PA 16-188—SB 179

Education Committee

Public Health Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION ISSUES

SUMMARY: This act 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 (“Careline”) 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 breast and testicular self-examinations to screen for 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, in school years 2016-17 through 2025-26, to participate in a pilot program to transport students whose private schools have closed to equivalent private schools in New Haven ( 6);

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

7. adjusts the calculations for special education state aid eligibility for Newtown for FYs 15-17 ( 8).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016, except the provisions on minor and technical DCF hotline changes ( 3), the school climate task force ( 5), and the Franklin no-nexus student cost reimbursement ( 7) take effect upon passage.

1 — EXEMPLARY VETERANS EDUCATION PROGRAM

The act 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. Such opportunities may include classes, extracurricular activities, presentations, or symposiums, among other things.

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

2 & 3 — CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE POSTING

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

The act also makes minor and technical changes to the law that requires DCF to have a child abuse hotline. Principally, it (1) names the hotline “Careline” (already its name in practice), and (2) requires the hotline to also receive reports of suspected child neglect and provide information about child abuse and neglect.

5 — SCHOOL CLIMATE TASK FORCE

The act establishes a 13-member task force to review, streamline, and align state policies on 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, along with any issues resulting from implementation and

2. recommend (a) how boards can use school climate standards for boards to develop and implement safe school climate plans and (b) an accountability methodology that uses student survey results to assess safe school climate plans' effectiveness.

The task force consists of the following members:

1. the Education Committee chairpersons;

2. the education commissioner, or her designee;

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

4. the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence;

5. 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; and

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

(PA 16-3, May Special Session, eliminates the Commission on Children and creates the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors as its successor agency. )

The Education Committee chairpersons must chair the task force and schedule its first meeting by August 8, 2016. The task force must report its findings and recommendations to the committee by January 1, 2017. It terminates on the date it submits its report or January 1, 2017, whichever is later.

The Education Committee's administrative staff serves as task force staff.

6 — TRANSPORTATION PILOT PROGRAM

The act 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 school students living in East Haven as of the 2015-16 school year whose schools have closed on or after January 1, 2016 to equivalent private schools located in New Haven.

The act allows East Haven to receive reimbursements for these transportation costs on the same basis and in the same 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 — FRANKLIN NO-NEXUS STUDENT COST REIMBURSEMENT

By law, if DCF places a child in a school district and the board of education that would otherwise be responsible for educating the child cannot be determined, then the receiving board of education must assume 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 act, SDE must reimburse Franklin for special education and transportation costs the town incurred during FYs 12-14 for any no-nexus student involved in a parental rights termination proceeding. SDE must make the reimbursement from its 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 (CGS 10-76g). A district's total current education expenditure amount is considered in calculating its eligibility for this grant. For the purpose of calculating Newtown's special education excess cost grant eligibility for FY s 15-17, the act excludes from the total current educational expenditure calculation any funds the town received in FYs 14-16 from the (1) U. S. Department of Justice or (2) U. S. Department of Education's School Emergency Response to Violence program.

Additionally, the act 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 in the district when a majority of the students attending the private school are Connecticut residents. The state must reimburse any school district that provides such transportation services for the cost in the same manner as it does for transporting students to public schools (CGS 10-281(a)).

The state provides an annual grant to local school districts to reimburse 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).

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