy and program work.

I'm here to comment on H.B. 7020 AN ACT CONCERNING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS and a comment on S.B. 1099 as well.

Because some of my testimony is similar to other testimony that you'll be hearing, I will comment on some of the points, and the other points will be commented on by others.

As far as a workforce trend analysis, that would be in Section 5 of the proposed bill, it instructs the Office of Early Childhood to conduct a trend analysis of the early childhood bachelor's degree programs for the purpose of determining which programs align with the standards of NAEYC and can become approved courses of study for the Connecticut early care workforce.

We believe that this is a good thing but it's half of the equation. What we really need is an analysis of the progress we are making toward the looming 2020 deadline when all teachers in early care programs will need an approved BA, a BA from an approved program.

We really need to find data on enrollment and graduation trends from these approved programs in early childhood or other child development programs.

We need to find out what our current trends are in our centers.

We need to find out the retirement projections and other pertinent information so that we can really determine the state of the early care workforce.

We believe that this is an important step because we're looming toward a crisis when we might not have the workforce we need to be in our centers.

And we believe that we shouldn't wait until 2020 and have this problem of not knowing, of not having enough bachelor degree teachers. We should be tracking this over the next five years. That's number one.

Magnet and charter school accreditation, NAEYC accreditation. Under current law, early care education programs located in magnet or charter schools are not required to obtain accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The past NAEYC accreditation requires that programs conduct an extensive self study of their early care programs based on quality standards covering the ten domains relevant to early care in education.

All other private and public programs that receive state funding are required to obtain accreditation as a way to ensure their quality. H.B. 7020 expands this to charter and magnet schools. We believe this is a system, important for system building. All of our state-funded programs require this, and this would provide a uniform set of standards across the program.

Funding for early childhood counsels, we've been speaking a lot about that and just very briefly, they are very, very valuable. Again, it's part of the system building. The Governor's budget has eliminated funding. We believe it's very important to bring them back. They leverage much more money than the state is putting in locally and federally, and I believe I gave you packets with that information in it.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

ELIZABETH FRASER: And one more last, the last piece is that with the ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMISSION TO DEVELOP A VISION AND STRATEGIC PLAN. We're really pleased with that. We believe it's a really important step. We just believe that it should have a representation from the Office of Early Childhood. It's not included.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. And as you're probably aware, having been around the process for a while, bills at public hearings are first drafts and sometimes there are oversights.

ELIZABETH FRASER: That's what I understand.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So I think your notion of the Office of Early Childhood being included is well heard. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Hello.

ELIZABETH FRASER: Hello.

REP. COOK: Thanks for sticking out with us today. I have a question regarding letter c, magnet and charter school accreditation.

ELIZABETH FRASER: Yes.

REP. COOK: So you're discussing the accreditations might be different than what we're actually looking at and what we're requiring for the rest of our centers, especially our state-funded ones? Is that what you're --

ELIZABETH FRASER: No. What I'm saying is that, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. What I was trying to articulate is that all of our state-funded centers need NAEYC accreditation and are required to do so, and have been for quite a while.

I believe that the magnet and charter schools should also have that same responsibility.

REP. COOK: So do you have to --

ELIZABETH FRASER: (Inaudible) across all of our programs.

REP. COOK: And I agree with you. Do you know approximately how many we're talking that do not fall into the standards of which we're looking to raise our standards?

ELIZABETH FRASER: No, I really do not. But I can find that information out for your very easily.

REP. COOK: I think it would be helpful, especially when we're talking about the charters and the magnets and keeping accreditation accordingly and how we fund things and put our money in places. If you can get us that, that would be fantastic.

ELIZABETH FRASER: I'll do that. I'll get it for you probably by Monday.

REP. COOK: That's fine. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both for the (inaudible) information. Any other questions? If not, thank you.

ELIZABETH FRASER: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Merrill Gay, to be followed by Kathy Queen.

MERRILL GAY: Good evening, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, members of the Committee. My name is Merrill Gay. I'm the Executive Director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance. I have submitted fairly detailed written testimony, so I will just try and summarize.

Section 3 of this bill calls for a trend analysis around teacher credentials. I'm sorry. Section 3 is around the preschool experience survey and the one problem that I have with the current law on the preschool experience survey is that it says that school districts may use it.

We, the New Britain Early Childhood Council developed school readiness, a kindergarten assessment survey, or kindergarten experience survey that was the model for what was in the bill, the Smart Start bill last year. It provides a lot of useful information. The best time to collect that data is at kindergarten registration and when we say may, there's really no reason for anybody to do it.

The next section is on the trend analysis and the Alliance believes that that's really just a small part of what you need. What you really need is to know how are we doing as far as progressing toward the 2020 deadline of having a BA in every classroom, and the trend analysis about people going through the individual transcript review is just a tiny piece of it.

Right now the Office of Early Childhood can't tell us where we are at in reaching the 2015 deadline for half of the teachers with a BA. Right now, they can't even tell us what's the end, what's the denominator in that equation of getting to half of the classrooms because it takes into account infant and toddler classrooms that are not funded and so right now they're not able to give us any clear understanding of where we are.

And we know from anecdotal stories that we're hearing from providers, that there's hugs angst about programs having to shut down in July because they won't reach the deadline of having half of their teachers with a BA, and that's five years before we get to the 2020 deadlines.

We support the idea of a uniform standard of NAEYC accreditation across all settings for preschool.

We believe that OEC should fund the local early childhood councils.

And finally, we don't really think that there's a need for another study about the wages. It's really clear what we need to do is raise wages. And if you're wondering why wages in early childhood are too low, look at the graph that's at the back of my testimony. It shows the difference between the inflation adjusted $8,000 that we started paying school readiness back in 1997, which currently would come to $11,649 and the current payment, which is $8,670, which is 74 percent of what we were paying in 1997.

It's not a big mystery why programs have had to balance their budgets on the hacks of their hard-working teachers. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Thank you for your testimony and your helpful data.

MERRILL GAY: Okay.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Merrill for your testimony and for providing us with what I've been saying and many other members of this Committee have been saying in regard to the salaries for preschool teachers.

I know for a fact in the City of New Britain there are a number of preschool teachers that, some are at that point where they're going to reach their BA. There are others that are still working on their associate's degrees and some of them question, why should I continue if there's nothing at the end of the rainbow, so to speak.

I mean, and basically it is that they're still going to be making a salary that's under $30,000, which makes no sense.

MERRILL GAY: Yeah.

REP. SANCHEZ: And then they compare that to the public school system where certified preschool teachers are making close to $48,000 or $50,000, some making maybe --

MERRILL GAY: Some 65 or 70.

REP. SANCHEZ: Sixty-five or seventy, right. So, they're like, well, why would we stay? Why would we stay at these nonprofit agencies or the Ys or the Boys and Girls Club when the public school system is going to pay us much more?

I've even had some teachers tell me they might even get out of this profession because it just doesn't pay enough and everyone knows, I was a Head Start teacher for 20 years and I just couldn't stay. It's just the pay is horrible, and so I had to decide to go to school and take up something else.

So it's sad. It's an issue that we really have to start addressing and we need to do it real quick because we're going to start losing more and more teachers.

MERRILL GAY: Right.

REP. SANCHEZ: And I just want to go back to where you pointed out in Section 5, the Alliance doesn't object to, but believes, you showed some helpful committee analysis and then you also said something about, we believe that such an analysis would have to take into account the following, which is the number of classrooms still needed for a BA teacher, the progress of incumbent workforce and attending BAs, the number of new BAs graduating from approved colleges, the number of teachers of individual transfer to review process and so forth, and also you talked about the retirement rate.

Do you see an issue with the retirement rate, like for instance, there's some teachers that have been in this profession for like 20 years and maybe thinking about retiring in ten years from now. Do you see there's a problem there with the requirement of getting their degrees by 2020, and what about those teachers that don't have a degree but have, like I said, been there for 20 years.

MERRILL GAY: There has been some conversation about trying to figure out a way to grandfather in some of the older workers who've been working in this field for a while, who are reluctant to go back to school because they might only have three or four more years to work after spending a lot of time and effort getting a BA.

REP. SANCHEZ: Uh-huh.

MERRILL GAY: And so, we're certainly sympathetic to that idea of trying to create a solution that would grandfather those folks in for a few more years.

REP. SANCHEZ: Great. Thank you.

MERRILL GAY: And you question, your whole comment about people earning low wages, it really is, it will be a real shame if come July we find children not able to go to preschool because their childcare center has shut down because it can no longer meet that requirement and therefore does not get school readiness or state-funded funding, state funded, center funding, and that's, we know of several programs that that's a real possibility.

REP. SANCHEZ: And just one more question. In regard to the NAEYC accreditation for the charters and magnet schools.

MERRILL GAY: Yes.

REP. SANCHEZ: I've heard some people saying that you know, this will be costly to the charters and the magnets.

But my question to you is, do you know of any assistance that the state has provided to the other school readiness programs that had --

MERRILL GAY: Sure. There's the accreditation facilitation process that runs out of the Office of Early Childhood that is available for programs that are trying to become accredited and there was money put into augment that through Smart Start so that school districts that were trying, that were taking Smart Start funds could get NAEYC accredited and I would assume that that would be also available to other public schools that are trying to become accredited.

REP. SANCHEZ: Okay. Thank you

MERRILL GAY: It's frankly to me, just an issue of plain and simple justice. When you've got nonprofit organizations that have gotten paid, they're getting paid much less per child hour than charter schools, the charter schools and the magnet schools ought to live up to the same standards that they live up to.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you for your testimony.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there any other questions? If not, thank you very much for your testimony, your patience and your advocacy. Is Kathy Queen here? Welcome.

KATHY QUEEN: Good evening, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg. I've been sitting here quietly for so long and I can't talk at all.

My name is Kathy Queen. I'm retiring Director of Wallingford Community Day Care Center and Co-Chair of the state-funded Child Development Center's Directors Forum.

The state-funded child development centers were established in 1968 by state statute to provide high-quality child care for low-income working families in approximately 63 cities and towns in Connecticut and we have about 102 centers statewide.

Many centers participate in the state school readiness program, but we're a critical component of the early care and education system.

My comments today relate to Section 5 of the staff qualification piece in 7020. Our recommendation, please, is that you accept teaching degrees from any regionally accredited institutions of higher education and/or programs that are in NCATE or NAEYC approved.

There is already a process in place where NAEYC reviews the programs of these various institutions. It's an easy job to look them up on the website and say, oh, yeah, that's got an approved program of study. It would make it nice and easy to be able to then hire teachers from those institutions.

Our problem right now, and the Commissioner this morning, and I understand she wasn't feeling well, but she made a comment this morning that we've had 10 years to worry about this, that this ECTC has been coming for a long time and then all of a sudden we're panicking about not meeting the criteria.

In fact, in those 10 years, the average teacher salary in a public school has risen to $69,165 statewide. That's a 10-year increase of 25 percent. Our state-funded child care centers have had no increase in salaries in those same 10 years, so yes, we've had 10 years to think about it. We're still panicking about it because it's getting increasingly more difficult to find anyone who can live, it's not just a matter of wanting to any more, they simply can't live on the money that we're paying them. And I know you understand that and I understand there's no money, so we have a real problem.

So at least please, grandfather in our staff people who have an associate's degree in early childhood and have been teaching for 20 years or so, and I understand there's agreements about that as well.

And I'll be happy to answer any questions. Please, we want a system just as you do. We really support the quality issue. We just need some help with this and we understand there isn't any money, so at least help us at the other end. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony and your very clear request. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Hi, Kathy. Thanks for sticking it out.

KATHY QUEEN: Hi.

REP. COOK: You mentioned the crisis that we could possibly be in if things don't align accordingly, and as we sit around the room on Monday mornings we listen to providers speak of their concerns.

Do you have any idea how many centers could be possibly looking to close if we do not get our ducks in a row?

KATHY QUEEN: Well, because this whole process can happen quite suddenly, I mean, we all sit back and say on most days, gee, have have everybody, we just went through our NAEYC accreditation visit and boy, we've got our staff all lined up. We meet all their criteria and the state says that's not good enough because you have to have 100 percent of the people with the criteria and with NAEYC you only have to make 80 percent.

We could make a case for anybody who takes a course should have to get 100 percent in order to get credit for the course.

So there's a real issue about sort of how high the bar is going to be. And because it's so high in Connecticut, even though we need accreditation criteria, we may not meet Connecticut standards.

All it takes is a retirement, somebody goes out on sick leave, decides not to come back. It doesn't take but, you know, two minutes. I had, and it happens getting people with a work ethic that will give you a month's notice and say, hey, or, I'll hang on until you find somebody to replace me. That's tough to do when these people are making $12 an hour. They just don't do that.

Some of the best people in the classroom walk in and say, you know what? I've had enough. Three days, Friday I'll be all done. Okay. We can't continue to do this. It's getting worse.

I've been in this state-funded center since 1971, okay? I've been there through all of it except those first three years. I don't think I missed much, frankly. It has changed quite dramatically in just the last few years because it's so difficult as we've raised the bar and not raised the reimbursement to match.

REP. COOK: Thank you. Thank you for your passion and your dedication. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you.

KATHY QUEEN: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: John Cattelan from the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs. Welcome.

JOHN CATTELAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator Slossberg. I think the three previous speakers touched on a few things and I was going to touch on and I don't feel the need.

My name is John Cattelan. I'm here today on behalf of the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs. The Alliance represents 23 YMCAs across the State of Connecticut. I'm here today to urge the members of this Committee to support House Bill 7020.

In particular, one thing I want to mention that we really support is requiring the preschool programs offered by magnet and charter schools to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

However, the Alliance would request that the Education Committee strongly consider adding grandfathering language for head teachers to the proposed legislation. We would ask that teacher with over 20 years of experience be allowed to serve as a head teacher until his or her retirement.

As a nonprofit provider of Connecticut School Readiness Program, we are already finding it difficult to fill head teacher positions. Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs strongly believes that experience and commitment to our organization should allow teachers to work with us past 2020. In many instances, when one of our teachers has received the proper accreditation, he or she leaves the Y to teach at a public school, which has the ability to pay them a higher wage.

Happy to answer any questions.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony. So just to clarify. We have grandfathering but not for head teachers and that's one of the things that you'd like modified?

JOHN CATTELAN: Yes. We're, I've talked to Representative Cook. We're very supportive of her proposal.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And were we not to make the change that you're talking about, is it your sense that a number of the programs that your organization runs would no longer be able to find head teachers? Is that your testimony?

JOHN CATTELAN: Absolutely. We can't find, we're having difficulty finding them now, without even, you know, 2020 is five years away. We're already having a problem finding them because the ones that are getting the accreditation, as soon as they do, they take off for the public schools because obviously they're going to make more money.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That's very helpful. Are there other questions from members of the Committee? Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for your testimony. Just a quick question. These teachers, do your teachers go through training on a yearly basis?

JOHN CATTELAN: Yes. The Y offers a number of training opportunities. We also go through our local school readiness councils, and so our teachers are trained that way as well. So there's a number of avenues to further their education.

REP. SANCHEZ: Okay. Thank you.

JOHN CATTELAN: You're welcome.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative McGee.

REP. MCGEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony. Do you have a number in terms of the amount of teachers or Ys that will be impacted should we not include this grandfathered language?

JOHN CATTELAN: I don't --

REP. MCGEE: Or jobs lost or --

JOHN CATTELAN: Right. I mean, I can tell you for example, though, and I'll get that information for you, Representative, but I know, I have a couple of our Y teachers who are constantly e-mailing me or calling me --

REP. MCGEE: Sure.

JOHN CATTELAN: -- one from the Danbury area, one from Senator Slossberg's district, calling me saying, where is, we need this grandfathering legislation or I'm going to have to leave. So there's two right off the bat there.

REP. MCGEE: Well, I mean, I have one in Hartford, so that's why I'm asking.

JOHN CATTELAN: And then in Weston our head teacher just left and we have a new executive director down there. He's been looking for two months to find someone to take this person's place and he cannot find anybody.

REP. MCGEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both. Any other questions? If not, thank you very much for your testimony, your patience and the good information you provided.

JOHN CATTELAN: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: That brings to a close the list of people we had in advance who are interested in testifying on 7020 AN ACT CONCERNING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS AND INITIATIVES. Is there anyone present who would like to give testimony on this bill?

If not, we will move along to Senate Bill 1101 AN ACT CONCERNING THE OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD. We have no one signed up because we had testimony from the Commissioner earlier. Is there anyone who wishes to testify on S.B. 1101?

Hearing no one, we'll move on to House Bill 7021 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY. We have a number of people signed up, the first being Yam Menon. Welcome.

Good evening.

YAM MENON: Good evening, and thank you for the correct pronunciation of my name.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Purely coincidental, but I'm glad it worked out.

YAM MENON: Okay, good. Good evening, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg and distinguished members of the Education Committee. My name is Yam Menon and I'm the Director of Research and Policy with the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN.

ConnCAN is committed to supporting policies that lead to excellent schools for every child, regardless of race, zip code or family income. Fundamental to this is ensuring that all children have access to great teachers and school leaders, and the option to attend grade schools.

Our ability to do so depends on how you move forward on three bills before you today, House Bill 7021, Senate Bill 1098 and Senate Bill 1096.

Research shows, clearly, that educator effectiveness has more impact on student achievement than any other factor controlled by schools, and there's a growing body of evidence indicating that teacher diversity also has a large impact on the success of students.

Yet there is still a significant shortage of minority educators across the nation and this is a particular problem in Connecticut. While minority students in Connecticut make up about 41 percent of the total student population, over 92 percent of Connecticut's teachers and 87 percent of administrators are white.

In fact, 127 school districts in Connecticut do not have a single minority administrator. We can and must do better.

A critical step toward making sure our teachers are prepared and that we are able to recruit teachers from diverse, ethnic and economic backgrounds are Senate Bill 1098 and House Bill 7021.

Both of these bills would facilitate and encourage teacher recruitment to our highest needs subject areas, ease restrictions to be able to bring in high quality educators and leaders to our state, support additional alternate routes to certification, particularly for school administrators, support recruitment of diverse teacher candidates and incorporate cultural competency within teacher preparation programs.

In addition to ensuring that our schools are staffed with great teachers, principals and leaders, we must also protect access to high-quality options. Senate Bill 1096 which seeks to place a two-year moratorium on approving new public charter schools would eliminate one of the state's most effective ways to address Connecticut's achievement gap, and this bill would directly oppose the wants and needs of parents and communities by denying them those options.

By voting in favor of House Bill 7021 and Senate Bill 1098 and rejecting Senate Bill 1096, we can ensure continued progress that puts our children and our state on a path to a bright future. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your well organized kindly testimony. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Seeing none, thank you.

YAM MENON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Kevin Basmadjian still here? Kevin Basmadjian? If not, then Jennifer Alexander. Good evening.

JENNIFER ALEXANDER: Good evening, Chairman Fleischmann and Chairwoman Slossberg and distinguished members of the Committee. My name is Jen Alexander and I'm the CEO at ConnCAN. ConnCAN is committed to promoting student-centered policies that ensure that all children have access to an excellent education regardless of race, zip code or family income.

Our work is done on behalf of all of Connecticut's children, especially the nearly 40,000 schools that are chronically and consistently low performing.

Today, your decisions regarding three bills, House Bill 7021, Senate Bill 1096 and Senate Bill 1098 will be critical in determining whether we build on recent progress or back away from efforts to ensure that every child in Connecticut gets a high quality education.

We urge you to support Senate Bill 1098 and House Bill 7021, two bills that would be strong steps forward for Connecticut. Research and experience clearly show us that great teachers and principals change children's lives. They help our children dream big and ensure that children are able to make those dreams a reality.

Together, these bills will allow us to move forward at low cost to recruit and retain the highly qualified and diverse corps of teachers and school leaders that students need to be successful.

My written testimony offers more details on these bills and why they would be beneficial to students.

The third of these bills, Senate Bill 1096, would take our state backwards by placing a two-year moratorium on improving any new public charter schools.

Now, some might assert that this bill is about pressing pause to determine whether public charter schools are performing well.

First, no parent can afford can afford to press pause in their child's education. They need a great school now.

Second, what this bill will actually do is stifle innovation and restrict opportunity and choice that families have been promised. Data produced by the State Department of Education, a summary of which is attached to my written testimony, clearly shows that charters in Connecticut are performing well, especially for our most vulnerable students.

Not only are Connecticut charter schools enabling many of these students to make great academic gains but they're also helping our state close our enormous achievement gap. We cannot afford to back away from these options.

Connecticut should seek to expand and replicate schools that are delivering results for students. Senate Bill 1096 would do the opposite. No child should have to wait for a great school, not for a single day and definitely not for two years, which is exactly what S.B. 1096 would require of the nearly 4,000, excuse me, students, currently on charter school wait lists.

Students are counting on you to continue to build on the progress you have championed and to open, not close the doors of opportunity. Please reject Senate Bill 1096 and vote in favor of Senate Bill 1098 and House Bill 7021. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, and I'm glad to hear you like two of the three bills you testified on. Questions from members of the Committee?

I guess I would just pose one that relates to e-mails that I've received that seem to have similar verbiage. The implication of those e-mails and of the testimony I heard just now was that, twofold.

It sounds as if every charter school is a great school and those are Connecticut's only great schools. That's the tone of the e-mails and that was the tone of your testimony. So I'd like to give you a chance to respond to that.

JENNIFER ALEXANDER: Sure. Thanks. So I think I've testified before this Committee before that great schools come in many forms. Charter schools are one of those forms.

Every year my organization produces report cards on every school in the state and we (inaudible) a list of what we call our success story schools. These are schools that are beating the odds where children in poverty and children of color and that list, I think there's 32 or 33 schools on our list this year and they are schools of all kinds, charter, traditional, magnet.

So great schools come in many forms. Charters are one of the options that we believe should be available to families, especially families of color and families in poverty who have traditionally lacked access to sufficient high-quality options, and that's why we are here, again, Senate Bill 1096 would essentially cut off parents' ability to have more of those options.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I appreciate that clarification. It still leaves me a little befuddled as to why ConnCAN has been so dedicated to generating response to 1096, but I haven't heard much about what's going on with our magnet schools, which have been frozen for a number of years and most of our magnet schools are schools of excellence as well.

So that being said, you know, reasonable people can disagree on these things. Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience and your advocacy.

JENNIFER ALEXANDER: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Steve McKeever still here? And after Steve, Ranjana Reddy and Julia Winer are on deck.

STEVE MCKEEVER: Good evening, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, members of the Education Committee. My name is Steve McKeever. I am the First Vice-President AFT Connecticut, representing nearly 30,000 educators, union members across the state.

I want to talk about three bills, 7021, 1098 and 1102. The first one is 7021 dealing with teacher preparation efficacy. We agree that teachers need to be prepared before they can go out and teach and we also agree that the education our students get is directly related to the teachers that are in front of them.

However, we disagree with the section 1 that talks about grading the college, the sending college of these teachers based on student scores. There's too many outside factors that cannot be controlled by the teacher or by the college that sends them as well.

So when we, I'll just stop there on that one.

Section 2 of the bill, we support that and the fact that it's asking for student teachers to be placed into Alliance districts. We think that student teachers should have a wide variety of experience, but I think it does contradict Section 1 a little bit when the fact that you're giving credit to a college for sending a kid to an Alliance district but then if that teacher then goes and works in these Alliance districts and they don't perform well, now we're going to take the credit away from them. So I think there's a little contradiction there.

1098 and 1102, I think we approve, or we agree with the idea that we're trying to reduce barriers for recruiting teachers to shortage areas, minority teachers, bilingual educators.

