OLR Bill Analysis

SB 179 (File 311, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION ISSUES.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes the following changes to the education and human services statutes:

1. requires the State Board of Education (SBE), in consultation with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, to award an exemplary veterans education program distinction to deserving local and regional boards of education (1);

2. requires boards of education to post the telephone number for the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) child abuse hotline in a conspicuous school location for students to view ( 2 & 3);

3. requires public schools to add cancer awareness to their health and safety program of instruction, including age- and developmentally appropriate instruction in performing self-examinations to screen for breast cancer and testicular cancer ( 4);

4. establishes a task force to review, streamline, and align state policies relating to school climate, bullying, school safety, and social-emotional learning ( 5);

5. requires the East Haven school district to participate in a pilot program in school years 2016-17 through 2025-26 to transport students whose private schools have closed to equivalent private schools located in New Haven ( 6);

6. requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to reimburse the Franklin board of education for any special education and transportation costs incurred during FYs 12 to 14 attributed to any “no-nexus” student (i.e., one in DCF custody and involved in a parental rights termination proceeding) ( 7); and

7. adjusts the calculations for special education state aid eligibility for the town of Newtown for FYs 15-17.

*Senate Amendment “A” replaces the underlying bill, which required SDE to study education issues in the state.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016, except the provisions about minor and technical DCF hotline changes, the school climate task force, and the Franklin special education reimbursement take effect upon passage.

1 — EXEMPLARY VETERANS EDUCATION PROGRAM

The bill requires SBE, in consultation with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, to award an exemplary veterans education program distinction to boards of education that offer programs providing students with opportunities to learn about veterans' contributions or collaborate with local veterans organizations through classes, extracurricular activities, presentations, or symposiums, among other things.

Under the bill, boards may submit to SBE requests for this distinction by providing details about their respective program at a time and in a manner that SBE prescribes. SBE must make information about this distinction available on SDE's website.

2 & 3 — CARELINE INFORMATION POSTING

The bill requires each local or regional board of education to post the telephone number for DCF's “Careline” (the 24-hour hotline for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect) in a conspicuous location frequented by students in each school under the board's jurisdiction. The posting must include the Careline website address and be in various languages most appropriate to students at each school.

The bill also makes minor and technical changes to the law that requires DCF to have a child abuse hotline. Principally, it (1) designates the hotline as the Careline and (2) specifies that the Careline also provide information concerning child abuse and neglect.

5 — TASK FORCE

The bill establishes a 13-member task force to review, streamline, and align state policies relating to school climate, bullying, school safety, and social-emotional learning. Specifically, the task force must do the following:

1. examine how boards of education are implementing their respective safe school climate plans required under state law, along with any issues resulting from implementation and

2. make recommendations relating to (a) school climate standards for boards of education to use to develop and implement safe school climate plans and (b) an accountability methodology that uses the results from student surveys to assess the effectiveness of safe school climate plans.

Under the bill, the task force consists of the following members:

1. the Education Committee chairpersons;

2. the education commissioner, or her designee;

3. the executive director of the Commission on Children, or her designee;

4. the director of the Center for Behavioral Education and Research in the Neag School of Education at UConn;

5. the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and

6. one representative from each of the following associations: (a) Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, (b) Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, (c) Connecticut Association of Schools, (d) Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, (e) Connecticut Education Association, (f) American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut, and (g) Connecticut PTA.

The administrative staff of the Education Committee must staff the task force.

The Education Committee chairpersons must chair the task force and schedule its first meeting within 60 days of the bill's passage, and the task force must report its findings and recommendations to the committee by January 1, 2017. The task force terminates on the date it submits its report or January 1, 2017, whichever is later.

6 — TRANSPORTATION PILOT PROGRAM

The bill requires the East Haven school district to participate in a school transportation pilot program for school years 2016-17 through 2025-26. The pilot program provides school transportation for private schools students living in East Haven as of the 2015-16 school year whose schools have closed on or after January 1, 2016 to attend equivalent private schools located in New Haven. (Presumably, “equivalent private schools” refers to schools serving students enrolled in the same grades (e.g., elementary school, middle school, high school).)

The bill allows East Haven to receive reimbursements for these transportation costs only upon the same basis and manner as state law allows public school districts in general to be reimbursed for transporting resident students to private schools located within the public school district (see BACKGROUND).

7 — NO-NEXUS STUDENT COST REIMBURSEMENT

By law, if DCF places a child in a school district and the board of education that would otherwise have been responsible for educating the child cannot be determined, then the receiving board of education must assume the responsibility for the cost of educating this “no-nexus” child for one calendar year, or until the child is committed to the state or returned to his or her parents or guardians. If the child remains in the placement longer than one calendar year, then DCF becomes responsible for these costs (CGS 10-76d(e)(2)(B)).

Under the bill, the town of Franklin would be reimbursed by SDE for the special education and transportation costs incurred during FYs 12-14 for any no-nexus student involved in a parental rights termination proceeding. The reimbursement must be paid out of SDE's Excess Cost – Student Based account.

8 — SPECIAL EDUCATION STATE AID FOR NEWTOWN

By law, the state provides special education excess cost grants to help local districts pay for special education services if the services' cost exceeds four-and-a-half times the district's average per pupil education costs. In order to calculate a district's eligibility for this grant, the district's total current education expenditure amount is considered.

For the purpose of calculating the town of Newtown's special education excess cost grant eligibility, the bill excludes from the total current educational expenditure calculation any funds received in FYs 15-17 from the (1) U.S. Department of Justice or (2) U.S. Department of Education's SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) program in FYs 14-16.

Additionally, the bill requires that Newtown receive a special education excess cost grant payment in FY 17 in an amount equal to the following:

1. the difference between the amount received in FY 15 and FY 16, and the amount that would have been received during such fiscal years as calculated with the above exclusions, plus

2. the amount Newtown is entitled to receive as calculated with the above exclusions for FY 17.

BACKGROUND

Reimbursement for Transportation to Private Schools

State law requires school districts to provide transportation services to students in grades kindergarten through 12 enrolled in nonprofit, private schools located within the district when a majority of the students attending the private school are Connecticut residents. Any school district that provides such transportation services must be reimbursed for the cost in the same manner as it is for transporting its students to public schools (CGS 10-281 (a)).

The state provides an annual grant to local school districts that reimburses them for part of the cost of providing public school transportation. Reimbursement percentages vary from 0 to 60% depending on the relative wealth of the town or towns making up the district. By law, reimbursement amounts are capped at the amount appropriated for the grants in each year's state budget (CGS 10-266m).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

31

Nay

0

(03/14/2016)

Public Health Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

27

Nay

0

(04/19/2016)