OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7253

AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES.

SUMMARY

This bill makes the following changes to the education statutes:

1. requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide local and regional boards of education with mastery exam scores by August 15 of each school year following the exam administration ( 1);

2. postpones for two years, from July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2018, the requirement that a person hold a master's degree in a subject matter area determined by the State Board of Education (SBE) in order to earn a professional educator certificate (see BACKGROUND) ( 2 & 3);

3. establishes a specific date by which the education commissioner must submit reports to the Education Committee on the commissioner's network of schools and requires the committee to meet annually with the commissioner to discuss such reports ( 4);

4. requires public school superintendents to recommend in writing to a student's parents or guardians that the child be examined by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist if the child is found to have a vision defect or eye disease during an in-school exam ( 5);

5. changes the frequency of private special education provider audits and requires boards of education and private providers to provide auditors with certain information ( 6-8);

6. adds the chief court administrator, or his designee, to the Interagency Council for Ending the Achievement Gap membership (see BACKGROUND) ( 9);

7. allows boards of education to employ candidates for marital and family therapist licensure in their schools to provide services to students and their parents or guardians ( 10);

8. allows boards of education to establish a “Pipeline for Connecticut's Future” program, in which boards of education must partner with local businesses to offer on-site training and course credit ( 11);

9. requires SDE to conduct a study and report to the Education Committee on extending the annual October 1 deadline by which magnet school operators must report their enrollment numbers to the department ( 12);

10. adjusts the timetable under which SDE must distribute digital individualized education program (IEP) software to school districts, should the department choose to purchase this software (see BACKGROUND) ( 13);

11. specifies the types of public schools and boards of education that are subject to SBE's statutorily prescribed complaint process for allegations of failure to implement the state's educational interests ( 14);

12. allows a board of education to request from the education commissioner a one-time probationary extension for an uncertified, acting superintendent under certain circumstances ( 15); and

13. establishes a task force to study issues related to high school interscholastic athletics programs ( 16).

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the sections about special education provider audits ( 6-8), the Interagency Council for Ending the Achievement Gap ( 9), magnet school enrollment reporting ( 12), superintendent probationary periods ( 15), and the athletics programs task force ( 16) take effect upon passage.

4 — COMMISSIONER'S NETWORK REPORTS

By law, the “commissioner's network of schools” is a program that selects certain low-performing schools to craft turnaround plans aimed at improving student performance. The state supplies additional funds to help implement a school's turnaround plan once the education commissioner approves it.

Current law requires the commissioner to submit two annual reports to the Education Committee: one on the academic performance of each school in the network and another comparing and analyzing the academic performance of all schools in the network. The bill establishes a September 15, 2017 deadline for these annual reports.

Additionally, current law requires the commissioner to submit a final report to the Education Committee on each school in the network after the schools' respective turnaround plans expire. This report evaluates each plan and the school's academic performance under the plan and also makes recommendations about the school's operation. The bill specifies that the commissioner must submit these final reports no later than September 15 after the expiration of the respective turnaround plans.

The bill also requires the Education Committee to meet annually, by September 30, with the commissioner and any other people it deems appropriate to discuss the above three reports, along with a report due January 1, 2020 under existing law in which the commissioner must evaluate the entire network and make recommendations about its operation.

6-8 — AUDITS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROVIDERS

Existing law requires the Auditors of Public Accounts to examine the records and accounts of private special education providers. The examination must include a compliance audit of whether the private provider expended state or local funds for allowable costs in accordance with (1) state and federal law and (2) the IEP or individual services plan for each child receiving special education and related services from the provider.

Under the bill, the auditors may determine the frequency of such audits as often as they deem necessary using a risk-based approach, rather than auditing each provider at least once every seven years as required by law. The law still limits the number of audits of a private provider to no more than once every five years, however, unless the auditors have found a problem with the provider's records and accounts. Additionally, the bill requires boards of education, as well as private providers, to give the auditors any information the auditors deem necessary in order to conduct the audit.

12 — MAGNET SCHOOL ENROLLMENT REPORTING STUDY

By law, magnet school operators (“operators”) receive state operating grants by September 1 and May 1 each fiscal year that are based in part upon student enrollment. Operators must submit October 1 enrollment numbers to SDE so that the department can adjust the May 1 grant payment to reflect actual enrollment (CGS 10-264l).

The bill requires SDE, by January 1, 2018, to submit a study to the Education Committee about the feasibility of extending the annual October 1 enrollment reporting deadline by at least one calendar month. The study must include an analysis of how this extension will impact (1) operators and boards of education and (2) state interdistrict magnet school grants, including prior year adjustments and other reconciliations designed to keep school districts whole. The study may include SDE recommendations.

13 — IEP SOFTWARE

The law allows SDE to issue a request for proposals for the purchase of digital IEP software that it must distribute to school districts statewide. Under current law, if SDE chooses to purchase this software, it must distribute the software to districts according to the following timeline:

1. to 50% of local and regional boards of education and 50% of technical high schools in the 2016-17 school year and

2. to the remaining boards of education and technical high schools in the 2017-18 school year.