We do have concerns with 1098 and the fact that the bill in its current form is eliminating the assessment requirements for teachers who transfer out of the state. We question how we can ensure that these teachers meet minimum requirements that are here.

If I can just jump down and within like 30 seconds I'll be done. I'll just jump down to 1102. This one also eliminates requirements for bilingual educators to be certified. Certification ensures that our teachers have completed their course work and preservice requirements necessary that we need to be in there.

And just to close up real quick, we see this bill and 1098 as being closely together. They're proposing an elimination of teacher requirements for certification and assessments and therefore, we can't support them.

However, in the bill it does talk about the State Department of Education developing a work group to study how we can do this. So we would support what's in that agreement if we have a task force to look at the agreement as what can be minimized or maybe as a progress toward certification, something along those lines.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I just want to make sure I understood your testimony correctly when it comes to House Bill 7021 about teacher program efficacy.

STEVE MCKEEVER: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So there are, there's a whole list in Section 1 of measures that would be used to determine whether or not the teacher prep program was effective, and one of the items on the list is, and I'll read directly from the bill, including but not limiting to data relating to the academic achievement and progress of the students and such graduates.

So that's one of seven different types of data that would be collected, which together would be used to assess teacher prep program effectiveness.

So is your testimony that the concept is okay, but you don't like the idea of including student progress among the measures that are used?

STEVE MCKEEVER: Yes. Some of the things in there talks about how long a teacher can-- is in the program, you know, if they're hired and they stick around for a while. Do they pass their particular certification assessments? Those are things that should be looked at, I believe, okay?

But it does say the student data reflecting back on the teacher and then back on the college without any sort of how much percentage. That could lead into a huge, and we see what it does with the high stakes testing and how we're evaluating all our schools with that. This could blow up on us.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So just to further clarify. If we were looking at say, growth in students' academic achievement and there were an agreement reached through a group like the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council that involves various stakeholders including teachers and administrators and so forth, in that context, you could be comfortable, but this context makes you uncomfortable because it's undefined? Is that a fair summary of what you said?

STEVE MCKEEVER: I want to try to understand what you're asking. When you mentioned the EPAC you were talking about the fact that they would make recommendations on how this could be applied? I'm trying to understand what you're asking.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: What I heard you to say was that you're uncomfortable with the use of student scores because it's rather undefined as in the current draft of the bill.

STEVE MCKEEVER: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And you know, depending on how it's used, you think it could be misused.

And so what I was asking was, if we were to take a current process like the PEAC process and apply that to deciding to what degree student assessments were used, would that allay the concerns that you've expressed tonight?

STEVE MCKEEVER; If, the EPAC organization, or committee, if they, with all of their stakeholders come together and decide how things can be used and what's best and most beneficial, we'd be supportive of that.

So I mean, yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That's a helpful clarification. Are there other questions for the witness before us? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience, your testimony, your advocacy.

STEVE MCKEEVER: Thank you, Representative. Appreciate it.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Ranjana Reddy still here?

RANJANA REDDY: Good evening, Chairman Fleischmann, Chairwoman Slossberg and distinguished members of the Education Committee. Thanks for giving me the chance to speak today.

I'm here to testify in support of Bill 7021 and 1098. I am really thankful to get to speak today about this critical issue, how we recruit and how we train our future teachers.

My name is Ranjana Reddy. I'm a former classroom teacher, a parent, and the Executive Director of Educators for Excellence Connecticut.

Educators for Excellence is a teacher-led organization dedicated to elevating teacher voice and policy decisions. In other words, making sure that real working classroom teachers have a say in the policies that shape their work.

We have 325 and growing (inaudible) here in Connecticut, most of them in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven in these urban communities, which serve primarily low-income students and students of color. We believe it's especially important that our schools are staffed with dedicated, diverse and well-trained teachers.

For this reason I'm here today to speak in support of 1098 and 7021. As you know, H.B. 7021 would raise the standards and provide greater transparency in teacher preparation and 1098 would help bring teachers from more diverse backgrounds into the profession.

On diversity, Connecticut is sorely in need of improvement, especially in the urban districts where Educators for Excellent teachers work. More than 85 percent of students are persons of color but fewer than 25 percent of teachers are.

I recently spoke with one of our teacher members. She's a teacher of color. She grew up in Hartford. She's now teaching in Hartford public schools and I just want to quote what she said.

She said that in high need areas we need teachers from diverse backgrounds. Our students should be exposed to the world of adversity and the teaching population should be a microcosm of society.

I really think that her words sum up with the problem is. Connecticut students of color are not seeing enough people who look like them in the classroom and it sends the wrong message to them about who holds power in society and what they can and should be aiming for.

I do also want to say that though diversity is critical it's not the only factor we should think about in improving teacher quality, which is why I also support the long absent emphasis on effective teacher preparation in both 1098 and 7021, and the relevant clinical experience for teachers who are admitted to those programs.

I spoke to a veteran special education teacher in New Haven recently and I want to quote what she told me as well. New teachers are meeting the requirements that are set for them by the state, but those standards are substandard when compared to other professions. It's time that we talk about the low expectations that we're setting for teachers and our system is failing our students by not holding those teachers to rigorous standards, the teachers who are entering the profession.

And so, I'm here to support the bill that would place higher standards on teacher preparation programs by actually holding them accountable for the graduates they graduate.

In Educators for Excellence, one of our beliefs is that teachers ought to be held accountable and evaluated based in part on how much their students learn and grow and Connecticut's teacher evaluation system in place is an example of that, and we think that teacher preparation programs ought to be held to the same standard for their students.

So for that reason, I'm here to testify in support of the two bills. Thank you for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony. And for your very impassioned and well heard comments about making sure our educator workforce reflects our current society.

I'm just curious. I never heard of Educators for Excellence. Is that a group made up exclusively of teachers? Is it national? Is it Connecticut based? How is it funded?

RANJANNY REDDY: Yeah. We're a nonprofit organization. We are in five sites. I'm new to Connecticut as of last school year and focused in the three urban areas I mentioned, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Do you work with teachers in the classroom? What is your, when you're not testifying before the Legislature, what is that your organization is doing?

RANJANNY REDDY: Right. We're working with current classroom teachers in traditional public classrooms in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford who want to have more of a say in the policies that are affecting their kids. We bring them together to create recommendations for change at the district level, mostly, but when it's relevant and what they've said is relevant to state level policy, then at the state level as well.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That's very helpful.

RANJANNY REDDY: Uh-huh.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And you're obviously doing your job.

RANJANNY REDDY: Thanks.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good evening.

RANJANNY REDDY: Hi.

REP. STANESKI: Segueing off the comments that the Chairman said with regard our children do need role models. What would you say that we need to do to incentivize or to recruit minority teachers to be teachers?

And second, how do we keep quality teachers teaching with everything that's going on with reporting and high stakes testing, and such. I'd like your comments on both of those.

RANJANNY REDDY: Thank you. I can't speak for all of the teachers that I work with when I answer those questions, but I can speak from the few conversations I've had with teachers about both of those issues.

I think on recruiting, whatever we can do to provide financial incentives and support for teachers of color who are often from low-income backgrounds to go into the teaching profession can be a real step up, and also incentives for them to teach in urban areas where most of our students of color in Connecticut are currently in school.

On the retaining high-quality teachers, the teachers who I've spoken with are looking for a couple of things when they think about what will make them stay in the classroom long term, one is voice and that's the thing that Educators for Excellence is working on helping provide, which is they want a say in how their schools operate and how the districts operate.

And the third are career pathways, the real opportunities to see their own growth and trajectory change while they're in the classroom so that they don't look at a profession that looks exactly the same for the next 30 years that they're in (inaudible) but they can see themselves grow.

And I think that that's true of teachers of color and other great teachers who we also want to keep in the profession.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions for the witness before us? If not, thank you very much for your testimony, your time, your patience, your advocacy.

RANJENNY REDDY: Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Julia Winer from CREC still here? Not seeing any nodding heads. Is there anyone else here who had been hoping or planning to testify on House Bill 7021 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY?

Seeing no hands raised, we move on to Senate Bill 1098 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR SHORTAGE AREAS, INTERSTATE AGREEMENTS FOR TEACHER CERTIFICATION RECIPROCITY, MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION IN CULTURAL COMPETENCY INSTRUCTION.

Is Linette Branham still here to testify on that bill? Linette. Your time has arrived.

LINETTE BRANHAM: I was lucky. I was watching (inaudible) on my computer at the office, so I just recently came over.

Good evening, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I'm Dr. Linette Branham. I am the Director of Policy Research and Reform for the Connecticut Education Association.

I'm here today to represent our 43,000 members and speak to you very briefly on three different bills, 7021, 1098 and 1102. You have written testimony that was submitted on my behalf earlier and I would just like to bring up a couple of points, first about 1102 and 7021.

As some of my colleagues have stated, Bill 1102 really does do a lot to promote bilingual teachers and bilingual education, which we do support. We find some of the language in that bill a little confusing and recommend that it be looked at a little carefully because there appear to be some inconsistencies in discussing the course work requirements and the testing requirements for bilingual teachers.

In 7021, our main concern about 7021 is the requirement that a clinical experience of student teachers be held in an Alliance district in particular. We know Alliance districts are challenging districts in which to work. Our student teachers, our pre-service teachers can have a wide variety of experiences in many districts working with students with a variety of challenges.

But mostly, this would place a great burden on Alliance districts because there are only 30 of them, and in order to be a cooperating teacher and provide support and service to a pre-service teacher requires training and resources that the district will need and those are not mentioned in this bill. So we believe that it would place a great burden on Alliance districts.

They do already offer opportunities to pre-service teachers, but to require specifically for those to be in Alliance districts we believe would present an undue burden on them.

1098 has a lot of things in it that we're certainly not opposed to and that we do support regarding interstate agreements, the pre-service teachers being able to take and pass a subject area assessment instead of a course in U.S. history.

We do have some concerns about the elimination of the team program for a particular group of teachers, and if I could just have a very quick minute.

Our biggest concern has to do with the requirement that there be implemented, and planned and implemented by 2017, an ARC program for administrators. We know that right now it's an option. Our concern is this in a nutshell.

Being an administrator is an incredibly tough job and the ARC program structure as it stands right now, has become a fast track into teaching and our concern is that there will not be the rich depth preparation that's needed to become an effective school administrator. There's a lot more explanation in my written testimony about that, but I'd be glad to answer any questions you have about those comments.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Two quick questions from me. One, as you may be aware the ARC program for teachers has been one of the ways that the state has done something, not as much as it should, but something to redress the imbalance of the demographics of our teachers, and so I think the notion in this bill was that an ARC for administrators could help in the ranks of administrators.

Do you share the concern that the demography of our administrator does not reflect the demography in the classroom and if so, and you're opposed to the ARC, what would you propose to help us have more people of color in the ranks of administrators?

LINETTE BRANHAM: The ARC program was initially designed to address shortage areas, which is not a bad goal in and of itself, that's for sure.

It has become, as I said, a fast track with not a lot of preparation, and then the person is placed into the teaching classroom and they do get support over a period of two years.

The concern about the ARC program for administrators is this. It doesn't require that a person going through it must have a teaching background and in order to really effectively run a school, you really have to understand what it means to be a teacher, and you have to have a deep understanding of teaching and learning.

There's a difference between taking skills that you have in another management type position and moving them into a school building, because school leaders are not managers. They are instructional leaders, and without that mind set and deep understanding of teaching and learning that you gain, you know, through experience, it's very difficult to gain that in an ARC program.

Now, if we're talking about alternative pathways, that's a different thing than a fast track, so there is a big difference there and I think there needs, we need to see a lot of conversation about that.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that clarification. My other question, you're not the first person to raise concern about the requirement of a teaching experience in an Alliance district. Would the substitution of Title 1 district for Alliance district allay your concerns?

LINETTE BRANHAM: Possibly. Possibly.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Please let us know. Questions from other members of the Committee?

LINETTE BRANHAM: May I explain that for just a second?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, you know something. It's late at night. I don't think it's necessary that you give a full answer now.

LINETTE BRANHAM: Okay.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I think if you want to go ahead and put some work into it and then circle back to us on pros and cons, you know, this is something --

LINETTE BRANHAM: Yeah. We can do that. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- where we'd like to take it seriously.

LINETTE BRANHAM: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions? Oh, Senator Winfield.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Just very quickly. On the conversation about the ARC program for administrators. So your point about having some teaching experience is one that I think people can understand whether they agree or disagree with you.

My question is, how much experience would you suggest?

LINETTE BRANHAM: That's a really good question. Currently we, our certification regulations require a certain number of years. Based on my own experience as both a classroom teacher and an administrator, I really do believe, and I believe we believe that in order to become a good administrator, you have to be an excellent teacher with experience over a period of time of at least five years.

Because that's where, over a period of time that's where you have a wide variety of experiences and it gives you an opportunity then to participate in a variety of things in your district, which will help you then when you go through your administrative prep program, because everything that you experience as a teacher you take to your administrative prep program.

And if you're in that prep program while you're teaching, you bring what your learn in your prep program back to your classroom, so there's that really good reciprocal relationship and those two things then merge to help you become an even more effective administrator.

The first two years of a teacher's career are really just spent learning how to be a teacher and then you do need more time after that to really refine your skills. So at least five years.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Any other questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, patience and your research.

LINETTE BRANHAM: Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Jeffrey Villar to be followed by Subira Gordon.

JEFFREY VILLAR: Good evening, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg and the esteemed members of the Ed Committee. It's my pleasure to be here this evening. I have submitted written testimony.

I'm here to speak specifically about S.B. 1098, which has perhaps the longest title I've seen in quite some time and I was very impressed with your reading of it.

But I'd also like to express CCER's support for H.B. 7021, the ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY and I would point out on that particular item that of having been a superintendent of an Alliance district, I worked really hard to form an agreement with the University of Connecticut, so I had first shot at all of their teacher prep program students.

We accommodated them, believe me. It was something we were very happy to do. So I'm not so concerned about that terminology around Alliance districts. I think that they could benefit from that relationship with universities.

We also support S.B. 1101 AN ACT CONCERNING THE OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD and we support the recommendation that I heard earlier this morning from the Commissioner to even broaden that to open up our school readiness slots for more students in Connecticut. We think that's a very wise thing to do.

On S.B. 1098, we're glad to see that this requires interstate agreements around reciprocity. We are pleased that it reduces the number of years of teaching that out-of-state teachers must have in order to teach in Connecticut, and that it requires the Office of Higher Education to create new alternative routes to certification for administrators. That has been a long-term shortage area and we are pleased to see it's making some momentum and moving in that direction, and also agree with the need to recruit minority teachers and administrators to the State of Connecticut.

And anything we can do to do that I think will pay off in dividends.

And in the written testimony we have some recommendations around how we can improve S.B. 1098, but I do want to speak a little bit about 1095 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENTS while I have your attention.

I'm concerned that the proposal speaks about what they call program monitoring task as if it's something that in of itself will give us all that we need to know about education.

I think it's important for us to realize that our summative assessments that we've been using in Connecticut for 30 years have provided us with important information about the massive investment that we have in education. It allows us to measure and compare our districts to see if we're getting the performance that we expect from our investment.

Perhaps more importantly, it's helped identify whether or not students from important groups, sub-groups are doing well or equally as well as other students and do we have equity in our schools and unfortunately my organization exists because we do not, and we're very concerned about the achievement gap in Connecticut.

And the last comment I would like to make while I have an opportunity is just to state that a moratorium on charter schools might possibly be hurting children because of the actions of adults.

Connecticut Council for Education reform believes we need accountability in all our schools. We need transparency in all our schools and we certainly need to have capacity in the SDE to hold all of our schools accountable to the laws that do exist, and the fact that there was a short sighting and there were some pretty devastating events that occurred last summer with one of our charter systems, I'm not sure we want all of our children to pay the price.

And there are opportunities in those schools, so I'd ask you to consider that. A moratorium might be a little too much. I think that we do need to look at accountability. Accountability is very important. I'm certainly happy to answer questions.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. You brought up Senate Bill 1095, which was our bill on assessments and you know, based on my looking at the language and my recollection of how this bill got going it's, the main modification relates to students in grade 11 and giving more flexibility in all the exams that juniors in high school already face.

I don't think it makes major changes in other tests other than to require the State Department of Education to study those statewide mastery exams and how they relate to student learning, basically figuring out if they work well.

So given that fact, is it your testimony that you would prefer not to see the change for 11th graders?

JEFFREY VILLAR: Well, the change for 11th graders is actually in its second year of existence. Prior to our piloting of the Smarter Balance assessment system we had 10th grade assessment.

Clearly, it's recognized that with the combination of SAT, AP tests and Smarter Balance that there's certainly a log jam of assessments. I know that the prior Commissioner in the State Department of Education began her look at the idea of using the SAT as an alternative test.

The only concern I have around that because it does seem to make some sense in taking some pressure off, but I always object and kind of cringe when I hear people talk about either the CMT, PRIOR or the SBAC as high stakes tests for kids, because in fact they really are not high stakes for the children.

That change around the SAT starts to change that dialogue a bit because SAT is a high stakes test for kids. Let's face it. It's a test that's been used many, many years for college admissions.

That's not the case with the CAP PRIOR, nor is it for the CMTs. So, that's something I'd be open to debate around and I don't have a solid position, but certainly want to point out that our assessment systems in our schools that have been 30 years in existence, do allow teachers to get formative feedback, which is information on kids that are learning every day on their lessons and benchmark assessments on a regular basis three times a year, typically, but they need that summative assessment at the end. That's what I want to stress. That's important data for our system of accountability.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that clarification and I just want to point out that the bill does not focus on the SAT or, it says an existing nationally recognized exam and there are a number. I personally would be horrified if the SAT were selected since SAT so far as I've been able to discern only shows you how well kids do on SAT. So I share your concern about that one.

Are there questions? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good evening.

JEFFREY VILLAR: Good evening.

REP. STANESKI: Earlier there was testimony regarding House Bill 7021 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATORY PROGRAM EFFICACY and it was from a dean of one of our colleges and his concern was that part of the bill requires, the bill raises practical concerns for teacher preparation programs. It assumes that Alliance districts have the capacity to engage directly with schools of education and assume that all education students will reasonably be able to assess Alliance schools, and he feels it might increase competition among teacher preparation programs that are already having difficulty securing clinical placement.

You alluded to your term as a superintendent Alliance school and the agreement you had with UConn. So could you expound on this and let me know if this is a real concern that our other universities should have?

JEFFREY VILLAR: Well, I can only share my experience. I really can't speak for the other districts, but what I can say is that when the opportunity presented itself, the University of Connecticut was looking for a district with a demographic that my district had, which part of an Alliance district we had some challenging demographics that they felt would be very good for their student teachers, so they were looking for a rounded experience for teachers, much like this piece of legislation is suggesting should happen.

So we, you know, entered into discussions about what that expectation would be for the district and I did hear testimony that it's true that we had to make sure we had enough teachers who were team prepared, who understood and were able to take on student teachers as well as have student observers in different, you know, University students involved in our district.

So there's some work there. But my position is, that work is worth it, because what you get are some really bright college students who are really engaged and want to become teachers and they're very helpful in their classrooms and you get the student teachers come in and then you get an opportunity to offer those student teachers positions when you have them.

And you know, recruiting quality teachers is something that every district should focus on, and when you get the first shot at some really good students, because you can provide them with a good student teaching experience and they know that your district's a good place to work, it's a huge leg up on the competition. So I was very pleased to be able to do that. I thought it gave us a competitive advantage in our region on teacher hiring.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both for that helpful exchange. Are there other questions? If not, thank you very much for your time, patience and your testimony.

JEFFREY VILLAR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Subira Gordon.

SUBIRA GORDON: Hi, good evening everyone. Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, Representative Lavielle, Senator Winfield and Representative Sanchez, other members of the Education Committee, my name is Subira Gordon and I'm the Legislative Analyst for the African-American Affairs Commission.

You heard a bit of testimony today about minority teacher recruitment, so I'm going to spend my time talking about cultural competency, the cultural competency portion of this bill.

Many studies show that minority students have better outcomes when they're taught by minorities and have minority role models in the classroom. However, we have been trying to get increased numbers for years and we have not been successful I think nationally or in the state.

So the idea of adding a cultural competency training to teach our prep program and to the in-service training is being able to try to help teachers understand the students that they're teaching. I have a lot of information in my testimony, so I won't go over it. Very interesting if you could take a look at it, that kind of talks about what it is to be a culturally competent educator.

Just really briefly, cultural competency in education means knowing the community where a school is located, understanding all people have a unique view of the world, using curriculum that is respectful of and relevant to the cultures represented in the student body, being alert to the ways that culture affects who we are, placing focus and responsibility, sorry, placing the focus of responsibility on the professional and the institution and examining systems, structures, policies and practices for their impact on all students and families.

This training will help minority students, immigrant students, and it will also help teachers who are minority who are teaching in non-minority classrooms. I think this is very important and something that we need to be doing in the state in order to help somehow.

We've been talking about the achievement gap for years and I think we need to use all the tools that we can in order to make a difference in the state. I'll wrap up there if you have any questions?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that well-timed testimony and also for all the help that you've given the Committee on defining cultural competency and including it in measures like the one before us.

SUBIRA GORDON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, and I just want to thank you for that very articulate testimony because you make an excellent point.

You may not, you may find some minority teachers, but they may not necessarily always represent the folks that they're teaching. They may represent another minority and so the idea of cultural competency allows people to have that awareness and understand what they don't know and ask the right questions.

So I appreciate your bringing that up. I think it's a great point and thank you for your always articulate testimony.

SUBIRA GORDON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there any questions? If not, thank you again, Subira. So those were all the folks who we had signed up for Senate Bill 1098, which I'll just refer to as AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS.

Is there anyone present who would like to speak on this bill? So this is Senate Bill 1098 on teacher requirements. I saw the gentleman with the blue shirt first and you can follow him and if you can offer your name and town, residence for the purpose of the record, then the three minutes is yours.

EMILIO REYELEZ: -- I have a strong voice. I'm from the Island of Puerto Rico and the reason of me being here, I'm not representing any organization, I'm representing myself. I am a paraprofessional at this point presently, working for the Bridgeport Board of Education but as I'm approaching to you guys, I'm telling you that I am a teacher with 20 years of experience in the teaching field.

I started here back in 1987 as a teacher in Vine Street School. Then I moved up to Bulkeley High School as a bilingual teacher. I was granted a position of bilingual teacher for ten years. Out of that, I worked five, seven years with the State of Connecticut at Long Lane School, adjudicated to DCF and for safety and personal reasons I had to relocate back to Puerto Rico.

And thinking not to come back, I let my license expire so guess what? I'm back here and I come and find myself in a situation that the Department of Education doesn't want to renew my license because I have to comply with all these requirements that I find out they were not when I was back in the 1987 there was no test and there was no nothing.

I was grandfathering into the certification and now they're telling me that I cannot teach my kids and I cannot be a teacher because I have to comply with a master's degree and I have to comply with so many other requirements in teaching and tests and practices and OP tests and many other things that I have no idea which I'm trying to comply with in order for me to be certified.

And here I am looking at certification reciprocity, which I have a license from Puerto Rico and I'm stuck because I cannot teach because my license from Puerto Rico, you guys don't take it into consideration.

And furthermore, under S.B. 1102 concerning certification requirements, I find myself already this morning I heard the Commissioner and Miss Pugliese saying that they're considering looking for teachers in Spain when you got teachers from nearby, when you have bilingual teachers right here in your own yard.

