Education Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5307

Title:

AN ACT PROHIBITING THE UNREASONABLE DELAY OF ENROLLING A CHILD IN KINDERGARTEN.

Vote Date:

2/24/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/24/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Education Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The reason for this bill is to prohibit withholding a child age 6 unless (1) a licensed physician certifies the child should not attend school until age 7 or (2) the child is identified as having a developmental delay.

The bill and existing law defines “developmental delay” as a significant delay in one or more of the following: (1) physical development; (2) communication development; (3) cognitive development; (4) social or emotional development; or (5) adaptive development.

The bill still gives the parent/guardian the option to withhold a child age 5 from school until he or she is 6. Under existing law and the bill, children are otherwise required to start public school at age 5 (or get equivalent instruction elsewhere, such as at a private school or through homeschooling).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE

Line 28 changes, “have the option of not sending the” to, “not be required to send the”.


Lines 29-36 specify that the physician must be licensed in Connecticut and that the developmental delay must be identified in a birth-to-three program under Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, 20 USC 1400. .

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Dianna R. Wentzell, Commissioner, State Department of Education:
Commissioner Wentzell testified on behalf of the State Department of Education stating several concerns with H.B. 5307 as it is currently written.

Commissioner Wentzell stated that the conditions under which a child can be withheld from school until age 7 – 1) “a physician certifies that the child should not attend school until age 7” or 2) the child has a developmental delay – are both illegal for a school to consider when determining whether a child should be delayed entry into public education under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act Section 504, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Commissioner Wentzell further testified that she recommended the word “kindergarten” be placed with “public school enrollment” in the language of H.B. 5307 because of the confusion it causes. The intent of the current statute (CGS 10-184) is to address “The Duties of Parents to Enroll their Child in a Public Education,” but since the language of H.B. 5307 mentions Kindergarten, it could be interpreted as a “delayed entry to Kindergarten” or “preschool retention” rather than adhering to the intent of the statute which is ensure that parents enroll their child in public school education when their child reaches a certain age.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Sarah Iverson, Associate Policy Fellow, Connecticut Voices for Children:
Ms. Iverson testified on behalf of Connecticut Voices for Children, stating it supports H.B. 5307 because by expanding the eligibility requirements for Care 4 Kids – Connecticut
's largest child care subsidy program- by allowing families with incomes up to 85% of the state median income eligible, the bill would bring Connecticut into compliance with new federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) regulations and allow more low to moderate income working families access to subsidized child care.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Kathleen Kennedy, President, Connecticut Parent Teacher Association:
Ms. Kennedy testified on behalf of the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association (CT PTA) stating it is in opposition to H.B. 5307 because CT PTA has always supported parental engagement in children
's education and the bill has raised concerns about that.

Kim Nagy-Maruschock, Pre-K Special Education Teacher, Portland, Connecticut:
Ms. Nagy-Maruschock testified that she favors the repeal of CT General Statute 10-184 and that she holds serious concerns about H.B. 5307. Specifically, Ms. Nagy-Maruschock believes H.B. 5307 takes away parental choice in withholding a child from enrolling into kindergarten until age 6 or 7 because it requires all children who are 5 years old to attend Kindergarten.

Ms. Nagy-Maruschock expressed concern that the exceptions in the bill that allow a parent to withhold their child from Kindergarten through 1) a physician certifying that a child should not attend school until age seven or 2) the child has been identified as having a developmental delay, do not explain what it means for the student. If a student were to be exempted from enrolling into kindergarten, would they remain classified as a “Pre-K” student? Ms. Nagy-Marushock requested that the bill require local education agencies to continue providing services to children in these circumstances in the appropriate Pre-K setting.

Ms. Nagy-Marushock further requested that the start date for Kindergarten be changed to August 1st to accommodate students without identified disabilities with birthdays from September to December who may not be developmentally ready for Kindergarten.

Ms. Nagy-Marushock strongly urged a reconsideration of the intent of the bill, stating that parents “should continue to have the right to retain their child from Kindergarten as they deem appropriate, and students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) should have the right to remain in Pre-K for another year prior to Kindergarten.”

Ray Bennett:
Mr. Bennett testified in opposition to H.B. 5307 stating the bill takes away the rights of parents to determine what is best for their child.

Further stating that “parents don't need the government to tell them how to love their children,” Mr. Bennett concurred with the statement that “what the child needs most to grow well is a warm one-to-one relationship with a parent (or parent figure) who is always there to comfort and guide him. During the first crucial eight years, home should be the child's only best and parents the teachers of their children.”


Rebecca DiMauro, Parent, Cromwell:

Ms. DiMauro testified about her concerns on H.B. 5307, specifically relating to how her 4 year old daughter with special needs would not be eligible for special education and related services if she exercised her right as a parent to not enroll her in Kindergarten because the public school would not re-enroll her.

Ms. DiMauro stated that while H.B. 5307 allows her to not enroll her child in kindergarten if she has a developmental delay, the bill needs to clearly state that her child “will be allowed to stay enrolled in the public school district in the Pre-K program and continue with her Individual Education Plan (IEP) program receiving her appropriate supports and interventions.

Reported by: Andres Feijoo

Date: 4/3/2016