What are we doing for the teachers that are in your own yard? We're not doing anything. So I was obligated, basically, in order for me to be, continue working with the students, degrade myself to be a paraprofessional and I don't have anything against the paraprofessionals. It's a wonderful job, but from a teaching experience, which I have taught in jail system. I have taught in juvenile detention system. I have taught in college level, kindergarten, high school, middle school. I'm a secondary teacher myself and I went to school and took some courses to upgrade and become a better teacher and here I am with a Catch 22 of not being able to become what I want to do.

I urge you to really, really consider the certification reciprocity because that will help a lot of the teacher like me, maybe others that really, really want to become a teacher and they really want to help our kids and they're not able to do it because of the lack and the barriers that the Department of Education is putting against us teachers. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That's very helpful for you to share that story of yours, which is really not the sort of story we would want to hear, and you asked what is the State of Connecticut doing?

Well, the Legislature is considering this bill in order to make it so that the Bureau of Certification is not putting up obstacles to so many people like yourself.

Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair and thank you for your testimony today.

EMILIO REYELEZ: Thank you.

REP. SANCHEZ: I agree with you. I think it's something like a slap in the face to the people of Puerto Rico when they're talking about recruiting teachers in Spain when the Island of Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and everyone born on the island is a U.S. citizen.

EMILIO REYELEZ: Yes. Yes.

REP. SANCHEZ: So that to me, makes no sense. But anyway, I want to ask in regards to the practice. Do you, are you aware if it's given in any other languages besides English?

EMILIO REYELEZ: Yeah. I mean, I don't have no problem with the English language or Spanish. I mean, thank God, through the years I've been improving my English skills and I consider that I can take it in English and as we speak right now, I'm already set up for next month, in a couple of days I'm going to be taking the test already, to start complying, to be compliant with the state regulations.

But I find myself in a situation that right now for the Board of Education that I work for, example, Bridgeport is in deathly need of bilingual teachers and here I am, stuck. They cannot do anything for me because I'm not certified.

REP. SANCHEZ: Yeah. I understand. And it's not just Bridgeport. I mean, it's across the state.

EMILIO REYELEZ: Yeah. I mean, definitely. All the state is going in the same boat, but at the same token, you know, Puerto Rico, like you said, Senator Sanchez, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and we are thinking about going over the sea when you can go down in Puerto Rico and they are willing to come to the United States, because that's what we are, we are United States citizens, to come to the big island, to the big country and put ourselves to the line to be a good teacher for our community.

REP. SANCHEZ: I want to thank you again for your testimony and thank you for the promotion, by the way. You called me Senator Sanchez. Thank you.

EMILIO REYELEZ: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions? If not, thank you again.

EMILIO REYELEZ: Thank you. Have a good evening.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I believe there's one other gentleman that wanted to testify on Senate Bill 1098. Please state your name and hometown for the record and offer us your testimony.

MALCOLM WELFARE: Good evening. My name is Malcolm Welfare and I am representing the Concerned Citizens of New Haven. I work for the New Haven Board of Ed, but I am here representing myself as an individual and as a concerned citizen.

I want to speak in support of Bill Number 1098 especially as it pertains to the area of cultural competency. This is an important issue because it has a direct affect and a colossal impact on the learning of all students. There are many students in classrooms who need to be understood and as we enter the 21st century we also are approaching an era where we need to understand the culture of the digital age.

So it is important that we both have equity in education not only as it pertains to our curriculum but also our digital infrastructure and I think that that's something that we should be looking at as it pertains to cultural competency.

I am happy to have read that it is going to be a part of the professional development of our teachers and I believe that that is a great start to helping close the achievement gap because I also feel that the achievement gap is a direct reflection of our society and the conditions of our society.

So when we look at the things that are happening in social, the area of our society when it pertains to social events, those have a direct impact on student learning, student comfort ability and overall climate of our schools.

It's important for our educators to be able to incorporate many different ethnic background and even cultural practices within their pedagogy because that allows us to impact and reach students from many different walks of life who otherwise may not have a voice or may not be heard.

So it's important for us to have diverse faculty, to form bonds with the majority of our students as well as with each other, because when we're in the work environment it's important for us as educators to be able to understand each other and be able to work with each other because those emotions that emit certain vibes, students pick up on, especially the younger they are, the more instinctual they are.

And so when students pick up on us as adults not being in harmony, we see that play out in the classroom. And we can no longer just punish students for not understanding each other. I think we have to be the examples, so I'm very proud of this bill for allowing this to be a focus.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that very clear and compelling testimony.

MALCOLM WELFARE: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your patience and your advocacy and testimony.

MALCOLM WELFARE: All right. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is there anyone else present who wishes to testify on Senate Bill 1098 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS, et cetera?

If not, we'll move on to House Bill 7018 AN ACT CONCERNING ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION. We already heard from JoAnne Wilcox and her daughter Riley, so the next person on the list is Maureen Bransfield. Maureen is not here. How about John Tarca and Christina Martins. Is Leon Smith still here? And let me just say as Leon approaches, that for those who had testimony, wrote it, submitted it and have run out of time because of responsibilities at home tonight or tomorrow, we do review all the testimony that's submitted. With that, Leon, the floor is yours.

LEON SMITH: Good evening. Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, members of the Education Committee. My name is Leon Smith. I am an attorney at the Center for Children's Advocacy where I also direct our alternative schools project and I am here to testify in support of Raised Bill 7018.

I have submitted written testimony. I certainly won't regurgitate that here, but I do want to take a moment to draw your attention to the written testimony of two individuals who had to leave. Maureen Bransfield is the principal at New Horizons alternative high school and John Tarca is a teacher at that school.

You heard from some of their students earlier today. They have both submitted written testimony and their experiences as an administrator and as a staff person in alternative education are incredibly compelling as to why there is a need for reform in alternative education.

I strongly support this bill and I want to draw your attention to a couple of reasons why. Section 1 of this bill addresses the lack of definition of alternative education and it provides a good definition as a non-traditional setting that is geared to meet not just the educational needs of the students but the social, emotional and behavioral needs of these students.

Section 2 of this bill is important in that it finally mandates the collection, tracking and monitoring of data so we can know how these schools perform and how the students are doing.

However, I would state that data on alternative education must be viewed through the prism of student needs and resources that are available. The reality in alternative education is that they have, some of the students with the greatest needs turn up on their doorstep and they have to try to meet those needs with some of the fewest resources that are available.

Data that is collected should not be used to simply criticize, but rather to illustrate gaps in resources and services that need to be filled by additional resources.

Lastly, Sections 1b and 3a of this bill are important because they have the potential to level the playing field. We have a requirement in 1015 and 1016 for a minimum number of school sessions and hours of school work. When a young person, like some of the students you heard from earlier make the decision to go into an alternative program, that decision should not amount to any sort of waiver of those minimum standards that they already have.

And lastly, and I'll sum up. This bill would amend Section 10-220a of the General Statutes, which provides that all students should receive nearly equal advantages and an appropriate learning environment. That includes supplies, staff and resources.

As you heard the amazing stories earlier today from a group of young people who showed incredible resilience to me, that should compel us even more to want to give those young people the type of environment that they can be happy with and the type of supplies and resources they need to truly be the best they can be. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, not only for your testimony, but for the support that you gave the Committee as we contemplated this bill and I also should give a shout out to Representative Jason Rojas who I don't see in the room right now, but who has put in a lot of time on this bill to address the issues you raise.

Are there questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much --

LEON SMITH: Thank you all for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- for all your help on this issue. Is there anyone else who wishes to testify on House Bill 7018 AN ACT CONCERNING ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION?

If not, we move on to Senate Bill 1096 AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS. The first person who signed up to speak is Kaylani Rosado. Welcome.

KAYLANI ROSADO: Members of the Education Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak in opposition to Senate Bill 1096 and the public charter school moratorium.

My name is Kaylani Rosado, and I'm a lifelong Connecticut resident. I felt compelled to speak today because as a former public charter school student who now works for a network of public charter schools, I know just how powerful a great school can be. I am a proof point of what is possible when our schools deliver on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all children.

I have seen neighbors, friends and relatives who did not get to choose and went down a different path. Attending an Achievement First school was the difference between surviving and thriving for me.

As a student, my teachers and principals believed that all children, regardless of race of economic status can succeed if they have access to a great education, and today, I work alongside people who believe the same.

As a graduate of Amistad Academy in New Haven and now a member of the Achievement First team, I know this firsthand. I speak to you today as the first college graduate in my family. That was possible because of my experience at a high-performing public charter school. I don't want any child to be denied the opportunities that I had.

This proposed Senate Bill 1096 and its call for a two-year moratorium on charter schools has very real consequences for many New Haven families, including mine. I have a family member who has been actively trying to get her child enrolled at an Achievement First school for the last two years. I was by her side when she found out for the second time that there was not a seat available for her child, and I cannot begin to describe to you the hopelessness and frustration she feels.

She shares this with many other parents, not just in New Haven, but across the state and the reality in our cities is there are many obstacles for our students, and too few options available for access to a powerful and life-changing education like the one that I was fortunate enough to obtain at Achievement First.

The last thing we need is for a Legislature to move forward a bill that would make sure more parents stay on those waiting lists and prevent more great schools from opening. This proposed legislation is a slap in the face to students, families and communities who deserve the right to choose high-quality schools for their kids.

I earned my college degree with my Achievement First family by my side and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I don't know where I would have ended up if I never got the opportunity to choose them 15 years ago.

Too many kids in our state are living in a reality where they are unable to realize their potential because they do not have enough great school options. We need more great schools, not more obstacles.

Students who attend public charter schools deserve to receive the same amount of state funding as the students who attend district public schools. That is a fact. Please vote against a charter school moratorium and provide our students with the financial funding they deserve.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you very much for sharing your very powerful personal story. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony. I guess I want to ask you, you say choose, that you chose your school, a lottery system?

KAYLANI ROSADO: Yes.

REP. STANESKI: So your family member, the place isn't there because they didn't get selected in the lottery, correct?

KAYLANI ROSADO: She is on a waiting list.

REP. STANESKI: My second, and congratulations on your success.

KAYLANI ROSADO: Thank you.

REP. STANESKI: My second question is, you say you now work for Achievement First?

KAYLANI ROSADO: Yes.

REP. STANESKI: Do you share your best practices with the public schools in your district?

KAYLANI ROSADO: That is entirely my job. So I'm the coordinator for the team that runs a residency program in partnership with New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford public schools, and we run a principal training program that then trains and returns principals, assistant principals and teachers who are looking to be principals back to the district schools, and currently we have eight principals who have gone through the residency program throughout the State of Connecticut.

REP. STANESKI: Do you have data that shows that the work that you're doing in concert with those public schools is making strives in the achievement gap?

KAYLANI ROSADO: So right now, the program is fairly new. We're in our fourth year and so we're coming up on year five, when we do our next audit, we will have hard data to find out exactly what the impact is of our work.

REP. STANESKI: I guess because my concern here is deeper than charter, magnet (inaudible).

KAYLANI ROSADO: Right.

REP. STANESKI: What is causing, I mean, what is it that we need to fix in our public school system to stop people from wanting to take this open choice now because we all, I think everybody here agrees that all kids deserve a good education --

KAYLANI ROSADI: Absolutely.

REP. STANESKI: -- and opportunities, and I say, you chose to go into a lottery system. Can you tell me what it was about your educational experience in your public school that said, I need to be in another spot?

KAYLANI ROSADO: I went to a great public school in New Haven, and it was my teacher at the time, I was in fourth grade, who recommended to my mother that I consider applying to, or putting my name in the lottery to attend an Achievement First school.

So I guess he saw something in me that he recognized that Achievement First and myself was a good fix, and so my mother trusted him and she was right.

REP. STANESKI: And thank you, and I apologize, Mr. Chairman for not asking my questions through you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience, your advocacy. Is Jeremiah Grace still in the room?

JEREMIAH GRACE: Chairman Fleischmann, Chairwoman Slossberg and esteemed members of the Education Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Jeremiah Grace. I am the Connecticut State Director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, the membership association for the 22 public charter schools in the state.

I'm here among many charter leaders, teachers, parents, to say that Senate Bill 1096 is a step backwards in public education in this state. It hurts children and families that cannot wait for access to a great school.

There is no reason to halt access to new charters, especially when they are falling through on the promises of a great education.

Providing children with a pathway out of poverty, claims that are unclear on the efficacy of charters are not based in reality. To quote the State Department of Education most recent biennial report on charters, quote, Connecticut's public charter schools has demonstrated an ability to work towards closing the achievement gap for student bodies that are made up of predominantly of students of color, from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

The number of charter seats is growing, but not yet keeping up with the demand. End quote

Still, Senate Bill 1096 does do a good job at codifying accountability measures for public charter schools. Charters are no stranger to accountability. In fact, we're the most accountable public schools out there because we are regularly reviewed and subject to closure for poor performance.

We strongly support the accountability measures in the Governor's bill from charter accountability, contracts, school performance framework and a greater focus on delivering academic results for children, the most important part on the mission of any school.

I also would like to address Senate Bill 1099, which establishes a commission tasked at developing a strategic vision and plan for Connecticut's education systems.

While we have no problem with the concept, the proposed bill calls for a number of representatives from across the public school spectrum, but none of them are from charter schools. Charter schools are a part of the solution.

According to our own State Department of Education, they are working hard to close the state's achievement gap. They deserve a voice on this commission and a role in any strategic plan for our education system.

As we all know, all parents want the same things, to give their child a better life than they have. As a community, we're calling on you to guarantee that parents have the opportunity to make that happen, stop this moratorium before it goes any further, and give charter schools a seat at the table on this planning commission, all for education. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there questions for the witness before us? If not, thank you very much for your time, your testimony, your patience, your advocacy, and your ever-present smile.

Is Larry Dome still here? How about Bishop Griffith? Amanda Fenton.

AMANDA FENTON: Hello. Thank you very much for having me here today. My name is Amanda Fenton and I'm the Director of State and Federal Policy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. So we work with authorizers in the charter school sector. They're the folks that oversee, approve, and ultimately renew or close charter schools.

You know, we've submitted some prepared remarks for you. I do want to take this time today to talk with you a little bit about our State Policy Report, which I understand has been brought up in some previous testimony before this Committee, to tell you a little bit about it and how Connecticut state law fits into that.

So the first thing, you know, what the policy report is and what it isn't. So the State Policy Report that's in reference (inaudible) produced, looks at how state charter school laws line up against kind of modern performance management components when we look at how we, as authorizers, oversee it and evaluate and manage our charter schools.

What it doesn't do is look at the practices of specific authorizers, so it doesn't speak necessarily to the quality of your specific authorizer practices here in the state, but looks at what's the framework that Connecticut's law puts in place that guides authorizer actions and that guides the oversight of charter schools in Connecticut, so really, that policy framework.

So Connecticut has a low score in all reports, mostly because you have a very outdated and old charter school law. You haven't modified it a lot since Connecticut established your charter school law.

So we've got, you know, dozens of states across the country that you know, as the charter sector has evolved over the past 20 years, have made modifications to their charter school law to kind of reflect those best practices in authorizing and in charter school accountability.

When we look at charter school accountability, we look at financial accountability, organizational accountability and academic accountability, which is really that key part of that charter school promise, that transparency and those high results that we want to see from our charter sector.

So our recommendations are really about, and our report, about how the state can improve their state policy to create that vast framework to really guide those authorizing actions and put the best foot forward for a strong and accountable charter sector.

So you know, as I mentioned earlier, dozens of states across the country have done this successfully over the past really 10 years, updated their charter school law and done so in a way that they've allowed their charter sector to continue to grow and be a vibrant sector as they've instituted these policy changes.

So that's why we're here to oppose Senate Bill 1096 because of the moratorium, but there's certainly room for improvement within Connecticut charter school law and their framework, and we'd be happy to, you know, work with you all on that. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. And at this hour, I haven't been able to quite keep up with testimony, but do I take it that your written testimony as submitted includes specific policy recommendations --

AMANDA FENTON: Yes, it does.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- related to transparency?

AMANDA FENTON: Yes, absolutely.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And the bill before us, you know, aside from having a moratorium has a bunch of measures regarding transparency. Do any of those align with the recommendations that you put forward?

AMANDA FENTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, we as authorizers, we want a fully transparent charter sector. It makes our job easier. The public charter schools are public schools, so the first thing to keep in mind is they have all the same (inaudible) requirements that other public schools do.

You know, in terms of the specific components of this bill, we really support the components that mirror those in Senate Bill 943, so putting forth performance contracts, putting forth some additional organizational and financial transparency components really ensuring that the authorizer has the appropriate access to that school level information that helps us do that oversight function.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

AMANDA FENTON: Absolutely.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there other questions? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, I just want to make sure I understand, because I do have your testimony here that really and truly what you're saying is that Senate Bill 943 puts in those recommendations that your organization would suggest --

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

REP. STANESKI: -- that we are addressing it if 943 passes?

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Yes, we switched again. Thank you. Are there other questions? Yes, Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Madam Chair. Thanks for your testimony. So if I just look at the end, this just to clarify, it's your view that this can all be done in a rather uncomplicated way. I mean, that it's a fairly matter of course --

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- has been done elsewhere and it doesn't need --

AMANDA FENTON: Yes, absolutely.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- time.

AMANDA FENTON: It doesn't need the type of moratorium I think that you're proposing, so you know, the types of changes that we at NACSA endorse and would recommend, it's really only in two key areas.

So given the authorizer the appropriate tools to oversee their charter schools, the charter school accountability component, these are things like requiring performance contracts, putting forth some parameters around the renewal standards, really straightforward components, that a lot of those are included in Senate Bill 943.

The other large component, main category, that we look at is authorizer accountability.

REP. LAVIELLE: Uh-huh.

AMANDA FENTON: So, is there a way to (inaudible) policy direct the state to ensure that the authorizers are doing their job, and that's a lot, you know, that's primarily related to transparency provisions. So is the authorizer providing an annual report on the performance on their schools, on their academic performance, their financial performance, their operational performance?

Does the authorizer have a set of guiding principles that kind of guides their work and can inform their decisions?

So it's fairly, fairly basic policy components that you know, over the past 10 years about, you know, 15 to 18 states have done most, if not, you know, about half of them while they've continued to grow their charter sector.

REP. LAVIELLE: So the transition has taken very little time.

AMANDA FENTON: Yeah, a very little time, and I think --

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay.

AMANDA FENTON: -- you know, Connecticut actually has an advantage in this regard because you don't only have one authorizer, so you know, in other states they have to trickle these policies down to, you know, lots and lots of authorizers. In Connecticut you've got a shift that can turn fairly quickly.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you so very much. I appreciate it. Thank you, Madam Chair.

AMANDA FENTON: Absolutely.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Can you just tell me in terms of, since you seem to be very knowledgeable about some of the other states, and state policies, can you give me an example of another state's policy, in terms of how they actually go through the authorization process.

I mean, one of the issues that this Committee has struggled with is the procedure that we have right now where the State Board of Education, you know, accepts a proposal and then it comes, then they go out and advertise and parents think that a new charter school is coming, and then it comes to the Legislature for funding and that's where we tend to have some of the conflict here, you know, because as in a year like this when we have significant budget issues and we're trying to figure out what goes where and ensuring that all of our students have adequate resources and adequate access to good quality schools, we seem to be the last piece of the puzzle.

I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit to any other state that you think has a good process.

AMANDA FENTON: Sure. I can tell you Connecticut's system is actually very unique in this regard, so most states don't separate the approval of the school from the funding of the school in the way that Connecticut does, so if it's approved by the authorizer, and you know, states use a variety of different methods to ensure that they've got community feedback on that, et cetera.

If it's approved by the authorizer, the school is approved to open. It doesn't have to go through an additional you know, appropriations process for that budget line item. So I think, you know, most other systems streamline that so it's really just one stop through the authorizing office and the charter school authorizer makes, is responsible for that decision.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And so other systems, maybe you can point to another state that has charter schools and has a good system, you know. To the best of my knowledge, most every Legislature is the budget-making authority.

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So, you know, are they appropriating dollars first and so then those dollars are available. Then they can go to the state board of ed or whoever the authorizer is and say okay, we've got a pot of money to authorize X number of charter schools. Now we're going to look at the applications and you're good to go.

Is that their system, you know, the other system?

AMANDA FENTON: Yes.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: And can you point me to a specific state?

AMANDA FENTON: Sure, and in most states the way that the charter school funding works is the money follows the individual student. So it's not decided by, the authorizer doesn't get say five spots for schools from a funding perspective. It's really determined by the student enrollment, so they kind of bypass that whole appropriations process in some way because the money is directed toward the local school district that's the authorizer or, you know, directly to the school.

So you know, I think almost, quite frankly, almost any other state has a system that Connecticut could benefit from looking at, you know, California, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, you know, most states operate in a different funding stream in that way.

I'm sorry I can't be more specific. It's just Connecticut is sort of an outlier in how you fund your schools separately than how you authorize your charter schools specifically.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Okay. I'm still not clear on it, so if you'd like to follow up on that at some point, we'd love to hear it because, to the best of my knowledge every other state has their state budget appropriated and I'm not clear how that, I'd be curious, very interested to understand the difference and --

AMANDA FENTON: Sure. I guess I, I guess the main thing is they don't have separate line items so it's not necessarily you're appropriating a budget for charter schools, and you're appropriating a budget for traditional public schools. The funding is appropriated per pupil in a lot of states, and so then how that, the per pupil funding then trickles down into the individual schools.

Another person is here today to testify is from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and he might have some more specific knowledge about these funding distributions.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: That would be very helpful to know about. Thank you. Are there additional questions? Yes, Representative Lemar.

REP. LEMAR: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I, very quickly, have not heard of your organization before you came here this evening and so while you're here I had an opportunity to kind of go on line and look at what you had available and it's actually quite useful, I think for the Committee moving forward.

You have each of the states sort of ranked in their sub-categories and you're able to pull down what each state does and what their accountability performance metrics are and you know, it kind of portrayed Connecticut in a fairly poor light, which I think we all recognize is reality.

And it has some very specific recommendations of how we can proceed if we want to increase our accountability and performance standards and I really appreciate it. I think this is great work that your organization has done and I'm sorry to have only heard of it today. So thank you for coming here tonight and sharing your information with us.

AMANDA FENTON: Thank you very much for having me.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Are there further questions? Seeing none, thank you very much for your testimony and for being here.

AMANDA FENTON: Thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Sauda Baraka, followed by Cynthia Sherard. Good evening.

SAUDA BARAKA: Good evening. Good evening, Senator Slossberg, Fleischmann, Senator Winfield and all sitting Legislators. My name is Sauda Ahtea Baraka. I am a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education for the past 10 years, the past board chair, parent to five children four of whom graduated from Bridgeport public schools, one in school, a junior. I have two grandchildren in Bridgeport public schools. I am a parent leader for my Parent Advisory Council on the elementary level when my children were there, PTSO on the high school, and in total over 30 years.

I am also retired from the State of Connecticut Judicial Department, CSSD, after serving 22 years in adult probation and retiring as a Chief Probation Officer managing the Bridgeport office, and I know full well what happens when we don't adequately fund our public schools.

I am very concerned about the proliferation of charter schools in our state and specifically in Bridgeport. We have the greatest, number five, and I support state Raised Bill 1096 AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS and that a moratorium be placed on any further charter school approval as stated in the bill until the Commissioner of Education develops a comprehensive statewide charter school plan and conducts a review of charter schools in existence and such plan and review are approved by the Joint Standing Committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education.

I support the moratorium and for the record, on March 10, 2014, the Bridgeport Board of Education adopted a resolution for a moratorium on any new charter schools in Bridgeport. The resolution called for the board to conduct an impact study related to the financial impact and review and assessment of current data on academic and socio-emotional performance of Bridgeport public school students attending charter schools in Bridgeport.

Charter schools impact the school district's budget and cost us millions of dollars, dollars that we don't have. Each dollar taken from our district further burdens us. The most underfunded district in the State of Connecticut, we cannot afford to support charter schools and still meet standards dictated by the State of Connecticut.

Charter schools are not required to meet the same standards required of public schools. The charter schools are bastions of segregation and can select and de-select our students at will and many at charter schools do not perform as well as our district schools.

They also take our best students, and research proves that the higher performing students help motivate all students in the school.

In conclusion, I ask you to please support the bill 1096 and for the state and also for our students. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your testimony and for being here this evening. Are there any questions? Yes, Representative Fleischmann.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Madam Chair. I thank you for your presence here tonight. I'm aware of the fact that the Bridgeport Board of Education actually opposed the granting of one of the recent charters to what would be a new charter school in Bridgeport, and I'm just wondering if you as a past chairman or chairperson, I'm sorry, of the board and somebody who's active in Bridgeport, could sort of explain why there is this tension between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Bridgeport charters?

SAUDA BARAKA: Well, I won't call it a tension. I think what our experience is, and based on the financial information that we've received from our CFO, it's cost. Our schools, you know we're the most underfunded district in the state, and so we have finite dollars. We have standards that we have to meet based on the state requirements, and we're not able to implement our academic and socio-emotional programs with fidelity because we don't have the resources.

So every time another charter school comes into the district, that's dollars being taken from our districts. For instance, Capital Prep Harbor Charter School is scheduled to open this year. Within the first year we're talking approximately 695,000, second year over 800,000, third year over $1.3 million. Those are dollars that are going to impact our schools, so that's what we're really talking about.

So when you take all of those figures and put them together, that's a significant amount of money coming out of our budget to support schools that impact only a small number of children. But we're dealing with 22,000 children, 22 plus and growing. Last year we had to add 12 new classrooms and didn't, and we had to figure out to support those classrooms with the limited resources.

So we're not a declining enrollment city. We are in a city where enrollment is increasing. So it's not tension so much, but what we want to be able to do is to offer great academics, great socio-emotional program and support for our children who come from conditions that are either financially or dysfunctional, and we want to be able to provide the resources and support for those children so they can be successful.

There is a school to prison pipeline that exists and it exists in Bridgeport. I worked for CSSD. I was an adult probation officer and I was the office manager in Bridgeport, so I know well what happens when we're not providing that kind of proper and adequate and excellent education for our children.

So it's not tension. It's money, dollars, funding, ES, ECS funding. We need to have the resources so we can provide what our children need and we have a very, very large population of children who are in need.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that answer.

SAUDA BARAKA: Uh-huh.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your passion and advocacy. Yes, Representative McCarthy-Vahey.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for being here this evening.

SAUDA BARAKA: You're welcome.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: You referenced a study that was being done by the Bridgeport Board of Education and I wondered what the timeline and the status of that study was, just because we were talking about that in terms of any study that would happen here at the state level.

SAUDA BARAKA: Well, we haven't started the study. We did the moratorium and then were going to establish, and we did establish an ad hoc committee. We have not moved forward on that committee because we have a number of other initiatives that are ahead, so we haven't been able to get that piece done. But that's why I was excited when I heard that the state was looking to also do a moratorium and to begin to look at the charter schools on a statewide level.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: Thank you. Madam Chair, may I ask one follow up? Thank you.

And though you haven't started the study, did you have a timeline that you were thinking of in terms of how long you anticipated that might take?

SAUDA BARAKA: Well, we said that it should be a year, we would take a year to do the study, and we were, the plan was that we would begin this, in January, but we have not established that committee as of yet.

REP. MCCARTHY-VAHEY: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Are there questions? Yes, Representative Lavielle.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you, Madam Chair. Good evening.

SAUDA BARAKA: Good evening.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you for your testimony. Just a quick question. You referenced a few times that the district was underfunded --

SAUDA BARAKA: Yes.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- and the most underfunded. I just wondered if you meant that the formula doesn't give you enough or that the amount the formula is supposed to give you, the proportion you get of that is the lowest? Which is that?

SAUDA BARAKA: Yes. It's the latter.

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay, so you feel like if you got what the formula is supposed to give you it would be enough.

SAUDA BARAKA: If we got what the formula was supposed to give us, then we would have enough to operate our district adequately, well more than adequately, operate our district and to be able to implement our programs, academic and socio-emotional with fidelity.

Right now, what's happening is that we'll have really great programs that call for this much, but we can only implement a small portion of it because of the funding.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you. It's just a very, very important difference is the question of either the formula is equitable or not --

SAUDA BARAKA: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- you're saying it is, or that there's not enough money available from the state --

SAUDA BARAKA: Yeah, the formula, according to --

REP. LAVIELLE: Okay, thank you.

SAUDA BARAKA: Okay.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Senator Winfield.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Thank you. Good evening.

SAUDA BARAKA: Good evening.

SENATOR WINFIELD: So my experience with charter schools in the City of New Haven is, I think, a little different than yours. I've listened to a lot of people talk about who's going to these charter schools. I've seen kids that are, like some people might consider the best, however you describe that, however you define that.

I've seen kids who live in some of the, if we talk about the worst, the worst parts of the cities with some of the worst conditions, and I think it may have something to do with the way you get into the charter schools. That's not really my concern.

Are you suggesting that only the kids that are, however you describe at the top of the grade or the best are the ones that are going to school, into the charter schools in Bridgeport?

SAUDA BARAKA: I'm saying that oftentimes they are high functioning children. What happens is, in any lottery system, you generally have an adult who says, I would like something different, and those adults are usually the ones that can navigate the system in order to get the child in.

As previously stated, there was a teacher who made a recommendation and the family followed up. A lot of our families may not have that available in their household, so those are the children who need the greatest support.

So every time we have funding that leaves our district, we are further subjecting the children who have the greatest needs to the least resources.

There are, I don't want, at this particular time because I don't have the facts in front of me, I don't want to state what --

SENATOR WINFIELD: I'm not trying to push you to say something you don't know.

SAUDA BARAKA: Okay, yeah, exactly. I don't want to say, but there have been information that I have received from parents over the course of the years that leads me to believe that there are instances where there's recruitment and selection and de-selection that goes on, so that if you have a child that goes in that doesn't meet the certain standards, that they will be de-selected before a certain period of time in that charter school system, so you weed out who you don't want and you keep who you want.

SENATOR WINFIELD: I'm just trying to make sure, because you know, I guess as I think about this, I think about my own history. I grew up in a housing project in the Bronx and I probably would have been considered by many one of the kids who were at the top, and my mother was a very active mother, although she didn't have a lot of time, so she pretended like we lived some place we didn't live so I could go to a better school system. So I was lucky in that way. I got to steal education, as some of us have talked about, so that I could get a good education.

But in that same household existed my brother, who if we looked at my brother and not the circumstance for a second, we would say my brother was one of those who needed the most, so it's the same mother.

So I'm trying to figure out, how does the action of the mother necessarily tell us anything about the student, as I listen to these discussions and I'm not sure that it does. So that's why I'm asking you those questions so I can get a clear understanding of what we're talking about.

SAUDA BARAKA: Okay. I guess I --

SENATOR WINFIELD: It was suggested that because the mother or father, whoever it is, that parent, that person who is putting the kid in the lottery has done that, that these are kids who are towards the top.

But yet I'm saying to you that my mother, who took the action she took as a proactive parent had two children who were just at the opposite ends of the scale. So I'm not sure, because I happen to have lived in that house and had that experience, I'm not sure that that's necessarily the truth.

SAUDA BARAKA: Okay. Well, what I'll say is, in a household you will have many different kinds of levels of learning, and supports that are necessary. I can't speak directly for your own household, but I can speak from my household with five children and all my children have different learning levels and there definitely is --

SENATOR WINFIELD: But that's my point.

SAUDA BARAKA: And so, but the point is that if you are a parent who has certain information knowledge, you are more able to navigate the system to get the kind of supports you need.

However, if you are not, then what happens in our district is that every dollar that leaves the district is one dollar less that is not available and accessible to children, and that oftentimes, more often than not, just like with magnet schools. We have families in magnet schools navigate the system, get their children in and there might be a child who has a higher level of learning than another child, but there are supports built in in order to support those children throughout their learning.

The more supports we are able to give our children on an academic level in our public schools, the better we can support them in their learning so that they can be successful. But when we don't have those supports, we can't.

For children who have special education needs, the more supports we have available, the better those children will be able to succeed and go on and be successful in life.

So again, I can't speak for your particular situation, but I can speak for mine, and what I find is that the fact that I can advocate for my child, I can ensure that whatever is there and available that my children need, they will get. I can navigate for other people's children in that same way in the position that I'm in. So, in a household, I am looking to ensure that every child has what they need on our district level, on the public school level, that they get the resources that they need in order to be successful and you can't do it when we are having money that is being disbursed out of that school or siphoned off the school, going into a charter situation where you have a very selective set up that you decide the lottery, the selection, de-selection process that goes on.

SENATOR WINFIELD: I recognize that. All I'm suggesting to you is that that mother in that household, whether it's mine or anyone else's, who has two children will probably try to get both children into that charter school, and I recognize that you would also say to me that the charter school select and de-select.

But I'm just saying to you that the fact that the mother or father or whoever the guardian is, pushes to get that child somewhere doesn't have, necessarily have anything to do with the fact that the child may still require, because of where that child as an individual sits, require attention that the other child in the household doesn't. That's all I was suggesting. I want to be very clear about what people are testifying to here so I thank you for your testimony,.

SAUDA BARAKA: Okay, thank you very much.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Are there any further questions? Seeing none, thank you very much. Our next speaker is Cynthia Sherard. Is Cynthia coming? No, all these people stand up. I thought somebody was Cynthia. I guess not. Okay, Archbishop Bailey. Is Archbishop Bailey here? No. Babz Rawls Ivy. Tom Coble. Good evening, sir, and thank you for your patience.

TOM COBLE: Thank you. Good evening, members of the Education Committee. My name is Tom Coble. I was born and raised in Bridgeport. I'm a product of the Bridgeport public school system. I'm a product of the state public school system. I'm also a former member of this body, so public schools do work.

I am testifying in support of Bill 1096. I currently have a grandson that attends Bridgeport public schools. The NAACP approved the resolution against charter schools and in support of our true public schools in 2010. The resolution cites a study by the Center for Research and Educational Outcomes of Charter Schools in 15 states and D.C. that confirmed that only 17 percent of charter school students in that study outperformed their peers, while 46 percent performed no better and 37 percent performed worse.

Just recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Delaware against charter schools because they promote segregation. Well, I'm here to tell you that the exact same problem exists with the state charter schools located in Bridgeport.

I compared our magnet schools to the charter schools, because neither are neighborhood schools and both have the ability to serve students from either large catchment areas, or the entire city as well as drawing students from surrounding communities. Both also require admission by lottery.

Park City Prep is 98.1 percent minority. New Beginnings Charter School is 98.1 percent minority. Achievement First is 99.3 percent minority and Bridge Academy is 99.6 percent minority. Our four magnet schools are between 66 and 89.5 percent minority. The entire Bridgeport school district is 91.6 percent minority.

The last time I said segregation is illegal and these charter schools are not addressing segregation, they are promoting it.

Highly compensated pro charter school advocates that are funded by millionaires, billionaires and Wall Street executives constantly frame the need for charter schools because this is the civil rights issue of our time.

If any Legislator believes that Martin Luther King, who gave his life in support of equality and the end of segregation would ever support the re-segregation of our schools, they don't understand the civil rights movement, or what Dr. King stood for.

Thurgood Marshall, who stood with Dr. King and became the first black United States Supreme Court justice stated in 1974, unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.

As someone actively involved in politics, the Bridgeport community has consistently made it clear they are against privatization. The reform movement, the takeover of our schools and pro charter school advocates and their charlatan organization.

I'm in absolute support of this moratorium on charter schools and Bridgeport is already littered with them. Not only am I asking you to pass this bill, I'm also strongly urging you to ensure Dr. Perry's charter school is not funded. We do not want even one more charter school in Bridgeport. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your testimony and for being here today. Representative Fleischmann has a question for you, Tom, if you don't mind?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Just a quick question. So you cited the demographics of some of the charter schools in Bridgeport. Would you have the comparable demographics for the Bridgeport school system as a whole?

TOM COBLE: Well, the item that I took out of the whole Bridgeport system was, the entire Bridgeport school district is 91.6 percent, which is even better than those charter schools to have the ability to recruit on multiple levels, even from outside the city.

So in relation to that, their numbers are even higher than the entire school system.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So you're saying 91.6 percent of the Bridgeport school system is African-American?

TOM COBLE: And Hispanic or other.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Hindu, Hispanic, and the charter schools are higher.

TOM COBLE: Are higher at 98, 99, you know, et cetera, yes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Very helpful.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Our next speaker is Kaitlyn Wallace. Kaitlyn here? Okay. Good evening.

KAITLYN WALLACE: Good evening. Chairman Fleischmann, Chairwoman Slossberg and members of the Committee. My name is Kaitlyn Wallace. I graduated from Torrington High School last June and am currently studying at UConn Torrington. My brother Ben is a sophomore at Explorations Charter School. I am here to show our charter schools are important to my family and why I oppose the two-year charter moratorium in Senate Bill 1096.

I thrived in the Torrington schools, culminating in leading the marching band in my last two years as drum major. Ben, however, never felt like he fit in. The atmosphere in a large school caused Ben severe anxiety. He was so miserable my parents decided to home school him for two years. Eventually, he needed more than we could provide him at home.

Explorations has been the perfect fit for Ben. As he says, we all fit in because none of us fit in. Ben insists that bullying does not exist there.

I had the opportunity to see what a social butterfly Ben has become when I brought in his elaborate Halloween costume. I can't believe I just used the words social and Ben in the same sentence.

A year ago he was a recluse. The intimate environment of Explorations has allowed him to find himself again and learn what it means to have friends. Ben goes to school happy and comes home elated with stories of jokes he told that day. This year, Ben's attendance has been perfect because he doesn't wake up with stomach aches or anxiety.

Ben has been tested with a near genius IQ. This school has put him in a position to fulfill that potential. After a few very long years, I have my funny, happy-go-lucky brother back. I know Ben isn't alone and I wish every child had the opportunity he had. Explorations is a community-driven school and other communities with other Bens deserve to have that opportunity for their students.

The proposed charter moratorium stops that from happening, which is unfair to those families and those students. Quality education is for every child, not just for cookie cutter students like myself who excel in their local school district.

Please support more schools like Explorations rather than taking them away. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Kaitlin for being here and for sharing your story, your personal experience on behalf of you and your family and your brother Ben. I'm glad that you have your happy-go-lucky brother back. Are there any questions? Any questions for Kaitlyn? No. Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

KAITLYN WALLACE: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: David Ciacarella. Good evening.

DAVID CIACARELLA: Good evening. My name is David Ciacarella. I'm the President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers. Connecticut's charter school law, which was enacted in '96, although well intended is one of the weakest in the nation with regard to transparency and accountability and lacks meaningful mechanisms to hold charter schools, charter management organizations or the State Board of Ed accountable for academic, administrative or financial functions.

In order to strengthen the quality and improve public trust of charter schools, state statute must be enhanced to provide clear expectation, transparency, improve the oversight of strict enforcement and most of all, accountability. The Senate Bill 1096 makes significant moves in that direction.

By calling for the moratorium in charter schools, it provides an opportunity to evaluate what's been done and determining what we need to do before investing further in charter schools.

Requiring the Commissioner of Education to review existing charter schools and develop a statewide charter school plan for this Committee review is something that's appropriate and it's long overdue and it's common sense, quite frankly.

By separating the charter approval process and requiring final consent to rest with the General Assembly, the Legislature is strengthening its oversight goal in terms of budgetary responsibility and educational policy.

We also support requirements for members of the Charter School Governing Council or CMO to undergo complete background checks with the Department of Children and Families, DCF. We urge you to strengthen the bill by investigating more of the issues that I've raised concern about charter schools, including the lottery, the waiting list procedures, but perhaps most importantly, the excessive CMO and charter school administrative compensation.

I have the 2012, 990 from Achievement First. It's included with my testimony. There are 10 officers ranging, whose salaries range from, this is back then in 2012, probably higher now, from $118,000 up to $235,000. Four of these officers are superintendents or assistant superintendents, two are CEOs. We have 29 schools in the entire network. I'm not going to read names unless you ask for them, but I will read the titles and the salaries.

CEO and superintendent, 223,000.

CEO and president, 235,000.

Chief information officer, 182,000.

CFO and chief of staff, 175,000.

Chief external officer, I'm not sure what that is, 174,000.

Assistant superintendent, 142,000. I'm rounding up or down.

Assistant superintendent, 158,000.

Vice-president of school, 138,100.

Regional superintendent, 149,000.

A vice-president of recruitment, 118,000.

Ten officers almost $1.7 million. I pay taxes in the state as all of us do. I mean, I don't know, is my tax dollars going to fund this type of oversight, and this is not, this particular charter company, I know others maybe are very similar.

New Haven school reform, if I can compare it. In New Haven, we have received a much deserved recognition, locally, statewide, nationally. In 2013 I went to the White House and received an award. Champion of Change, and with eight recipients from across the country. Now, my name is on that award, but know for sure that isn't a reality. That is a group of work of the work we did in New Haven with the teachers, central office, mayor's office.

And the reasons that we, not me, were granted that award was a willingness to review everything from top to bottom, teacher tenure, student achievement, or lack of, administrative competency, political patronage. These were tough issues that we were willing to take on.

The point is, while we certainly not perfect in any means, we were willing to take on these issues that were both uncomfortable and difficult. Then we used collective bargaining to put teeth into the agreement, forcing us to do what we said we would do.

I'm asking that we do the same here, and that is have all charter and public schools operate under the same set of rules for funding, admissions, transfers, et cetera. You heard the list.

We have no basis of comparison to determine if charter schools are effective or not, because they have not operated under the same set of rules. So let's create a new, uniform, transparent set of rules for all.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: David, can you summate. The bell went a while ago.

DAVID CIACARELLA: Oh, I didn't hear it, I will finish right now.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you.

DAVID CIACARELLA: Excuse me. I didn't hear it. I was waiting for it. After the moratorium we'll have hard data to fairly and happily evaluate charter schools and therefore we can make an informed decision concerning expansion.

The very last comment, charter schools, as I said in previous testimony, were our idea, American Federation of Teachers. We created the idea and we still support charter schools. We supported the idea, we support it, but we need to return to the original concept of charter schools.

Take all the kids, keep all the kids and be free to innovate. Please support Senate Bill 1096.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Thank you for your testimony, David. Interesting, interesting appendix. Are there questions? No, seeing none. Thank you very much.

DAVID CIACARELLA: Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Our next speaker is Tyisha Toms, followed by Bruce Ravage.

TYISHA TOMS: Good evening. My name is Tyisha Toms and I'm a resident of Bridgeport and a parent of two daughters, one who attended a Bridgeport magnet school and the other who currently attends the same Bridgeport magnet school.

I'm here to testify in support of Raised Bill 1096 because the rhetoric about the effectiveness of charter schools is inaccurate. I was going to site the same study that Tom Coble actually sited, but I'll just focus on the statistics.

Seventeen percent of the charter schools in the study outperformed their peers while 46 percent performed no better, while 37 percent performed worse. Similar outcomes can be found in Bridgeport when charter schools are compared to magnet schools, which are also lottery based. All four Bridgeport elementary magnet schools outperformed the state charter schools located in Bridgeport.

The statewide charter school plan proposed by Raised Bill 1096 provides a mechanism for the Legislature to look beyond the rhetoric of charter school advocates and into the actual facts about the performance of charter schools. I believe that the results will show that Connecticut, like the NAACP should focus its attention on funding and policy advocacy on improving existing low-performing public schools.

All of the current charter schools located in Bridgeport significantly under serve children that qualify for free or reduced lunch, which is important, because the number one indicator as we've heard several time here today, the number one indicator of a child's academic success is their socio-economic status.

Although both the traditional Bridgeport public school and magnet schools seem the same number or percentage of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch at 99 percent, the charter schools serve between 69 and 85 percent of the children, of the students that qualify for free or reduced price lunch,

Approximately 6,000 students applied for entry into our high-performing magnet schools last spring, less than 1,000 were accepted, so over 5,000 students were placed on a wait list with each student being counted just once.

Charter schools claim to have 1,200 students on their wait list. However, what they don't share is that each student can apply to three different schools and they're counted three separate times. This clearly demonstrates that Bridgeport parents overwhelmingly want to expand magnet school options, not charter school options.

Therefore, I strongly urge the Legislature to support and pass this bill. Thank you.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you very much for your advocacy and testimony today. Are there questions for Tyisha? No questions. Thank you.

TYISHA TOMS: You're welcome.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Next speaker is Bruce Ravage. Is Bruce here? There's Bruce. And after Bruce, I have Tyler Scarpa. Good evening.

BRUCE RAVAGE: Thank you very much. Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, members of the Education Committee, my name is Bruce Ravage. I am the Founder and Director of Park City Prep Charter School in our ninth year in Bridgeport. I also grew up in Bridgeport, went to Bridgeport schools like the previous speakers, came back home to do this.

Rather than point out the numerous inaccuracies of, in the data that was reported by some of the prior speakers, I'll limit my remarks to what I prepared with a few little tweaks. Much of it will dispel some of those myths or untruths.

I'm here to urge you today not to approve Senate Bill 1096 because it does not have the best interests of students and parents at heart. The parents and students in my school have been fortunate to have been selected by a lottery, open to all students, to come to a school which has offered hope and delivered on a promise for them to be more successful than they had been in their former schools.

Unfortunately, there are so many others who were not that lucky sitting on lengthy wait lists, and too often languishing in under-performing schools.

I'm here today to talk about my students, the remarkable young men and women I have had the privilege of serving every day and their tremendous growth that they have made in the school that nurtures them, challenges them and has them exceeding expectations and breaking stereotypes.

I have spent my career educating students many years in traditional district schools, as well as in charters. I understand that there are some who believe that charters cherry pick their students, that they do not take students who are truly reflective of their districts, or that they take students who are more advanced than their district peers.

These allegations, however, could not be less true not only at Park City Prep, but at all of the, can't be three minutes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: The bad news is that it is three minutes. The good news is that since your opening, we have every word that you shared in writing, so we are, we've got your perspective and you know, if you wanted to offer just a quick summative statement as opposed to reading through all of this.

BRUCE RAVAGE: I appreciate that Chairman Fleischmann. I will sum it up with one key point, although there are many.

The main issue that seems to be the concern of the folks from Bridgeport is the cost to their schools, what they allege they're losing. The fact is, that it's really a windfall for the local school district.

Their funds are not diminished. The funding they get are not diminished when the student leaves their school, yet they have the benefit of smaller classrooms and so forth. That's a fact.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. One quick question for you --

BRUCE RAVAGE: Sure.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- because there seems like there might be a point of agreement between yourself and those who you disagreed with. Approximately, over 90 percent of students in Bridgeport public schools are on the free and reduced price lunch program. By your own testimony, under 70 percent of the students in your school are on the free and reduced price lunch program.

I'm just wondering what accounts for that disparity?

BRUCE RAVAGE: It does vary from year to year. I think part of it is by chance, but the important thing to know is, if you disaggregate the data and compare subgroups, free and reduced price lunch, black, Latino and so forth on every measure, the charter schools are out-performing the host district. Same group to same group. Apples to apples. That's really a more accurate comparison regardless of the percentage.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.

BRUCE RAVAGE: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Senator Winfield also has a question. Hold on for a moment.

SENATOR WINFIELD: I'm right here.

BRUCE RAVAGE: I'm sorry, Senator.

SENATOR WINFIELD: So I want to ask you a question because I want to be clear about your testimony. From my questions, you can tell I don't really care about what side of the issue you're on.

Are you suggesting, because I think I heard you say that the arguments that are being made by those who are on the opposite side of this from you don't really hold up because, not necessarily because the money doesn't do what they say it does, but because there's a win because these students get educated and the classrooms get smaller. Is that what you're saying? Are you actually saying that the transfer of money doesn't actually happen?

BRUCE RAVAGE: That's right. The funding for the traditional school districts is not diminished when the student leaves the district to go to the local charter school.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Yeah. And you also suggested that they get smaller classrooms. I'm assuming you mean that because the students leave that school. That's not necessarily the case, right, because there is also growth that you may actually have no difference?

BRUCE RAVAGE: That's possible. But overall, there's reduced population of students without a diminished amount of money.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Potentially.

BRUCE RAVAGE: Potentially.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Right, but not necessarily. Do you have data on that?

BRUCE RAVAGE; I don't personally.

SENATOR WINFIELD: Okay. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there other questions for Mr. Ravage? If not, you're welcome to leave as you've seemed anxious to do.

BRUCE RAVAGE: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Tyler Scarpa still here? If not, how about Megin Meyer? Scott Hughes. Good evening.

SCOTT HUGHES: Thank you, Committee members. My name is Scott Hughes. I just speak as a concerned Bridgeport resident, activist, product of traditional public schools and a public school parent.

I have a slightly different perspective, Early on in my career I worked very directly with the New York State Board of Regents, and I'm an Albany native, and I was a direct liaison to the Board of Regents for chartering public libraries in New York State, so I had an opportunity to really witness firsthand the charter explosion, you know, of the late nineties, and particular in Albany, New York and you know.

So I've now been able to go back and witness, for example, the junior high school that I went to has become sort of a revolving door, you know, of failed charter schools in Albany. So I'm just concerned, you know. I'm concerned. On one level I'm concerned about the resource deficit that we have for our traditional public schools.

I'm also concerned that, you know, public magnet schools are thriving in Bridgeport, so it begs the question if it's not broken, you know, why fix it.

I do know that charters from my own experience, they're not sustainable because I think you can look at what's happening in Albany, New York, and I just hope that, you know, Hartford can take a look and I think you can look at what's going on in your back yard.

So that's just my perspective and I offer that. Thank you for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your time and your patience. Are there questions? If not, thank you again.

SCOTT HUGHES: Thanks.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Marie Pereira still here? And after Maria, if Tammy Boyle is still here. You're up next.

MARIA PEREIRA: Good evening esteemed members of the Education Committee. My name is Maria Pereira. I'm a former Bridgeport Board of Ed member and I was the lead plaintiff in the Connecticut Supreme Court case which overturned the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Ed.

I'm here to testify in support of state Bill 1096 and I am the local Bridgeport rabble rouser. My only disappointment with this bill is that it becomes effective July 1, 2015, which leaves the door open to add a sixth charter school in Bridgeport.

Although the Bridgeport Board of Education, the District Parent Advisory Council and the Bridgeport Education Association all overwhelmingly voted to place a moratorium on any new charter schools in Bridgeport and testified to those facts before the State Board of Education. They voted unanimously to approve two additional charter schools in Bridgeport.

Over the next five years, the five current charter schools in Bridgeport and the potential additional Dr. Perry's charter schools, I want you to listen, please, will siphon away $26 million from the most under-funded school district in Connecticut.

That's because we're required under state law to pay for all the transportation costs, the special ed costs and although the ECS money does not follow the child, under Federal Title 1 law, the Federal Title 1 money does. It's a requirement.

Although the Legislature has not appropriated one dollar for Dr. Perry's proposed charter school in Bridgeport, this week a billboard was erected over I-95 advertising his school. He's already informing residents they have until April 10th to apply.

I want you to know that you will allocate $11,000 per pupil to Dr. Perry's charter school, which will be about $26 million over the first five years. In his contract, 10 percent of every dollar you send him will go into his management company's pocket, which to put it into perspective, he will supervise 2,339 students in the first five years and he will earn $2,574,000. And to put that even into further perspective, our superintendent at the same time will supervise almost 98,000 students and earn less than $1,300,000.

In addition, I think you should be well aware, and it's attached to my testimony, one of his governing council members has a federal conviction for embezzling $117,000 in taxpayer funds, so that goes back to doing background checks on board members.

I am totally opposed to any additional charter schools in Bridgeport, although the state has less than 2 percent of its student population in charter schools, without the addition of Dr. Perry's charter school we are already at 10 percent.

For those of you who know, we have been ground zero in Bridgeport, what I'd like to call the deform movement, and we have fought back. We defeated the illegal takeover. We sent Paul Vallis running out of Bridgeport. We have fought back and said privatization of the three pro-charter school board of ed members who ran in 2013 went down in flames.

We don't want privatization in our city. We're going to stand against it. I've organized all these people to be here today and there's nobody in Bridgeport who knows more about charter schools and public schools and I'm saying that and I'm not trying to be arrogant, but I have spent thousands of hours researching and pulling data, so I'm open to any questions. I'm more than happy to answer them. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, and in your testimony you lived up to your personal billing as a rabble rouser. You have that energy about you. Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, we thank you for your time and your research and your advocacy.

MARIA PEREIRA: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Tammy Boyle, you're up next, to be followed by Robert Reid.

TAMMY BOYLE: Good evening. My name is Tammy Boyle, and I am here in support of Senate Bill 1096. I am a Bridgeport public school parent who has two special need sons and I have volunteered in the Bridgeport public schools for over eight years and have dedicated over 16,000 hours.

In April of last year, the elected District Parent Advisory Council which represents almost 30,000 Bridgeport public school parents, voted to place a moratorium on the charter schools. This was presented to the State Board of Education during their public hearing in regard to avoiding two new charter schools in Bridgeport, and it was totally disregarded.

The Legislature allocates $8,600 for each Bridgeport public school child. However, state charter schools receive $11,000 per child. Currently, Hartford spends almost $19,000 per child. New Haven spent $17,000 per child and Bridgeport spends $14,000.

The question I have for you today is, why our Bridgeport public school students are worth so much less than other urban students and charter school students?

Malloy's own ECS task force identified Bridgeport as the most under-funded school district in Connecticut on a cash basis, placing the number at around $43 million. Although over 100 Bridgeport residents from diverse background attended and/or testified at a local State Board of Education hearing that we did not want another charter school in Bridgeport. The State Board of Education could have cared any less. Bridgeport already had more charter schools than any other district in Connecticut, yet they approved more last April.

Over the first five years, these two additional charter schools would cost the Bridgeport public schools almost $13 million and transportation and special education costs we are required to cover under the state law.

And although ECS funds do not follow the child, the Federal Title 1 allocation of $600 per child does.

How can it be possible to be acceptable that 22,000 students in the most under-funded school district in Connecticut will lose $13 million to fund about 2,500 students in charter schools? How does this state have approximately $12 million for Dr. Perry's new charter school slated to open in Bridgeport next year and another in Stamford that will serve less than 500 students combined?

But you do not have the $12 million desperately needed by the Bridgeport public schools that will directly impact our 22,000 students?

In closing, should the Legislature fund Dr. Perry's charter school, we will have six state charter schools in Bridgeport which combined, will divert $26 million from our severely under-funded Bridgeport public schools over the next five years.

Although less than 2 percent of students in Connecticut attend charter schools, Bridgeport is already at 10 percent. I am pleading with this Committee and the Legislature to not only pass this bill, but to also ensure Dr. Perry's charter school in Bridgeport is not funded. We do not want another charter school in Bridgeport. Thank you for allowing me to speak before this Committee this evening.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony. And when you say for allowing you to speak, you know it's your right. You're a resident of Connecticut, a citizen of the U.S. Are there questions, comments from members of the Committee.

Even if you weren't a citizen, you still have the right.

TAMMY BOYLE: Well, thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Yeah. Hearing no questions, before I put my foot further in my mouth, is Robert Reid still here? And Mr. Reid is to be followed by Mr. Waxenberg if he's still here.

A VOICE: No. He's not. He left the building.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: And then Charlie Coviello will be after Mr. Reid. Welcome.

ROBERT REID: Thank you. Good evening, Chairman Fleischmann, Chairwoman Slossberg and other very distinguished members of this Committee.

I'm Robert Reid. I'm Senior Director of Legal Affairs for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. National Alliance is a national nonprofit organization solely committed to advancing the public charter school movement.

I want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to address the Committee as it works on improving Connecticut's charter school law.

As by way of background, in 2010 we began annually evaluating each state's charter school law against our own model law and in the most recent edition of this effort in January, 2015, we ranked Connecticut's charter school law number 35 out of 43.

Not surprisingly, given the low ranking, we concluded that much improvement is needed in Connecticut's charter school law. S.B. 1096 takes some steps toward improving Connecticut's charter school law primarily by strengthening the law's accountability requirements.

However, the bill also includes some problematic provisions, ones that will significantly limit the number of high quality public charter school options that are available to the state's families and I just want to highlight one in particular for today's testimony, particularly, imposing a two-year moratorium on new charter schools.

We think it's a mistake to prohibit any new schools from opening over the next two years, especially in light of the solid academic performance of the state's charters and 3,600 students on charter school wait lists in Connecticut.

The state should determine how to best support the creation of more great public school options for the state students, rather than focusing on how to halt the creation of them.

In addition to examining the important issue of accountability, S.B. 1096 also should address other equally important aspects of the charter school law, namely the law's antiquated provisions dealing with growth, autonomy and funding. These constraints only serve to curtail the number of new high-quality public school options that can be created throughout the state.

And as the state seeks to focus on accountability, it should also not add any additional impediments or hurdles to the growth and fostering and facilitating the innovative ingenuity of these public charter schools.

In closing, the long-term viability that the charter school movement is directly to the quality of the charter schools that are created, and from our perspective at the National Alliance, states have the best chance of creating a high-performing public charter school sector if they take a comprehensive approach to charter school law reform as exemplified in our own model law.

I want to thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you today. The National Alliance is also happy to serve as a resource to this Committee moving forward as you continue to improve your own charter school law. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony, which was clear and concise. Senator Slossberg.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much for your testimony. I notice in your testimony you make the statement that Connecticut should fundamentally change how it funds public charter school students so that all federal, state and local dollars follow the student from his or her traditional public school to the public charter school.

Can you speak a little bit more about that? I think, you know, in that instance, right now as you've heard from many people, the concern is the loss of dollars. If we were to go to this sort of a model, that loss would be compounded astronomically, so I'm wondering if you could speak to how that might work here.

ROBERT REID: And Chairwoman Slossberg, I appreciate the question. I'm happy to get you a more detailed analysis of that question as well.

I think typically what we found in many states is that that's how it works. What we found in Connecticut, and really, to be perfectly honest, this is not uncommon for many states, is that the disparity between the funding for kind of the traditional public schools and the public charter schools often is pretty stark and the disparity, excuse me, can be great. I think in Connecticut, that percentage may even be at 30 percent.

So I'm happy to get you more of a detailed analysis vis-à-vis Connecticut, but as we found certain funding streams our overall primary concern is that the students in public charter schools get funded based on what they need and we are not seeing that in Connecticut and for that matter, many other states.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: It's interesting, because you'll find, obviously, as you've heard today, you know, that charter schools are saying we don't even get enough money and the public schools are saying well, wait a second. You guys are getting a lot more money than we're getting, and our statistics shows that the growth in funding for charter schools is astronomical as compared to the growth in funding for our traditional public schools, where most of our students in the State of Connecticut are being educated.

ROBERT REID: Uh-huh.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: So I think one of the challenges for this Committee and one of the areas that as we discuss this in moving forward, is how to deal with those funding inequities to ensure that every child has the resources they need whether they're at your local public school or if they're at a charter school and that we find a way to do that.

I'd be, you know, I appreciate your offer of assistance for other models, you know, I'm very nervous about the concept of just having the dollars follow the student, given the way we fund right now, which would result in a significant and massive loss to many communities that are already struggling with inadequate resources, so some big challenges, but appreciate your offer of assistance.

ROBERT REID: Certainly. Our pleasure.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Other questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, your testimony and your advocacy.

ROBERT REID: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Charlie Coviello still here? And as Charlie approaches, Lisa Fair is up next after him if she's still here. Good evening. Hopefully you didn't get a shock.

CHARLES COVIELLO: I did. But that's because of all the fire power from the people before. I'd like to thank the Education Committee for the opportunity to speak before you. I am here to speak in favor of Raised Bill Number 1096.

I am a grandparent of public school children in Bridgeport and I am very proud that they are part of the public school system.

I've heard the word choice used quite a bit, charter choice, public choice, so on and so forth in this room today. The problem is that charter schools have the choice of students. Public schools don't.

If the child is not in magnet or charter, the child is in public school. Draining resources away from that public school is only going to hinder that public school norm.

Charter schools have the ability to take the student and accept them or not accept them. But then they also have the ability to de-select that child, and I know of a number of parents in my district that have had that happen to them, and it's unfair.

The other thing that is unfair is that the funds for that child that's left behind with the charter school.

We need a moratorium on charter schools. I watched last, well springtime, summertime, a public hearing on two charter schools that were proposed for Bridgeport. Prior to that public hearing, the Bridgeport Board of Education, which is elected by the voters just like you, voted for a moratorium on charter schools.

The State Board of Education had the gall to override that request for a moratorium and approved two charter schools. As a voter in Bridgeport, I am insulted by what the State Board of Education did, because I elected those members of the Board. In fact, those members of the Board were a totally new Board that was elected overwhelmingly in the City of Bridgeport during an election. I am insulted by what took place, and I request that the Education Committee not fund those two schools that were approved by the state because we don't need more charter schools in the City of Bridgeport. Plain and simple language.

And then just finally, you asked a question before about what can we do to change what's taking place in our school system? One, Bridgeport school system is $43 million under-funded by the Governor's study. Nobody else's.

But if the Legislature were to focus on providing for good public schools the State of Connecticut would be a lot better off. Let's forget about these corporate private schools. Notice I didn't say public charter schools, I said corporate private schools.

We need good focus on public schools. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there any questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience and your advocacy. Is Lisa Fair still here? Lisa is to be followed by Karen Jackson if she's still here.

LISA FAIR: Thank you for allowing me to speak today. So, greetings, members of the Education Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of public charter school students and families, on behalf of them.

Again, my name is Lisa Fair and I am a proud mother of two Achievement First scholars in Hartford. I have a tenth grader at A.F. Hartford High School and I have a fifth grader at A.F. Summit Middle School.

I, myself graduated from Hartford Public schools and I attended middle school in the same building that is now home to A.F. Summit.

I'm here because I am strongly opposed to Senate Bill 1096. The proposed ban on new charter schools in this bill doesn't make sense and is just unfair.

Too many kids are sitting on waiting lists, unable to get into great schools of their choice. I know from firsthand experience. I tried to get my daughter into a great magnet school again and again, but we couldn't get off the wait list. Every time we applied she never got in. Sometimes she was number 500 on a wait list and number 1,000 on another. There are just not enough seats at these schools, especially for Hartford students.

We applied for seats at different good schools every year since my daughter entered kindergarten, and after years of trying, we finally got into Achievement First when she was in the fifth grade. My son was also able to get in that year as a kindergartener. It felt like we hit the jackpot.

In one month my son learned to read and my daughter is doing great as well. These schools have truly worked for my family and so many other families. I kept trying to get my kids into great schools because like all parents, I know education makes all the difference in the world. I want both my kids to be able to compete with students from districts across Connecticut and internationally and go on to great colleges and careers.

Unfortunately, not every school in Hartford provides a great education. Too many schools are not on the level that they should be and it is so hard to get off the wait list, I mean to get on the wait list for the best schools. That's why we need you, our Legislators, to vote against S.B. 1096 bill because if this bill passes, many children will suffer.

Charter schools are helping my kids and so many other kids in Hartford. Since you have to live in Hartford to go to these high-quality charter schools they give our students a better chance, especially when students from lots of surrounding towns, towns where they already have great schools are competing for seats at our magnet schools.

Please vote against this bill. Our kids deserve an equal opportunity and a great school. There are kids growing up right now and they can't wait two more years. They need a great school now. Don't stand in the way of that possibility. Thank you for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for yours and for sharing your story. It's inspiring to learn how much effort you put into making sure your children got into the schools that you felt they needed.

LISA FAIR: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? Seeing none, thank you again.

LISA FAIR: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Karen Jackson still here? And if Jill Johnson is here, she'll follow Karen and then Gladys Jones-Walker.

KAREN JACKSON: Good evening.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Good evening.

KAREN JACKSON: My name is Karen Jackson. I'm a resident and a parent of three boys in Bridgeport public schools. I'm testifying in support of S.B. 1096. I'm in support of the moratorium on charter schools because of the fundamental resources our 22,000 Bridgeport public school students who do not have access due to severe funding of our true public schools, which is only made worse every time a charter school expands or opens in Bridgeport.

I have personally seen many Bridgeport public schools without a full-time nurse. Many of our schools have a nurse two days a week. I observed a child whose nose bled at Bryant School and because there is no nurse, he had to remain in the main office with a tissue, with his head held back with a tissue.

In Bridgeport Military Academy, a nurse comes once a week. The social worker in my children's school has 1,216 students that he has to service. The guidance counselor has the same ratio. Both the guidance counselors and the social workers in Bridgeport serve an average of 600 students when the national recommendation is between 250 to 300 students.

I see the stress on these committed but overburdened faces each day as they try to do their best, but are completely overwhelmed. To add insult to injury, the Bridgeport Board of Education has to take their limited financial resources to pay our poor social workers, speech pathologists, et cetera, that are servicing charter schools and their students.

How does the State of Connecticut have millions for billionaire and Wall Street backed corporate charter schools but they do not have the millions of dollars that are owed to our true schools in Bridgeport? In addition, charter schools significantly under-serve our neediest students, which include those who are poor and ELL special ed needs.

I also think it's absurd that a state law requires our local board to release my child's name, address and phone number to state charter schools. I have personally received both calls and letters from Achievement First, soliciting me to enroll my children in their school. I find this highly offensive and an invasion of my privacy.

Now, I am only asking you to support this bill. I am also asking each time, each and every one of you to vote against the funding for Dr. Perry's new charter school slated to open this fall.

I just want to add something. While I stayed here all day, I didn't know about many things, especially S.B. 1099. The gentleman stated that parents have a choice of charter schools, but he knows that a parent should be at the table to plan.

So that's one thing that as far as S.B. Number 1099, a parent should be at the table. I haven't heard anyone say that and I wasn't aware, and I got knowledge today about these assessments. I had no idea that SBAC takes seven to eight hours pre-test, post-test. I had no idea. I thought it was a one-day test, and most of the tests that are given in Bridgeport I don't, I didn't know my sons were taking so many of them, so I was shocked to hear that and that if it's breached, then the parents are not being notified that our children's information is sent out, and I find that quite disturbing.

So I just wanted to add that to it. Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony and your patience and for listening to the testimony on all those other bills today.

KAREN JACKSON: Yeah. I like your repartee that I call me down.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your testimony, your advocacy and your repartee.

KAREN JACKSON: Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Jill Johnson still here? How about Gladys Jones-Walker. Are you Jill? Good evening.

JILL JOHNSON: Good evening, Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann and members of the Committee. My name is Jill Johnson. I'm the Executive Director, Principal and a math teacher at Explorations Charter School in Winsted.

I'm here to testify against Senate Bill 1096 and the proposed charter moratorium included in the bill. When people think about charter schools, they often gloss over schools like Explorations. We are the only rural charter school in the state serving 86 public high school students, 38 percent of which are special education from 19 different communities.

Due to the fact that 84 percent of our students come from outside of our hosting district, the fact that charters do not receive transportation assistance poses a financial and attendance challenge to our students and their families. Instead, our families car pool, drive their kids individually, or beginning two years ago, we as a school, pay for transportation costs out of our per-pupil funding. In fact, we spend $35,000 a year of our own money on a bus for students coming from Torrington, which sends 46 students to our school.

You might wonder why families and students go through so much trouble. It's because we're providing these young men and women with a uniquely supportive environment. We help students develop a healthy attitude toward their school, community, work, family and most important, toward their own sense of self. Our students graduate ready to help build a brighter future for all of us.

Someone recently asked me what the typical Explorations student looks like. The fact is, there isn't one. Whether it's because they have a unique learning style, they've been bullied, or they didn't feel like they fit in like them, at Explorations, we take the round, the square and the triangular pegs and we work to fit them, not the other way around.

The common thread that all of our students share is that they're local school district wasn't working for them and they needed another option. Our school takes pride in being able to fill that role and having served students since August of 1997, I wonder what the lives of our past and present students would have looked like without Explorations there to support them.

The fact is, the children we serve in Litchfield County aren't alone. Across the state there are parents who can tell that their students aren't being supported in their current learning environment. Those parents and children deserve to have other options.

The proposed moratorium on new charter schools denies parents that opportunity. Worse still, it prevents communities from coming together to ask the state for that new option regardless of how many children might need the help right now.

Students in Connecticut should not have to wait for a school that fits their needs. Please oppose this charter moratorium. Send a message to parents and students in our state that taking charge of your future is admirable, and as families ask for great education, our elected leaders will take time to listen.

Connecticut's charter school community is diverse and Explorations is one of the many examples we have of a community coming together to improve the future of its youth. Don't shut the door on these opportunities for our children. Thank you very much for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your time and your testimony and your good work in your school.

JILL JOHNSON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you again.

JILL JOHNSON: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Gladys Jones-Walker still here? And she's to be followed by Dr. Jacquelyn Keleher, to be followed by Hector Diaz.

GLADYS WALKER-JONES: Good evening. I just want to make a correction. It's Gladys Walker-Jones. As a former banker, and now an educational leader, I concur with many out in the field, who liken the unregulated charter school industry (inaudible) to the poor to benefit those with means to that of a sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Perhaps we've forgotten because the (inaudible) did not impact Connecticut to the extent it did other areas of the country. Connecticut is still significantly exposed to the current crisis due to the large presence of the financial services industry in the state, particularly in Fairfield County.

As a school principal in Fairfield County, I have experienced firsthand the alarming impact of sub-prime lending and sub-prime funding of our traditional non-chartered public schools and the shift of not only our scholars, but funds to five charter schools.

Our superintendent maintains that we need at least $7 million to open our doors for the new school year. With the Governor expecting to flat fund out school district, we will not be able to address our growing enrollment, nor the state and federal mandates.

Some of the same families whose home was lost due to foreclosures in our state often as a result of private investors choosing not to pay their mortgages, but yet still accepting rental income is likened to the kids who often lose their seats in our typical public schools.

Because when many kids have gone out to public schools, and this is firsthand information, when they've been selected to go to public schools and those funds follow them, and when for whatever reason, academically and/or behaviorally they're de-selected, their seats sometimes are no longer available to them because too often some classrooms and even schools, have closed.

I support Bill 1096 and trust that you will also. Any questions?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Ms. Walker-Jones. Are there questions from the Committee? If not, we thank you for your time and your testimony and your advocacy.

GLADYS WALKER-JONES: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Jacquelyn Keleher, to be followed by Hector Diaz.

JACQUELYN KELEHER; Hello, Education Committee. Can I say happy Friday eve? Yes. My name is Dr. Jacquelyn Keleher. I am an Education Professor. I am also a parent of four children who have gone through the system and I'm also a Bridgeport Board of Education member, so full disclosure, although not here to speak in that capacity. I'm a very concerned citizen, and quite frankly, I'm here to urge for strong support for Raised Bill 1096.

And now I'm going to stick to my script in terms of the support. As a state we need to strategize ways in which our existing schools are equitably funded and that faculty and staff are getting the resources they need to educate and engage children and youth rather than granting fiscal support to new charters.

It's imperative that we meet our commitments to funding existing grants, particularly the ECS grant and the Special Education Grant, before any new initiatives receive funding.

We already have critical commitments we need to make good on as a state, so we should not be proposing a budget in millions more in Fiscal Year '16 for new charter school seats, when that money could easily and effectively be used to ensure equitable access to additional early childhood education spaces, early intervention supports, less crowded classrooms, professional development and technical assistance, technology infrastructure and so many other resources that our classrooms need in the traditional setting.

Costs are on the rise for everything and it's wreaking havoc on school district budgets. As districts, we do pay our portion of our funds in special education and transportation and loss of Title 1 dollars into our charter school systems. My district will redirect approximately 4 million to the five charter schools located in Bridgeport just this school year alone.

We'll redirect an additional 26 million over the next four years. This is indeed concerning, particularly when we don't have a say in the quality assurance of the charter school operations and practices.

So frankly, in terms of a moratorium, we need time to breathe. We need time to breathe as a city and as a state, some time to get our financial bearings together and targeted toward more equitably funding our current public schools instead of flat funding egregiously.

We as a state need some time to look more deeply and rigorously at the charter school system and evaluate those agencies from operations to educational impacts before moving forward with more charter schools.

I was part of the school board when we did vote to have a moratorium placed in Bridgeport in the June impact study. Some of the things that are being proposed in this bill are good, sound practices that we must investigate and so giving the gift of time, a true gift of time, we will be able to engage in this endeavor.

And I know this is a difficult decision and I know that this is a beginning of a conversation and very respectful of the state charter school applicants who are here and I know that they want to be a part of the solution to bridge the achievement gap, and we need to come together and share best practices.

But I also need to respectfully request that Bridgeport and other areas be given more time before adding more schools within our boundaries. Give us the gift of getting our financial house in order and let us know more how these schools could indeed be of benefit and of service to all of our children. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. One very brief question for you. You said the figure of $4 million going from the Bridgeport schools to the five charters in your city. Is that 4 million, did you come up with that by summing transportation dollars and Title 1 dollars?

JACQUELYN KELEHER: That's correct. That's correct. From our chief financial officer. Uh-huh, for our district.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there any further questions for the witness? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience, your advocacy.

JACQUELYN KELEHER: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Hector Diaz, to be followed by Kevin Fischer.

HECTOR DIAZ: Wow. I feel for all of you. I don't remember it being this hot in here. First off, my name is Hector Diaz. I reside at 34 Arthur Street in Bridgeport. Good evening, members of the Education Committee, Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg and the distinguished members.

I'm here to speak as a father of a student in public school system, eight years old. I'm a former Legislator myself and a community advocate of sorts.

My name is Hector Diaz. I reside at 34 Arthur Street in Bridgeport. I'm here to speak in favor, and to obtain support for Raised Bill 1096 AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

It's a much needed bill that would help to get a better understanding of both the benefits and the detriments associated with charter schools.

There are just too many questions concerning the use of public funds that would be better served in our current public school system. All our public schools should work for all our students.

I've heard testimony over and over about how good and how important it is to have our children learning and what a miracle or a Godsend these charter schools are, when in reality our schools, our regular public schools should be that good, and we have the power and the minds to put that stuff together.

According to information in the New York Times, states have opened so many charter programs so quickly that they can barely count them, let alone monitor student performance.

In Bridgeport, charters are opening at an alarming rate considering there is currently no active study or legislation that binds them to the same regulations that exist in public schools, nor by the democratic processes that make it possible for citizens to pressure administrators, making them less accountable to the desires of their communities.

Parent advisory committees provide an opportunity for parents to provide input into school policies. According to the American Federation of Teachers, it states that charter schools spend a greater percentage of their resources on administration, less on infrastructure and provide fewer services than the public schools in the same districts. This in itself gives reason to the passage of this bill.

I would also expect the support of the unions on this particular bill, as charters have been found to actively resist teacher unionization and have been a force in pushing out labor unions. It is common for teachers at charters to be at will employees with no job protection.

Let's make it our public education system the best it can possibly be. If we continue to divert funding, that goal becomes much harder to attain. All schools should work for all students. Please pass the bill out of Committee and help protect the interest of our children and their future.

With Bridgeport having five, I suggest that any additional funding of new charters be withheld or returned to the current system until the results of this bill and any accompanying studies are completed and documented, benefit as reported, including the funding for Capitol Preparatory Harbor School slated to open this fall.

If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your patience and your testimony.

HECTOR DIAZ: Thank you for having me.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you again. Good to see you back at the LOB.

HECTOR DIAZ: Nice to see you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Kevin Fischer, to be followed by Teresa Wilson.

KEVIN FISCHER: Good evening. Chairman Slossberg, Chairwoman Slossberg, Chairman Fleischmann and members of the Education Committee. My name is Kevin Fischer and I hope to be the principal of the Stamford Charter School for Excellence.

Ariana, Madison, Oliver, Page, her little brother Avery, Stephen, Jaden, this is just a small sample of the students we hope to educate, nurture, encourage and inspire in our inaugural year this September. These names are but a small glimpse of the future scholars, whose parents have taken the initiative to submit an application since March 4th.

Last spring the State Board of Education unanimously approved our school to open this fall. Since our approval, SCSE has heard from hundreds of parents, families and community leaders, all expressing the need for high quality education options for all their children.

Stamford families share dreams of their children going to college one day. We shared testimony of successes of our graduates in New York's best high school. We listened to parents describe the longing for teachers to truly believe that their children can be successful.

However, in the numerous conversations where we learned about one another, we never discussed political machinations such as charter school moratorium. Our conversation centered on our share love for children. Our dynamic discussions focused on education and empowerment. We talked about hope.

We at the Charter School for Excellence are committed to continual improvement. Our first blue ribbon school, the Bronx Charter School for Excellence was opened a decade ago, so we truly understand the need for modernization in Connecticut.

Connecticut needs to be the leader of innovation and creativity and the Nutmeg State has historically been a bastion for enterprise and investment. We believe the proactive approach to modernizing charter school law would provide incentives to encourage schools like the Stamford Charter School for Excellence to flourish.

The stakes are too grave to be reactive and unfairly stereotype all charter schools for the mistakes of one. Stamford families have a right for additional high-quality educational opportunities as we need you to partner to be the best school possible for our scholars.

SCSE will be a source of inspiration for all educational stakeholders. I've been a teacher and school leader for eight years at BCSE. In my tenure, I have helped ensure strong partnerships with the district schools, and I've committed to having SCSE and Stamford public schools thrive together.

We share resources, plan professional development collaboratively and create a curriculum together, but our shared growth would not only be a dream if the moratorium is approved.

For dozens of parents ready to send their sons or daughters to SCSE as well as thousands of children already on waiting lists for charter schools in Connecticut, a moratorium would simply be a nightmare.

We ask you humbly to support Dwayne and Tiana and Serenity and any other future scholars of our school. Education is the best investment we can make in our children. We implore you leaders to protect the wishes of the Stamford community. Please let charter schools continue their improvement, important work of education and inspiring our children. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Mr. Fischer. So, you're an educator. I assume that you tend to do your homework. I'm just wondering when you were contacted by these various families, parents, children, whether you were aware and made them aware that your charter school charter had been approved but that your charter school would only open if there was funding from this General Assembly.

KEVIN FISCHER: Yes, we have done no marketing or reached out to any parents. They have reached out to us.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Okay. The reason why I asked this, though you didn't read it, you talked about political machinations and the fact is that it is the established process of the State of Connecticut that the State Board of Education, which is unelected can make decisions about granting charters but this Legislature makes decisions about funding. That has always been the case.

KEVIN FISCHER: And honestly, that's why I said I hope, because I know nothing is set in stone at this point.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from other members of the Committee? If not, thank you.

KEVIN FISCHER: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Appreciate your patience and your testimony. Is Teresa Wilson still here? How about Liz Cox? After Liz on the list we've got Mark Meyer and Dacia Toll. Welcome.

LIZ COX: Hello. Honorable Chairs, members of the Education Committee, I'm Liz Cox, Director of Common Ground, a community-based environmental studies based charter high school in New Haven, Connecticut.

We have been educating students in our community since 1997, one of Connecticut's first charter schools founded by educators from New Haven public schools growing out of a community environmental organization that was founded in 1990.

Then as now, the people who started public charter schools were committed to creating outstanding educational opportunities for all students and developing innovative models for public education.

Our founders worked incredibly hard at funding levels and salaries far below district levels to build a school from the ground up. Since 1997, we have watched the charter school community grow many strong models despite being systematically underfunded by the state, now and in the past.

The schools that came on board last year in New Haven, Elm City Montessori and Booker T. Washington, like Common Ground, are rooted in our community. They add to the diversity and quality of educational opportunities for all students in New Haven. Our community, our kids, are better for their presence.

Over time, Common Ground has demonstrated a record of success and improvement. Some of the state's largest test score gains, graduation rates higher than the state average, college acceptance rates at or above 93 percent. We serve a diverse student body, bringing together students from many different towns and cities, while keeping our primary commitment to the City of New Haven.

We welcome students with great need. This year 17 percent of our student body qualifies for special education supports.

There is growing interest in Common Ground as a model for other schools as well. We have chosen not to replicate but to support like-minded schools across Connecticut. We've worked hard and consistently to build a positive partnership with our local district. We care about the same students they do, and their educators do good work.

Over the last three years, we've helped teachers in more than a dozen schools create school gardens, school yard habitats and outdoor classrooms and integrate those resources into their curricula.

At the same time, we respect that other charter schools have responded to demand by opening new schools. When families are eager for public schools that work for their kids, charters should be able to respond to that demand.

Charter schools and all public schools should be held accountable. No one here will disagree with that. One important question, the most important question, though, is whether charter schools are being held to the same standards as other public schools? I can say that as a school in the middle of charter renewal. This process is rigorous and demanding. This fall we assembled an application that was 20 pages long, supported by literally hundreds of pages of financial statements and curriculum documents.

A team visited our school from the State Department of Ed, spent time in our classes, reviewed finances, talked with our board, looked at special education files. Last week, 150 parents, students, staff and community members gathered for a public hearing as part of this process.

Raised Bill 1096 would threaten community-based charter schools like Common Ground and throw our very existence into doubt. This legislation, while unclearly written, looks like it could change the normal five-year renewal process to something that could happen annually.

It would put the decision to renew charters in the hands of the Connecticut General Assembly rather than the State Board of Education, adding politics and divisiveness to a process that should be in the hands of community members and educational professionals.

Perhaps most importantly, it would stop community organizations from opening any new public charter schools for the next two years, shutting down an important opportunity for innovation and choice in our state's public school system.

Our community is speaking up for quality educational opportunities. Please respond to those voices. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony and for the work that you do as an educator. And just to put some of your concerns at ease, so while the draft bill before us appears to put the normal five-year renewal process into abeyance and replace it with an annual process, that's not the intention of the Committee. That was really a drafting error so far as we can tell and we're not interested as a General Assembly in being involved in the renewal decisions of charters, either. We're happy to leave that to the State Department of Education.

So in short, your established school would not be affected in the same way that prospective schools are. I just wanted to make that clear.

Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your testimony and for the work that you do.

Is Mark Meyer still here? And if not, Dacia Toll. And Dacia's going to be followed by Kathy Holt and David Goodman.

DACIA TOLL: Good evening to the Chairs and members of the Education Committee. We've had a night full of testimony, some of which I think people have admitted that they were speaking to perceptions or things they've heard or feelings. One person even said, I don't have the facts in front of me but proceeded to testify, and I'm going to try tonight to speak to five very specific facts.

You have my prepared testimony in front of you. I'm going to try to help you sort through a lot of the information that's come up tonight so I won't be speaking to it, but you can read it.

The first fact, which I think is pretty well established tonight is the hard truth remains that according to NAEP results, Connecticut still has the largest achievement gap in the country in many grades and subjects.

The reality and the context in which we are having this conversation is that our state is failing many of our low-income students and that is having a devastating impact on them, their families and in particular, our urban communities and our state as a whole.

It is in that context that we have to have this charter school conversation and my second fact is about performance. You've heard here stated tonight, reference to a credo study that is a national study that at this point almost seven years old and specifically did not include Connecticut schools. The methodology has also been questioned in that study.

The facts of Connecticut's charter schools, and there is a comprehensive report from the State Department of Education are that 86 percent of Connecticut's charter schools out-perform the host district averages on the CMT and 83 percent out-perform their host district averages on the CAPTs.

Connecticut's charter schools have a very strong track record of serving, in particular, low-income students from our urban communities.

To talk specifically about Achievement First, where I have the pleasure of working, our high school in New Haven is the number one high school in the state for African-American student achievement and the number four high school according to U.S. News and World Report for the state as a whole.

So there are low-income kids from New Haven and Bridgeport who attend the fourth best high school in the state overall according to U.S. News and World Report.

The third fact is that charter schools are in fact, serving high need students. On average, charter schools serve 70 percent free and reduced price lunch. At Achievement First, we serve 87 percent free and reduced price lunch. Ninety-eight percent of our students are black and Latino, 8 percent qualify as English language learners, but actually an incoming kindergarten into New Haven, 25 percent of our students are English language learners.

What happens is we then teach them to read, write and speak English and they no longer qualify as English language learners and they go on to thrive in our schools.

According to data that is also publicly available, only 2 percent of students are opting to leave the Achievement First schools in New Haven, whereas 3.5 percent of students are opting to leave their local neighborhood school over the course of the year.

Fourth fact. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how charter schools are funded in the state. It is the case that under current law, charter schools, students who attend charter schools are effectively double funded, so the concerns that notably the people in Bridgeport have expressed that their district is losing money, it is true to the exact opposite of that.

Those students are funded by this General Assembly to go to the charter school. Meanwhile, the district because of hold harmless receives the full funding that they would receive the local share and the state share. It is true that they must pay to transport those students. It is true if they are special ed, they must pay for those. They would be doing that whether those kids were in the Bridgeport public schools or the public charter schools.

The difference is, there's an additional $11,000 per kid going into the Bridgeport community.

Fifth fact quickly. I know the buzzer has gone, is there seems to be this implication that charter schools in this state have grown out of control. We have had charter schools in this state for nearly 20 years. We have 22 public charter schools in this state.

Given the magnitude of the need, one could argue that we have extraordinarily under-invested in the strongest group of schools serving low-income students in the state. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your testimony and for all the work that you do at Achievement First.

There's a point that was raised earlier this evening that came up again in your testimony. I'd like to give you a chance to speak to it.

So some of the parents from Bridgeport noted that the charter schools in their district are essentially more segregated than their district as a whole, and it would appear that that may be the case as well for some of your schools.

If you could speak to why that is and why that is or is not a concern from where you sit?

DACIA TOLL: Thank you. So I think the difference is for those you're looking at the facts are marginal. I mean, what's happened in our case I can speak to very directly. We very proudly serve students from the community of Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven. Those are high need communities, significant concentrations of free and reduced lunch and black and Latino students, scholars as we call them, and we are serving, it feels a bit like a Catch 22.

Either we're supposed to be serving high need students and we're doing that successfully or we're supposed to be serving a diversity of students. We have chosen very specifically by mission, to serve low-income students. All of our schools are over-subscribed. In New Haven we're the number one and number two choice. There are hundreds of families every year that do not gain admission, that is true, in all the communities where we are, so we have the difficult choice.

We could open the schools to suburban communities and satisfy diversity, but for every one of those students we admit, we would be not serving a student who had far fewer choices and options and frankly, are much more dependent on a great public education to achieve success in life.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. A very clear answer. Any questions? Representative Cook, followed by Representative McCrory.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony. You had mentioned something about special ed and I don't know what, it kind of all blended together and you were talking about funding --

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. COOK: -- and you were talking about funding and fees. Could you please explain to me what you were trying to get at when it came to special education and funding and payment?

DACIA TOLL: Thank you. So right now, charter schools in the State of Connecticut are responsible for, need to serve special education students, by lottery, in full compliance with their ID.

We, the statute is written so that districts must reimburse us for the quote, unquote, reasonable cost of serving those special education students. As you can imagine, there's healthy debate between the charter schools and the traditional districts about what is a reasonable cost, but we hashed that through. In some districts it's based on a formula that's more transparent than others, but the district is responsible for funding those additional special educational costs. Not the core, but what is supplemental and additional for the special education student.

That, they are responsible for doing that, whether that special education student goes to a traditional public school or whether they go to a public charter school. It is, as I'm sure you all know, some of that money is federal money pass through, some of it's state money, and that belongs to the special education student to meet their needs and it just in theory goes with them to the charter.

I will say in our experience, the districts are not fully funding that obligation as well with the charter school.

REP. COOK: I think it's a trickle down effect when it comes to funding, because we're not getting federally funded 100 percent, which means we're not getting state funded 100 percent, so it might be that trickle.

What is the percentage of special ed students that you have in your schools?

DACIA TOLL: In our schools, I should have that, it's about 7 percent special education in our schools. I think, I appreciate the question because it's important to be nuanced about that, so our districts on average are more like 11 or 12 percent, and you could say, oh, we're serving a lower percentage.

The same issue comes up with ELL. As I'm sure you know, in order to qualify for special education, students have to show a gap between their potential and their performance. I would argue that our schools are very effective starting at a very early age, of getting students small group instruction, supplemental services, intervention, a variety of things that mean, I would assert, we are identifying fewer students in the first place for special education. I'm sure this Committee is aware we have a national issue with the over-identification, in particular of black and Hispanic students, in particular, boys.

And so we actually work very hard not to identify for our students for special education unless we're sure, based after a whole set of interventions have been tried, that that is in fact the appropriate solution for a student.

REP. COOK: And then one final question, if you please. And could you talk to me about the amount of students that leave the schools, you know, after the first couple of months given the fact that they feel like they don't feel in, the percentage of that if you could?

DACIA TOLL: Yeah. So, I think that there's going, a fear that the state is not transparent. It's actually becoming wonderfully transparent. We just, recently the New Haven public schools published the transfer data for every single one of the schools in New Haven, including the public charters.

And it was wonderful for it to finally come to light because there for a long time been these stories about charters are pushing out students, and in fact when you looked at the numbers, charters had, the Achievement First schools were 2 percent of students left. In fact, our charter cousins in New Haven were only 1 percent of students left those schools, whereas neighborhood schools in New Haven had 3.5 percent of students leaving, so we were, actually had lower mobility and transfer rates than you see in the traditional public schools.

REP. COOK: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Representative McCrory.

REP. MCCRORY: I'm sorry. I promised myself I was not going to speak tonight, but I'm sorry. I have a question and a comment. My question is, I just want you to reiterate your point. Did you say that your schools or one school was the number one school in the State of Connecticut for African-Americans? Was that just one school or all your schools?

DACIA TOLL: That is our high school in New Haven, which serves students from both New Haven and Bridgeport. Number one student performance for African-American. Many, if you look at the top ten list in the state for serving low-income students well, serving African-American and Hispanic students well, you will see charter schools disproportionately represented on all of those lists, despite the fact there are only 22 charter schools in the state.

REP. MCCRORY: So you're saying in the state that has the largest achievement gap, your schools are performing the best for the children who are doing the worst. Is that accurate?

DACIA TOLL: I would be the first to say that there are great schools of a variety of shapes and sizes that are serving low-income students and certainly a wide variety of students well. There are great public charter schools. There are great magnet schools. There are great neighborhood schools.

REP. MCCRORY: I agree. I don't want to belabor the point. You make your point. I get the data. I see the data. I just want to be clear so everybody's listening and --

DACIA TOLL: Thank you, Representative McCrory. Yes.

REP. MCCRORY: -- be clear about what your schools are doing. I heard earlier and I missed some of the testimony and I guess there was some concern about your schools being segregated.

This is my comment to that. Not one parent in any one of those schools created that segregation. That was done at the federal level, at the state level and at the local level a long time ago. It is not their responsibility that they live in segregated communities and they go to segregated schools, whether they're traditional schools, magnet schools or charter schools, so I just wanted to make that clear.

Don't blame the families and the children for being a segregated community. I want to make that clear. And just because they're in a segregated community don't mean they can't learn because the data shows that at some schools they can learn.

So if we're up here talking about segregation and we're talking about poverty and achievement gap, we should be clear there are schools, whether they're magnet, charter or local that are working and we should build on what is working and not what's not working.

All parents need choice and if they choose to go to a charter school, that's on them. And if they choose to go to a local school, that's on them, and they choose magnet and that's on them.

But we should give them choices. That's my opinion.

My last comment about over-identification of special education --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative McCrory, do you have a question?

REP. MCCRORY: Yes, I do.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Okay, thank you.

REP. MCCRORY: Over-identification of special ed students.

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. MCCRORY: Is it safe to say that your school is trying not to identify them as special needs, therefore your population could be smaller or you just don't, they choose not to get in the lottery system and get selected. That's my question to you, because we have a problem, another problem in the state which is over-identify African-American boys specifically as special education.

So we have a program that is working that is not doing that again, let's go on what's working and what is not working. So if this particular brand of education is not putting our young men at risk of being on that prison population guideline that we have in the state, then I think we should focus on that.

So my question would be, are you not, are you looking at the data of the young people that are being educated and choosing not to put them in special ed programs, or is it just that they're not coming into your schools and choosing, you know, your option as a choice model?

DACIA TOLL: So we work very hard to widely recruit going door to door, mailings, the same lottery in the case of both New Haven and Hartford that gets you into any public school in New Haven and Hartford is the lottery that our charters are part of.

So I really do not believe there is a selection bias on the front end. I don't believe that they're not in the lottery.

We work really hard to serve kids well and as special education law indicates, you are supposed to try a wide variety of intervention before you then put a student through the special education process and then, that is to be a very data-based process.

And I believe it is the interventions and supports that we are providing starting from a young age that is making the difference.

As you probably know, many behavior issues show up. The over-identification is occurring in a variety of ways but in particular in the designation of emotional disturbance and that is showing up as a behavior challenge.

We have found that when students can't read --

REP. MCCRORY: Un-huh.

DACIA TOLL: -- and school is a daily frustration to them, that also shows up as behavior challenges.

REP. MCCRORY: Right. Right.

DACIA TOLL: And so, in particular, we work very hard on getting students at an early age and then frankly, at whatever time they arrive at our doors up to speed in reading as quickly as possible, because we know it is a gateway subject to other subjects and to unlock the student motivation and engagement.

REP. MCCRORY: But one of my concerns I do have with charter schools because I look at the data is the number of suspensions that you have in your schools, especially at a very early age.

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. MCCRORY: That's troubling to me. I looked at the data and as I think about it, I drill down and saw who exactly were being suspended and they're African and Latino American males that are being suspended as early as second, first and kindergarten.

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. MCCRORY: Some of your schools are part of the biggest problem.

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. MCCRORY: I think that needs to be addressed as we move forward. Thank you.

DACIA TOLL: It does. And I appreciate your concern and at least a couple of you have heard me say, I also think it's troubling and when the data, it's the first time we had public data comparing public charter schools to other schools was in May almost two years ago. We've gone after that hard and have reduced suspensions 50 percent over the last two years.

And I would just say in that context, while I think it is both true that we have over-used that tool, what our parent and student survey say is that they feel safe in our school, and so it was out of a desire to create a very safe learning environment for kids and families where they could thrive educationally. I still think we've over-used the tool and we are succeeding in both reducing suspensions while maintaining that safe learning environment.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Representative Lavielle to be followed by Representative Currey.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good evening. Thank you for your patience and your testimony. I have a quick question.

I was reading with interest a section of your testimony you didn't get to cover where you mention that you thought the provision about FOIA requirements for charter management organizations was unnecessary --

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. LAVIELLE: -- the one in the bill, and I wondered if you could elaborate on that.

DACIA TOLL: Sure. I'd be happy to.

REP. LAVIELLE: Thank you.

DACIA TOLL: So a couple things. Let me start with current law to make sure everybody's up to speed. Current law is that Connecticut public charter schools are thoroughly subject to FOIA. We have for years been on the receiving end of FOIA requests and responding to them.

Any nonprofit that works with a public charter school is also, the work it does with that public charter school is also subject to FOIA, so the extent to which any nonprofit, including a CMO works with public charter schools it is also, all that communication back and forth to the school, the relevant documents, everything is subject to FOIA.

What the other part of current law is that any entity, nonprofit, that is the functional equivalent of a government agency, and that's the legal, the statutory term, functional equivalent, there's a four-part test, any nonprofit that's a functional equivalent is also subject to FOIA.

So the question is, the concern we have about this bill is that it goes well beyond that and it says any nonprofit that provides, I think a fairly extensive list of services to a public charter school, the entire operations of that nonprofit would be subject to FOIA.

So you will see submitted testimony from the Connecticut Nonprofit Association, from other nonprofit leaders who are not currently, only indirectly operating in the charter space that's expressing concern about just the wide ranging expansion of FOIA that this would result in.

And what we're essentially setting up is that any, look, as we've established here tonight the work we're all trying to do is very challenging. We need, schools need nonprofit partners to help them do everything we want to do for kids and families.

What this law would currently do is any nonprofit that partners with a charter school, their entire operations would be subject to FOIA not just what is current law, which is the part that interfaces with the public school.

But as you can imagine our friends from DOMUS who operate schools in Stamford, they have a wide, they operate a community center, they operate all of that would now be wrapped into FOIA and that's why the nonprofit association and others have concerns about the disincentive that would be provided for nonprofits to partner with schools.

REP. LAVIELLE: So you favor the disclosure that exists but you would modify that provision? Thank you very much. That's very useful for us. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Representative Currey followed by Representative Rojas.

REP. CURREY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Are you able to provide us with a breakdown of the actual special eds identifications by school?

DACIA TOLL: For Achievement First?

REP. CURREY: Correct.

DACIA TOLL: We certainly could. I can't here tonight, but I'd be happy to.

REP. CURREY: Would you send that over?

DACIA TOLL: Yes.

REP. CURREY: Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I like that model of concision. Representative Rojas.

REP. ROJAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Miss Toll, than you for waiting so long to come testify. Just one question. I'm intrigued. You seem to be serving the same population in your schools as in the host community, so what's different that's taking place in your schools that's perhaps not happening in host schools?

DACIA TOLL: Thank you. I think there are a couple big things. The first is, as we all know from national studies, the most important factor affecting student achievement is actually not class size, not the reading curriculum you choose, but teacher effectiveness, and we doubled down and invested on that and have from the beginning.

We worked very hard to recruit effective teachers. We invest six times the amount of professional development I would say at a minimum. That's just if you count sort of professional development days. Our teachers have three weeks of professional development before the school year starts.

We have a longer school day and school year but we release early one day a week for additional professional development. Every teacher who works in our school has a coach that observes and provides feedback at least every two weeks, often weekly. So there's just a lot more support and professional development for teachers, and as a result, I think they're just much more effective.

The same is true of our school leaders. Our principals train for two years before they become a principal because we think these positions are so critically important, so that's probably the first and most important.

The second is, we do have a longer school day and school year. I wish we could say we could close the achievement gap in six hours and 15 minutes a day. I don't think we know how to do that, so we've added an extra hour and a half onto every school day. We have 20 percent of students who also will be coming in on Saturdays for supplemental tutoring on top of that.

I think there's a culture and atmosphere in the schools that again, may be similar to other high-performing schools, but I think if you were to contrast them to schools that were not high-performing, it's a high expectations environment for, and very professional for adults and for the students, but we do it in what we call a warm, demanding way.

We believe in high expectations but we believe that they have to be matched with a lot of love and caring and joy and it's that particular atmosphere we try to get right every day.

REP. ROJAS: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Mulligan, to be followed by Representative Sanchez.

REP. MULLIGAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just real quick. You had mentioned, you brought up a couple of times when you're looking at new students and the gentleman who spoke before about the new school coming on line, possibly, there was a waiting list of hundreds, if not thousands, waiting to get into these schools.

DACIA TOLL: Uh-huh.

REP. MULLIGAN: But then you also mentioned your recruiting students, so I'm a little curious as to why you, what recruiting efforts do you do? Why is that you have to recruit students if you have a waiting list, and how is it that, and what type of student, do you have a list of criteria of students that you're recruiting, so if you could just speak to that a little bit I' would appreciate it.

DACIA TOLL: Sure. Great.

REP. MULLIGAN: Thank you.

DACIA TOLL: So it is the case that we could not recruit and parents who were more knowledgeable would seek out their options and would get in.

We are actually worried. This question of our charter school students serving the same students as in these primarily high-needs communities is one we've taken seriously for years, and we think if we do not do proactive recruitment to get the word out, so by what that looks like for us is we send two mailings to every single family in the city where we're located, because otherwise we worry that families would not know about them and we send them in English and Spanish.

And we have learned in particular with English language learner populations that if we do not reach out to them in the language that they speak that they will also not seek out options in the same way non-English language learners parents are.

We go door to door in public housing communities. If you looked at our list of places where we are doing the special outreach, it's the highest needs population precisely because this sort of ongoing critique, which I find to be unfair and overstated, we want to do everything we can to combat it.

Plus it is our mission to serve high need students, so if anything those are the populations we are particularly reaching out to to make sure those families have access to these opportunities as well.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative, please, you can ask a follow up. Please use your microphone so everyone can hear.

REP. MULLIGAN: Yeah. Sorry.

DACIA TOLL: They then all go into the lottery.

REP. MULLIGAN: Okay.

DACIA TOLL: And unfortunately, whether the child gets in it's based on luck.

REP. MULLIGAN: Okay, very good. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for your testimony. Quick question. How many of your kids are suspended or expelled due to attendance?

DACIA TOLL: Zero. Yeah. And I think, yeah, zero.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Quick question. Quick answer. Any other questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much for your time, your patience, your advocacy and all the work that you do with your children.

DACIA TOLL: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Kathy Holt still here? How about David Goodman? Kadijah Muhammad. Welcome. Kadijah is to be followed by Gwen Petti and Dennis Bradley.

KHADIJAH MUHAMMAD: Good evening, members of the Education Committee. My name is Kadijah Muhammad, and I'm a resident of New Haven. I'm the proud parent of four children. One is in nursing, two are in college and one is in middle school.

I have been here at the Capitol many times. Sometimes I'm advocating for my own children, but most times I'm here advocating for other people's children.

As I mentioned, I only have one child still below college age, so I have the time and the capacity and the desire in my hear to speak up for all the children in my city and in my state.

I'm here today to urge you to oppose Senate Bill 1096, which would prevent any new public charter schools from opening in our state for the next two years.

Charter schools are helping students and families and my children and I are living proof. As I stated, I have four. My oldest, she plays African drums. She does web page design. She graduated with honors and now she's in nursing. I thank you, state.

My son, he's now a first-grade black belt in (inaudible). He graduated from high school with a GPA of 3.67 with 18 credits of AT and in his second year of college he's considered as a junior. He plays lacrosse and he's majoring in science and engineering now.

My daughter, my middle daughter, her first year of college. She played the violin. She ran cross country. She graduated from high school, the Amistad High School with a GPA of 3.54 and she also did AC courses in a class at Gateway Community College. She is majoring in chemical engineering. (Inaudible) she was the problem child you might want to call it, because you've got to have just one. So she stayed in the detention quite a bit, you know, she stayed in school detention a little bit, but now she's deejaying on campus. She's performing interface discussions and dialogue on Interface and she's also pledging on a fraternity and also making sure that she handles her grades.

My youngest daughter, she plays the cello and she also plays lacrosse. She's only in eighth grade but she's a member of the Youth Unleashed and she's also stage worked as electrical engineer. She has time.

Many children act out because they're bored. They're not challenged. They need smaller group instruction. They have low self esteem. They face stereotyping. They live in a toxic environment, but when given the opportunity, exposure and access to better, they soar to the occasion.

Not only are my two college students graduates of Achievement First, a public charter school, but their educational journey inspired me to continue my education. My children, and their commitment to education are the reason I now have my degree.

There are many, many schools in our state that are not serving our children well, so the new school with a proven record of success wants to open another school to serve our children, we should not stand in their way.

Please do not stand in the way of great options for families like mine. There are over 3,600 children on the waiting list for charters in our state and that demand should not be ignored. Two years is too long to make any child wait for success to great options. Please don't put our children on the back burner. Please don't ask them to wait.

Our children only get one shot at education and they need us to fight for them. We need more great public charter options in Connecticut no matter whether they are district, magnet or charter. I am here to urge you to please do not, please do what is right for our children. Oppose Senate Bill 1096. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for sharing the inspiring story of your children and yourself.

KHADIJAH MUHAMMAD: I'm very proud of them.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much.

KADIJAH MUHAMMAD: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Gwen Petti still here? Then Dennis Bradley and Dr. Steve Perry are on deck.

GWEN PETTI: Good evening. Uuh. It's been a long day. Honorable members of the Education Committee, it's a pleasure to be here. My name is Gwen Petti and I'm a proud parent of a student to be graduating senior at Common Ground High School, as well as a freshman.

I am so glad that my son made the choice through the New Haven lottery. He was fortunate enough to be able to choose Common Ground for high school, and he's excelling there.

He's currently at the top of his class and as a volunteer parent liaison there, I am privileged to see a lot of learning going on during the school day.

I see the teachers at Common Ground really care and get to know all of their students well. Nothing slips by them and they all work together with the administration to make sure that all their students succeed.

Common Ground to me feels more like a caring family of teachers, administrators, students and parents. When my son first started at Common Ground he struggled a bit with his writing, so his teachers provided him with extra help. Because of their commitment to all of their students and my son, he was challenged to perform to the highest of his ability and it's helped him so much.

Thanks to, sorry, I changed my (inaudible). Thanks to this excellent preparation, he was accepted into a competitive program offered by the University of New Haven, where he is currently taking a full college course load while meeting his senior graduation requirements.

Common Ground is a school that goes the extra mile to help all their students achieve to their highest potential. We love the school so much that my husband and I enrolled our daughter there as well this year and she is thriving as well.

When I think about what a moratorium would mean for the parents and students of Connecticut, I feel frustrated and disappointed. I don't think it's a fair step to take because parents need school choice.

For some parents, their district school just doesn't fit their child's needs, and this was the case with our family. Charters fill a necessary need in the community for parents to have options for their children. It doesn't benefit anyone to place a moratorium on new charter schools, thereby effectively limiting those choices.

We all know that education should not be a one-size-fits-all proposition and that all children learn in many different ways and any parent will tell you that no two children are the same. Some learn well in a traditional environment. Others do not.

There are several parents I know that have one child in a charter, one in a district school, and both are thriving in these different learning environments.

Isn't that what we're all after, after all, for kids to thrive and learn? I don't understand why it has to be an us versus them approach. We need to protect school choice for parents and students and what charters offer us is another option in education and we need that variety and choice to help our children succeed and I would urge this Committee to reconsider the proposition of a moratorium on new charters for the sake of all our state's children. Parents and students deserve educational choice. Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for sharing the inspiring story of the path your children and you to follow. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for staying so late, for everybody staying late.

I just have a question. Does this, I'm looking on line because I've never heard of Common Ground Charter School. It is an environmental school?

GWEN PETTI: An environmentally themed public charter school, yes.

REP. STANESKI: And it is a lottery?

GWEN PETTI: It goes through New Haven public lottery.

REP. STANESKI: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you, sir.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there any other questions? If not, thank you again.

GWEN PETTI: Thank you so much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is Dennis Bradley still here? So after Dennis comes Steve Perry and then Steve Holmes.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Good evening, and you've all been thanking everybody for their service and for staying and their advocacy, but I thank all of the members of this distinguished Committee for their service. My name is Dennis Bradley. I'm a resident of Bridgeport. I'm a product of public schools. I'm a local attorney now in the City of Bridgeport and I come today in my position as an advocate.

There's a great American, who I try to exemplify as much as possible. His name was General Douglas McArthur. I was speaking to a group of leaders after looking at his service to this great country. He described three words, which he felt were the hallmark and holy grounds that every American should try to uphold and those were duty, honor and country.

We are here today looking at this issue with public schools and I think all my country people who were present here today will agree that our public schools are failing. Whatever numbers you want to look at or however you want to examine those numbers, there's no doubt that they are failing.

Now the question that lies before us is, how do we go about fixing this problem, and there's been a lot of people, a lot of great minds here who are much more knowledgeable than I am about how to go about that, and now the burden lies on you as to which is the greater, which is best path that we could choose in order to fix this problem, because one of the things that America has committed itself to is to provide our youth an education that enables us to act as well as to think.

Now, some people might say well, since it's failing, let's throw up our hands. Some people quoted FDR, or misquoted FDR in saying that well, try something and if it doesn't work, try something else. I think that's a misquote. FDR stood for something and he established the second rights, the second bill of rights and in those bill of rights he talked about guaranteeing every American should have an education, so that's not something we simply try something else or throw our hands up at.

What we're talking about with this moratorium and the reason why I'm in support of this moratorium, it's what America's all about. It's the rule of law. It's a standard. We're saying that if charter schools are able to provide such a wonderful education to our youth that will be the hallmark of what it is to be an American, then let's see the numbers on it. Let's examine it.

If charter schools are diminishing from funds from public schools, then let's look at those numbers. Let's examine those numbers. Let's create a standard that's equal for everyone. That's what it is to be an American. That's what we stand on.

And I leave you with the last quote and I thank you for entertaining my thoughts. It comes from the Peloponessian Wars, General Perocles. He said the walls of Athens will not come crumbling down, and I paraphrase, from the threat from without but from the threat from within, and the same stands true here in America.

If we don't commit ourselves to the duty of educating our youth, the walls will come crumbling down and not from Al Kaida or Isis, but right here in America.

Let's make sure that we ensure that every American is well educated and I'll entertain any questions or concerns with that.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that impassioned set of remarks. Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If we took the money piece out of this, how would you feel about charter schools?

DENNIS BRADLEY: I think there's a lot more than just money and I think we've been here almost until 11:00 o'clock at night now, listening to a bunch of wonderful educators on both sides, I might mention, who have been talking about how we can go about fixing our problems.

It's not just a money problem, but I don't think we're going to get anywhere by alienating the people who are key people in the solution, which are teachers, which are parents, which are students, and I feel that both sides have kind of got to a point now where they're kind of demonizing what other people do.

Listen, public school teachers are some of the best teachers in our nation, and I've never had the opportunity to study at a charter school but I see some people here are very passionate about education, so it's not just money.

And my concern with charter schools is that there isn't a standard. There isn't something that clearly says, this is the standard which public schools follow. What's the standards that the charter schools are going to follow? We need to make sure that we have the same standards for everybody.

REP. STANESKI: Thank you, and Mr. Chairman, if I could, one more? I guess it's just I see two tails tonight, New Haven charter schools re working, parents are all supporting. Bridgeport, there obviously is an issue, so, and it seems that it was around the money piece. That's why I asked that. So thank you very much for indulging me.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there other questions for the witness? Representative McCrory.

REP. MCCRORY: Did you call me witness?

REP. FLEISCHMANN: People who come before us are giving testimony and bearing witness. Representative McCrory.

REP. MCCRORY: I just want to commend you on your poetry and your quotes, and I agree. Every child should have a quality education. I guess my difference is, I think quality education can come in different vehicles, and I don't think we should be holding just one delivery method.

My question, how long do you think we should wait until we get one method right before we start choosing other methods?

DENNIS BRADLEY: Well, I agree, I disagree with the presumption of your question, Representative, with all due respect. You're assuming that public schools are just absolutely failing and that they're not a solution at all, and that the only solution --

REP. MCCRORY: No.

DENNIS BRADLEY: -- is charter schools and I just disagree with that wholeheartedly. I think that what we need to do is examine the solution and whatever viable solutions are out there, we need to obviously enforce that, but some of the suggestions that were made here by charter school advocates are things that we can start implementing right away.

REP. MCCRORY: Let me interrupt you for a second, because you don't know me --

DENNIS BRADLEY: Sir.

REP. MCCRORY: -- and you don't know what my presumption in my question was.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Okay.

REP. MCCRORY: I was and still am a public school educator.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir.

REP. MCCRORY: I taught in the traditional public school system for 12 years and for the last 11 I've been a public school administrator, so I believe in and I attended public schools.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir.

REP. MCCRORY: So I know everything I need to know about traditional public schools.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir.

REP. MCCRORY: And I think they do, some of them will do very well for some children.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir.

REP. MCCRORY: And I think some of them don't do as well. It is not the school's fault. I'm not blaming it on a teacher or a particular school. This is just the system isn't working for all children, and if you do your research, you will know that.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Well, sir, I --

REP. MCCRORY: So what I'm saying to you is, my community can't wait.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir. Well, our community --

REP. MCCRORY: And therefore, and since 1954 in this State of Connecticut, one of the issues is around education is because we had the Sheff v. O'Neill case because of segregation.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yes, sir.

REP. MCCRORY: And we haven't done much to eliminate segregation in the state since 1954. The only reason we got to do (inaudible) because of Sheff v. O'Neill.

So, and I'm not saying all our children need to be in an integrated environment, but what I am saying and you don't have to comment, I'm just saying. I can't wait. My parents can't wait. Their grandparents can't wait any more, and if some schools in the traditional method are doing very well, then we should push them and promote them and create more of them.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Sure.

REP. MCCRORY: But if other vehicles are available, i.e., magnet schools, charter schools, single gender schools, our parents need choices. Choices, what are good choices, and you can't get all one type of choice in one delivery method. That's my concern. So you can comment on it all you want.

My concern is, we as Legislators and policymakers, we shouldn't tell parents that they can't have choice, they can't have options if they pay taxes in this state. We shouldn't turn away concerned mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, who have gone through school systems and have failed themselves and have to send their children to those same schools.

That's not the American way. The American way is to educate, properly educate everyone and if you know that, then you will understand that this is what these people are fighting for.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Absolutely, sir. And I just wanted to simply say and I appreciate your passion and your rhetoric and I hope you understand the passion that I have in mind as well, sir and what I'd like to address to this Committee is simply saying it's not just about choice.

I mean, America is about choice, but it's not just about choice. It's about standards in those choices. It's about having a rule of law as to how we're going to implement the choices that we provide to the constituents or to the residents of this great state, and those are the things that this body is charged with looking at.

So we have charter schools and all of these other different type of schools that in essence are private schools receiving public money. We need to ensure that we have a standard.

If we agree as a people as a social contract that we're going to allow these institutions to exist, then we must have a standard as to how they're going to operate and those standards have simply not been developed.

If we're going to say that charter schools are the only schools that are working or the best choice that people have, then we must look at the research that would substantiate those claims.

So until we have that information, until we establish those standards, I say we need to place a moratorium on things.

Now, I'm not saying that obviously we're not in a crisis mode. We are absolutely in a crisis mode, but that doesn't mean that we simply throw up our hands with public schools and say, well, public schools aren't working. Let's try something. Whatever happens, give it to the highest bidder.

We are Americans. We are committed to a standard. We're committed to ensuring that every student regardless of their race, regardless of their color, regardless of their socio-economic standard is going to have the opportunity to receive an education, and we must fight for that.

I know that charge lays on your shoulder. The work lays on our shoulder. The work lays with us as well.

REP. MCCRORY: So, I think you're right. And that's why I think I support mostly, I think I support everything in this bill about standards and transparency. I think we all agree to that. We all think that is something that's needed with our charter school system. I don't think anyone on this panel here would disagree that we need transparency. We need standards, all those good things.

We also need wait. So I don't need you to respond. You don't have to respond. You did a good job. You did a very good job. Everybody saw you on television. Great job.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Well, it wasn't about that, but I appreciate --

REP. MCCRORY: No, no, you did a good job. Good job, but I'm just saying --

DENNIS BRADLEY: Yeah.

REP. MCCRORY: -- that bill has a lot of good things in here I think we all agree on. But one of the things we can't agree on, we can't wait. Thank you.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both. I think sometimes we can agree to disagree. Are there any other questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much.

DENNIS BRADLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Steve Perry, to be followed by Steve Holmes.

STEVE PERRY: Thank you, Mr. and Miss Chairman. I do have to thank you for the time that you've put in today. You've listened to quite a bit of testimony and heard passion and it's my hope, my name is Dr. Steve Perry. It's my hope that I can bring it back to why I believe we're here.

It's not about personal attacks against one person, or made up numbers. It's about the fact that there are thousands of children right now languishing in failed schools that we all agree have not met the very simple and basic expectations that we as a country have when it's said at the feet of Liberty to bring us your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.

When you truly love children, you see an urgency. You don't speak in years. You don't speak in two and three-year periods. You speak in now. And when you do truly love children, what you do is you bring forward any solution that will solve the problem. You don't get caught up in the type of school. You get caught up in the quality of school. Fighting for a failed school system is to fight to ensure that children do not ever reach their potential.

It is absurd to look backwards when children are constantly facing forward and here we have someone, somewhere who decided to bring forward a moratorium notion when 3,700 children have been put on a waiting list.

In just three weeks, put the politics aside because we need to get focused back right on what this is about. It's about children's education right here, right now. In just three weeks of notifying the community of Bridgeport that we may open a school in Bridgeport called the Capital Preparatory Harbor School, over 150 families have found a way to take our application.

So I am strongly against 1096 because what it does is, it shifts the focus from children into politics. It changes the discussion from doing what we must do to doing what we've always done, which is to take the most disenfranchised children and leave them on the back burner until we find what we believe to be the solution that never comes.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your impassioned testimony.

STEVE PERRY: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there questions from members of the Committee? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Not a question, Mr. Chairman, but a request for information.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Please proceed.

REP. STANESKI: You say that you're a principal and founder of Capital Preparatory magnet school? Can you send data that you have on that school to the Committee just so that we can see your population, what your test scores were and the good stuff that you did in Hartford that you want to translate and take down to Bridgeport, please.

STEVE PERRY: Yes, ma'am.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there other questions for the witness? Representative McGee, followed by Representative McCrory.

REP. MCGEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's been a long night, I know, right? Laugh. Soften it up a little bit.

Dr. Perry, thank you so much for your passion and testimony and being here until the 11:00 o'clock hour. But throughout the evening I've heard a lot of testimony, as well as my colleagues around funding, around money, and as I sit here, I can only think about the concerns that many people have about accountability, who's paying for what?

Could you just elaborate on the funding of the, or the potential funding of the school, just help clarify that because I just --

STEVE PERRY: Gladly. I support accountability and if all those who came before truly supported accountability in the form of performance, then a number of the schools that they claim to be supporting, they couldn't support. It will be about performance as opposed to the status quo.

The funding is a pretty simple formula. The state in most cases of urban school systems provides up to 85 percent in some cases, of the traditional neighborhood school funding. That money stays at the school.

Numbers have been thrown around of 15,000 or 14,000 for instance, let's say with Bridgeport. So child A is in the 11th grade and he decides to go to, I don't know, the Harbor School and the money that was supposed to be at his school stays at his school. So the $14,000, $15,000 stays there.

An additional $11,000 hopefully to be approved by a body in this building would go to the second school, and so the net gain to that community is $11,000. There is no net loss.

And as was stated earlier, the child, were he or she to receive special education services, would receive those special education services wherever he or she is.

So as the principal of a magnet school, if a child from Middletown has special education needs, then Middletown must pay Hartford those same fees. This is not a charter conversation. This is the way in which we fund education in America.

So right now as a principal of a magnet school, when a child is identified as having special needs, let's say for instance they need a hearing aid. The hearing aid is paid by the sending district.

Let's say they need a reading tool. That's paid for by their sending district, unless, of course they're a Hartford student. So it's not just the experience of a charter. The vilification of one particular type of school for political gains is not helping children.

When the truth comes forward, we see that what I support is access to quality education regardless of the type, that I've decided that at the end of this year, I'm tired of having massive waiting lists as we do at Capital Prep in Hartford, over 3,000 children this year on our waiting list. I've had enough. I want to be able to serve more children.

And the issue is not about money because if the conversation were about equitable funding, equitable funding, then we'd be fighting for more funding for charter school students.

At what point does a child who goes to a charter school student not become a public school student anymore? At what point do they no longer become a public child? So if we're fighting for equal funding, which some people have given a head fake like they are, then what we would be talking about is equitable funding, meaning equal numbers, not just pouring more money into failure.

REP. MCGEE: Thank you. Dr. Perry. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. I would just observe. We have a rule in the house that we never question the motives of other members of the Chamber and I've heard very contrasting opinions here tonight, but I personally don't think it's really very fair to be questioning the motives of those who disagree with us. I think everyone here cares about education and people have different opinions. Representative McCrory.

REP. MCCRORY: Good late evening, Dr. Perry. So I'm going to ask a different type of question because you're a very popular guy, you know. You're all over the place and when people get popular, people get jealous of your popularity, at least in my community. I don't know about anywhere else.

So it was brought to me like hey, you know, Dr. Perry do all these great things at this school, whatever the case may be. You know how we are. How much money does he make, or how much money he's going to make off this school.

Can you please explain to the listening public and the people in this room, how much money if you are going to benefit from creating this school because some people just seem to focus on money, and I'm not talking about anybody that came here and spoke before. I wasn't here. I don't know what they said. I'm talking to you about there's a perception out there that you're going to get rich if you open these schools. Talk to me about that.

STEVE PERRY: Yeah, so if my wife was watching this, she'd think we hit a windfall because some of the numbers that are thrown around are completely outside of reality.

Simple math. Were the Legislature to approve the budget for this, for this moratorium issue to be erased and us to get back to children, we've said the numbers very simply. There would be 250 children at the Harbor School in Bridgeport. Of the 250 children, that's $11,000 a pupil. That's $2.7 million, less than what they would receive. We would receive 10 percent of that, or $270,000 to operate the school. That means everybody in quote, unquote, central office would have to be split all salaries would have to be split between that money.

So it's a fraction of, it's not even the same family. It's a small amount, and by comparison, when you look at traditional school systems and the amount of money that goes to central office, it's anywhere from 20 to 40 percent in different school systems, so when you consider all other costs, and that's without a building, so just to put some things in relative perspective.

In a state like New York where charters are held, some of the questions I heard earlier about different ways in which different school systems, different states do it again, in the State of New York for instance, you can receive start-up money. So you can receive up to $750,000 to start a school.

In the State of Connecticut you receive zero. So all efforts, all things that we've done, anything, whether it's printing a brochure or driving to someone's house to tell them, hey there's a school, or to go to speak to churches is all on our dime, typically out of our personal pockets.

In addition to that, in states like New York, you receive money for a building, if not a building. And in the State of Connecticut you do not.

And so the money, the $11,000, going back so in New York you receive $13,200 plus an additional almost $3,000 for the building, plus an additional $750,000 to start there. In Connecticut you get $11,000, period. No building. No transportation outside of the district, and all expenses have to come out of that small amount of money.

And the last part of that is, the salaries which we may or may not realize in, let's say Harlem, and Bridgeport are virtually the same. Fairfield County and Manhattan have similar salary structures.

So we in Bridgeport pay essentially the same operating costs to run a school, but get a fraction, get somewhere around 60 to 70 percent of what we would get in the other states.

REP. MCCRORY: I had another question, but I will leave it. Thank you very much.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative Cook.

REP. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Perry, you had mentioned about keep continuously funding failing schools and I kind of take a little bit of offense to that because you're asking for more money and to build more schools and I understand the direction and the desire that you have.

But at the same time, by continuously giving you more money, we're continuously not giving money to programs that do work. So I want to use the vo-ag program for example. So we have one pot of money that we give for education and we have to figure out how to divvy it out and that's kind of what we're charged to.

Our vo-ag schools are extremely successful. They've been very successful, but yet we under fund them more than we under fund the rest of our schools. So I think that for people that may not be willing to say, hey, look, I need more money for this school, I need more money for that school, maybe it's really about equalizing the funding for the schools that we have in existence before we continue to move ourselves in a different direction.

Did you know that those programs were that successful?

STEVE PERRY: I think your question began with asking me about my statement about funding failure, and I think I heard you say that vo-ag programs are successful, so we agree. We should fund success, and further, I think it's a great place to be to be having a conversation about equitable funding. I think that's where we ought to be and that those programs that parents are voting with their feet to participate in, like vo-ag, like tech schools, like charter schools, like magnet schools et al.

As I've stated, I want to put all solutions out on the table. Anything that's working I want us to jump behind. I said when you love children, you're open to all solutions. So for those children having had a vo-ag school in my high school, I know it was something that for those students it was something very important, as was future farmers and other outgrowths from that.

My support remains around those organizations and vigils who are successful in taking children to where they need to be. Last night when my toilet wouldn't flush, I needed a plumber and I support all endeavors that will prepare children for those things that they love to do.

REP. COOK: And I respect that. But I'm hoping that you respect the position that we're in, that that there's only so much money to go around and it's very difficult when you ask people to pit one type of education against another, and that's kind of the position that we're stuck in, so I'm just hoping that when you walk out of here you understand that we are in a very difficult time, with difficult decisions to make and that's all I'm asking. Thank you.

STEVE PERRY: Right, and I guess --

REP. FLEISCHMANN: There wasn't a question at the end of that. Representative Sanchez.

REP. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Dr. Perry, I have one simple question. In your program have you ever suspended or expelled a child due to attendance?

STEVE PERRY: Due to attendance? Not that I'm aware of.

REP. SANCHEZ: Okay. The reason I ask that because I know such a person that was in one of your programs was expelled from the program. This was a kid who really needed help. His family was going through a lot and he was going through a lot, many changes, and they went away for a week. He came back and you said to him, leave. You didn't give him a chance. He tried to explain himself and his mother tried to explain, but you did not give him that chance. That person happens to be my nephew. He's now, he graduated from Watkinson School, and he is an alderman in the City of New Britain.

So I just wanted to make sure, you know, I gave you a simple question of yes or no. You said you didn't believe, but I wanted to bring that to your attention. Thank you.

STEVE PERRY: (Inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Are there other questions? Representative Rojas.

REP. ROJAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Dr. Perry for staying so late to provide testimony. Earlier there was some, there was testimony provided about the charter management fees that perhaps your organization would be charging. Can you elaborate a little bit as to what those fees go to? What do they cover?

STEVE PERRY: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier is the charter management fees are 10 percent of the overall budget and they go to everything from back office support to the school.

So for instance, in order to make sure we can provide the level of accountability and audit that you need, we have to in some cases hire individuals outside of the organizations like the Charter School Business Management Organization, which provides everything from what they call CFO services, accounting and the like, all the way out through professional development in the least, I mean, and beyond.

So in that sense, we provide all of the services that you can imagine that a traditional school system would provide with just 10 percent of the overall tuition.

So human resources expenses, I'm trying to go through the list of them, but if you can just imagine all of the services that you would get from a traditional school system, our central office, which is really one or two people, end up having to provide all those services and then sign contracts with other organizations who can provide us with those additional services.

So what is often played as going to the charter management organization is typically not the case. It is all the services that we're in a position to provide and need to provide in order to support the overall growth of the professionals, the children and even building maintenance comes out of that, so everything, soup to nuts.

REP. ROJAS: Thank you. I think it's important to clarify that but I think there was a lot of speculation about that perhaps you were becoming rich off of those charter management fees and --

STEVE PERRY: Yeah, I keep hearing that. I keep hearing that.

REP. ROJAS: -- you know, one other question I have, too, would you agree that our school financing is underfunded, or the school finance system here in Connecticut is underfunded?

STEVE PERRY: I think what I would want to take a look at is parity, because it is, as Representative Cook mentioned earlier, this is the public's money and the public is giving what the public has to give at this point.

And so, to ask for more overall for everybody is going to be a bit of a challenge. I acknowledge that.

So to answer your question, is it underfunded? I think we have to first take a look at what it costs to run some of the schools. Some schools receive significant amounts of money.

If we were looking at funding, the place that spends the most amount of money is a prison, but do we get from that what we feel as a community that we want?

So funding in and of itself is not a determinate of success or the likelihood of success. It's the quality of the product, and I think for too long we've simply allowed people to throw numbers around as if one is magical, 15,000, 14,000, 16,000, 11,000. The truth is that I think responsible citizens take a step back, take a look at all the resources that are to bear, the most successful programming that we have, and then puts forward whatever we feel like we can in order to run said programs.

REP. ROJAS: And I only asked that because you know, as a Legislator I represent East Hartford and Manchester, and my daughter happens to got to an under-performing school, not a failing school, simply a school where there's under resource children, not failure of children and for the last seven years, East Hartford hasn't seen an increase in ECS, which amounts to a cut for us.

So for this Committee, 85 percent of us don't live in Bridgeport or New Haven, and this entire conversation is about providing more resources for schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, so it becomes the political question for all of us.

And my daughter goes to a fantastic school. There's a great culture there. The parents care. The families care. But they're under resourced kids. But there's nothing in this budget that's going to help that situation for my child's school, and I guess that's part of why I'm struggling with this question as to whether we can afford to open up more schools as much as I would like to provide that opportunity for all the families and all the parents and all the children that came here tonight.

The reality is, we've got a billion dollar deficit and only so much to go around, and I think that's just part of the challenge. That's the politics of it, whether you like it or not. That's the reality of it, because everything we do is political and whether we want to make it all about the children, it's never truly all about the children because it's really about the money, too, so.

STEVE PERRY: I appreciate your providing that context and I also think it's important to ask the question, can we afford not to expand successful options to families for whom there are few, for whom the only way to gain access to a quality school is to do something like lie about where they live or wait on a lottery.

So I hear what you're saying and I deeply appreciate from where you're coming, as you recognized the first part of my answer, we've got to do what we have to do to make sure that as a community we're responsible for the resources.

But by responsibility, what that means to me is, when we have programs that we've seen produce performance for children, then we are, we must be compelled to do what we can to ensure that those programs grow to the rate that they can to continue to provide the quality services that our community so sorely needs.

Because you're right. In these communities that I guess as you said, 85 percent of the folks on the Committee may not be a part of, I do believe that they still have a great empathy otherwise they wouldn't be here to serve the entire state and as such, they have to look beyond their own borders to a place where they recognize that at the end of the day, they're all Connecticut kids.

And regardless of whether they live in Monroe or Middletown, Brooklyn or Bridgeport, that they're our kids and we have an obligation to provide them access to a quality education come what may.

REP. ROJAS: Yeah, and I don't disagree with you. It's just you know, I represent 7,000 families in East Hartford, too, who are not going to get that same opportunity or who are not going to see an increase in their resources, yet we're serving essentially the same children that we see in Hartford at least demographically, or 83 percent of our population is of color, 67 percent are free and reduced lunch, but we're missing the conversation about communities like East Hartford and Manchester.

But again, I appreciate you being here and your testimony.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you both for that exchange. Are there other questions of the gentleman before us? If not, thank you very much for your time and your patience and your work with children.

STEVE PERRY: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Steve Holmes.

STEVE HOLMES: Good evening, Chairman Fleischmann, Chairman Slossberg and members of the Committee. Thank you very much for sticking me on at the end of this long evening. Representative Fleischmann, you know I live in West Hartford and there have been times when I've been demanding in terms of education reform.

I'm here to offer my support for 1096 and to plead with the Committee to pass 1096.

You might ask yourself why somebody from West Hartford should feel so strongly about charter schools. We don't have charter schools in West Hartford, but the fact is as I've discussed with Representative Fleischmann in the past, we get 32 percent of ECS funding in West Hartford on a per student basis. We are the lowest reimbursed school district in the state, but I'm a good liberal. I'm a good progressive, and I don't have a problem with the majority of our tax revenue going to address the achievement gap, going to address severe educational disparity in the state.

What I do have a problem with is that money being spent to increase charter schools, which don't have the transparency, aren't held to the same standards and frankly, haven't yet helped us understand what it is they do that works.

The transfer of best practices has yet to really happen, so I have a solution for the Committee, and it's this.

Moratorium for two years. But that doesn't mean that that money doesn't get spent. Let's spend the money that otherwise would go to expand charter schools on transferring those best practices.

Or, simply helping to fund the resources necessary in struggling school districts that we're saying cause those school districts to fail.

In other words, if the school districts are failing and the answer is charter schools, let's take two years' worth of funding for charter schools and actually try and address those basic underlying problems. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your patience and your testimony. Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you again. So that's all I had on my list for people who wanted to speak to Senate Bill 1096. Is there anyone present who wishes to add testimony regarding that bill?

A VOICE: (Inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: You've already offered testimony, so.

A VOICE: You said anyone, so.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: No, anyone who hasn't yet testified. Let me be clear. We're not looking for second helpings tonight. It's 11:20. So anyone who hasn't testified?

If not, we'll move on to House Bill 7022 AN ACT CONCERNING AUTHORIZATION OF STATE GRANT COMMITMENTS FOR SCHOOL BUILDING PRODUCTS. Is there anyone who wishes to speak to that measure?

If not, we'll move to Senate Bill 1097, AN ACT CONCERNING STATE FUNDING FOR EDUCATION. Is there anyone who wishes to speak to that measure?

If not, we'll move to House Bill 7024 AN ACT CONCERNING MEASURES FOR CALCULATING SCHOOL AND DISTRICT PERFORMANCE AND WAIVERS OF FEDERAL LAW SET BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. Is there anyone present who wishes to speak to that measure. Mr. Rossomando, do you wish to present your testimony? Please come forward. You drew Number 104 today --

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Out of 108.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and the Committee appreciates your patience.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG: Oh, Andy is number 108 though, also.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: If you want to present your testimony on this bill and Senate Bill 1100, please feel free to do so.

RAY ROSSOMANDO: Oh, yes, sir. Yes, sir. Good evening, almost good morning. Senator Slossberg, Representative Fleischmann, my name is Ray Rossomando. I'm here on behalf of the Connecticut Education Association and we've had a very interesting day today. We've heard a lot about schools, failing schools, and what I want to talk about today with respect to House Bill 7024, which by the way is about school district performance measures, is all the vilification of quote, unquote failing schools and all the accolades about the successful schools, in the end, I'm pretty confident we don't really know what schools are good and what schools are not good.

Because we relied so much on standardized test scores since before No Child Left Behind and increasingly since No Child Left Behind to define what we think a school does in terms of quality.

But when you think about your children in schools and you think about your communities and what it is you expect your schools to achieve for the children, it's never really test scores. It's all these other things about being prepared to be a collaborative in the workplace, to have civic engagement, to be creative, all these things that we really do not set up as a mission for schooling in the State of Connecticut.

So I think we've done ourselves a disservice over time in not clearly defining what it is we want our schools to do in the state and then setting up measurements of outcomes that don't match what it is we really want our schools to do in the state.

And one thing I like about this bill and it was something to work with the Department of Education is that in their ESEA waiver application, they're trying to expand school quality measures beyond test scores and we applaud them for that, and we think they're on the right track.

We've had conversations and we know that they're trying to do even more and we support that. And as you may have heard earlier, CEA has a proposal about testing and accountability and two parts of that bill actually speaks to this particular issue and it's consistent with the Department of Education in that we need to define our schools and the mission of schooling more clearly in Connecticut and then measure the outcomes towards them.

There's no company that's going to create 20 products and then gauge the success of the company on two, yet that's what we do in schools.

So I'm going to leave it to you. I'd like to read to you a passage of what we believe would be an appropriate language to establish as the mission of schooling in Connecticut, which could also be used to support the statewide commission, for example, in terms of a charge.

The state recognizes that all Connecticut students are entitled to an educational opportunity that prepares them to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment and to otherwise contribute to the state's economy, or to progress onto higher education.

The state also recognizes the duty of public schools to address historical inequities experienced by students based on their race, ethnicity or national origin that continue to inhibit an opportunity for many of the state's children.

In pursuit of these objectives the State of Connecticut establishes the following guiding principles for its schools.

To provide all students the opportunity to maximize their critical thinking skills, to employ creativity, demonstrate an ability to collaborate and communicate effectively, exhibit self direction in the pursuit of continued learning and enrichment and engage in civic, community, and global interests and issues.

Last sentence. The State of Connecticut is also committed to promoting learning environments that are equitable, safe, welcoming and engaging to students and their parents.

Now, these aren't completely made up. Some of this is from a Supreme Court case. Some of this is from districts that are actually implementing this as a mission of their schooling and to measuring outcomes toward that, and we think that this Committee and the Legislature as a whole should consider establishing a mission of schooling in Connecticut so that everything becomes aligned to what it is we expect schools to do and what school quality really is. Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Are there questions for the witness before us? If not, thank you for your time and your efforts and your patience. Is there anyone else who wishes to testify on House Bill 7024?

Is there anyone here who wishes to testify on Senate Bill 1102 AN ACT CONCERNING CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR BILINGUAL EDUCATORS?

That moves us to House Bill 7023, AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES. We did have some folks signed up. I'm not sure if they're still here. Is Jerry Hardison still here? He is not, but I see from the wave of her arm that Lucy Nolan is still here. And she would be followed by Michelle Ducet Cunningham were she still here, but I don't see here, but Lucy you're up, Number 106. Your time has arrived.

LUCY NOLAN: Oh, thank you. All right. Good evening Representative Fleischmann, Senator Slossberg, members of the Committee. My name is Lucy Nolan. I'm the Executive Director of End Hunger Connecticut, a statewide anti-hunger advocacy organization.

I'm here to speak on Bill 7023 particularly on Section 14 of the bill. It is, we're very supportive of the intent to recommend a change in language.

The bill asks that all students, free and reduced price students be given information on snack benefits when they go to school. There's a couple of things that are a problem. One is that free and reduced price kids can't be picked out of all the kids. It's called overt identification, and so we ask, you'll see on the second page, that we take that on line 485, that we just take out, you take out receiving fee and reduced price meals on the bill so that it would just be all students.

And then also that, sorry, I'm a little tired. I'm sure you are, so I really shouldn't complain.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We (inaudible).

LUCY NOLAN: Oh, that there is, SDE does have a sample of what this could look like. I attached it to my testimony. But to ask that SDE not give it to all the students because they don't do that. What they do is give it to the districts and the districts and the districts then give it out, so we're asking if you can just add on Line 485, school districts.

This is, it's really important because we do have right now, DSS will tell schools what families are getting SNAP benefits and those kids are automatically put onto free meals, but we don't have it go the other way. So this is a great way to say, but what it does say to people, it gives people the chance that maybe their kids aren't taking free and reduced price medals because they bring their own meals or whatever to be able to know that they could possibly be eligible for SNAP.

So we really like it. It's a great bill, but if we could just make those two changes, it would be really perfect.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for your close reading. Clearly, we're not permitted to run contrary to federal law --

LUCY NOLAN: Right.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: -- and so we won't do that. Are there questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you for your patience, your time, your advocacy, your testimony.

LUCY NOLAN: Thank you Thank you all for a very interesting evening.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Is there anyone else who wishes to testify on House Bill 7023 AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS?

If not, we move to Senate Bill 1100 AN ACT CONCERNING ELIMINATING OF THE REPORTING AND COLLECTION OF CERTAIN STUDENT AND TEACHER DATA. Is there anyone here who wishes to testify to that bill? I've been waived off. Going once, going twice. Well, thank you all for your patience. I'd like to just do a particular thanks to members of this Committee. It's now 11:30 p.m. oh, oh, there's a gentleman who wishes to come forward. That's our job. Go ahead.

KEVIN BASMADJIAN: (Inaudible).

REP. FLEISCHMANN: We're the Education Committee, so we support parents spending time with their children who aren't well and please proceed.

KEVIN BASMADJIAN: Thank you. Although after hearing testimony, so thank you, Representative Fleischmann and Senator Slossberg. My name is Kevin Basmadjian. I'm the Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University and I would like to speak primarily around House Bill Raised 7021 AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY.

This requires the Office of Higher Ed to evaluate and assess teacher preparation programs annually and I recognize this Committee's desire for more information on the outcomes of graduates of our teacher prep programs, but I, as you're aware, EPAC, which is the Education Preparation Advisory Council has been working. I am involved with that, and while the progress has been very slow, at times it's been frustrating. I think at times I think there's a lot of disagreement.

It is making slow progress and so I would encourage the Committee to allow that, and as you know, the federal government has also put forward their own proposed regulations for teacher preparation evaluation.

So to bring all of these together on top of H.B. 7021, I think would really create a very potentially, incoherent and ineffective system of accountability.

But I really wanted to just offer my sort of ground level, I guess, perspective on teaching in Connecticut. Every year, and I see this when we graduate at Quinnipiac University about 100 teachers every year, we are losing some really creative, inspiring, powerful teachers. The teachers that are coming through our doors are very different than they did 10 years ago because of the over-regulated, over-prescribed very technical nature of schools and classrooms, the standardized environment.

And what concerns me I guess the message I would just like to leave I guess for the evening for everybody, is that we seem to have confused in Connecticut or maybe made synonymous the words standards and standardization and it's very concerning that we are trying to fit every peg into the same sized hole.

And I think standards and every dean that I work with, every one of my fellow deans would say, we need to have high standards and we need to be accountable to those standards.

But every one of us object to standardization, because teachers, students, are unique and they bring varied talent and skills and we need to find ways to hold them accountable and the analogy I would make is to riding a bicycle.

There are a lot of different ways to sort of get there, but we have to allow different ways to get to that spot and provide the resources to get to the end.

So I just would leave you with that final thought on really making clear the differences between standards and standardization and that we really strive as a state to be focused on standards and not standardization. So thank you very much for your time.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, dean. Are there any questions? Representative Staneski.

REP. STANESKI: Again, not a question, but request for information on the EPAC, where you are and when you think the study, the advisory information will be back to us (inaudible). Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: I think that was something you don't have to answer tonight, but materials that you can forward to Representative Staneski.

KEVIN BASMADJIAN: Absolutely. I think Sarah Bardsey (inaudible), and maybe the Commissioner has briefed, did brief earlier on that, but I would be happy to sort of pass it along to Sarah Bardsey, the chief (inaudible) officer, that information.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: Any other questions? If not, thank you very much.

KEVIN BASMADJIAN: Thank you.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: So I guess I'll try again. Is there anyone else who wishes to testify on any of the bills that we heard today, since we've come to the end of the entire written list? Going once, going, oh. Okay, so no further witnesses.

So I just want to thank all the members of the Education Committee. I see two, four, six, eight, ten, about a dozen colleagues here with me and you all really exemplify fortitude and public service. I appreciate what you've done. I see our clerks and assistant clerks still here ready to take down first words and last words. Thank you for what you did.

I know there are people on the fifth floor who are still here because they had to take note of everything we're doing, so thanks to all the staff who allowed this to work and with that, I hereby declare this public hearing adjourned.