Under the bill, if SDE chooses to purchase the software, it must distribute it according to the following timetable:

1. to at least 10 local or regional boards of education, one of which may be the technical high school system, in the 2017-18 school year and

2. to all other boards of education and the technical high school system in the 2018-19 school year.

14 — COMPLAINT PROCESS ALLEGING FAILURE TO MEET EDUCATIONAL INTERESTS OF THE STATE

The law allows any parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a public school, or any resident of a local or regional school district, to file a written complaint with SBE alleging the local or regional board of education's failure to implement the state's educational interests (see BACKGROUND). It also allows SBE to initiate its own complaint against a board of education (CGS 10-4b).

The bill specifies the type of public schools and boards of education to which the complaint process applies. It defines “public school” to include any school under a local or regional board of education's jurisdiction, state or local charter school, interdistrict magnet school, technical high school, agricultural science and technology education center, and incorporated or endowed high school or academy. It defines “local and regional board of education” to include the following:

1. a local or regional board of education,

2. a state charter school governing council,

3. an interdistrict magnet school operator,

4. a regional education service center,

5. the technical high school system board,

6. a cooperative arrangement committee, and

7. the board of trustees of an incorporated or endowed high school or academy.

15 — EXTENSION OF ACTING SUPERINTENDENT PROBATIONARY PERIOD

The law allows a board of education to appoint an uncertified, acting superintendent for a one-year probationary period with the education commissioner's approval. Under the bill, the board may request that the commissioner grant a one-time probationary period extension, up to one additional school year. In order to grant the extension, the commissioner must determine that the board has shown a significant need or hardship.

16 — TASK FORCE ON INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETICS PROGRAMS

The bill creates a 12-member task force to study the governance, financing, general conduct, and role of high school interscholastic athletics programs in Connecticut. The Education Committee's administrative staff must serve as the task force's staff. The bill establishes the task force study scope and membership.

Study Scope

The task force study must examine the following topics:

1. barriers to participation in sanctioned interscholastic athletic activities,

2. the impact of non-sanctioned activities on interscholastic sports participation,

3. financing of interscholastic athletic teams,

4. policies about school districts' performance reviews of interscholastic schools,

5. the athletic season's length for specific sports and restrictions on participation in interscholastic athletics,

6. academic requirements for interscholastic athletics participation,

7. participant and spectator safety and sportsmanship, and

8. issues relating to participation of students enrolled in private schools and schools of choice.

The task force must submit its findings and recommendations to the Education Committee by January 1, 2018. It terminates on that date or the date it submits the report, whichever is later.

Membership

Table 1 below describes the task force membership and appointing authorities. The legislative leaders' six appointees may be legislators.

Table 1: Interscholastic Athletics Task Force Membership

Appointing authority

Member qualifications

House speaker

None

Senate president pro tempore

None

House majority leader

Interscholastic athletics official, referee, or umpire

Senate majority leader

None

House minority leader

Athletic trainer for interscholastic sports

Senate minority leader

None

N/A

Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference representative

N/A

Connecticut High School Coaches Association representative

N/A

Connecticut Athletic Directors Association representative

N/A

Connecticut Association of Boards of Education representative

N/A

Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents representative

N/A

Connecticut Parent Teacher Association representative

The bill requires that the legislative leaders appoint their members to the task force within 30 days after the bill's passage. The House speaker and Senate president pro tempore must select the task force chairpersons, who must schedule the first task force meeting within 60 days after the bill's passage.

BACKGROUND

Professional Educator Certificate

This certificate is the highest level certificate for public school teachers. Prior to July 1, 2016, to earn this certificate a teacher must hold a provisional teaching certificate (i.e., the mid-level certificate), have taught at least three years, and completed at least 30 semester credit hours beyond a bachelor's degree. On and after that date, a teacher must hold a master's degree in an appropriate subject matter area related to the certification endorsement area, as determined by SBE (CGS 10-144o).

Interagency Council for Ending the Achievement Gap

This council is charged with assisting the achievement gap task force in developing its master plan, implementing the plan's provisions, and submitting annual progress reports on plan implementation to the Education Committee (CGS 10-16nn).

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

As defined in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, an IEP is a written statement that details a student's academic achievement, sets goals for future achievement, and details the specialized educational services the student needs to reach these goals (20 U.S.C. 1401(14) & 1414(d)). As with other states, Connecticut's special education laws (CGS 10-76a to 10-76h) must conform to the federal law.

Educational Interests of the State

The educational interests of the state include the following concerns:

1. Each child must have an equal opportunity to receive a suitable program of educational experiences for the period prescribed by law.

2. Each school district must finance at a reasonable level, at least equal to the minimum budget requirement, an educational program designed to achieve this end.

3. In order to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation, each school district must provide educational opportunities for its students to interact with students and teachers from other racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds and may provide such opportunities to students from other communities.

4. The education mandates in the general statutes within SBE's jurisdiction must be implemented (CGS 10-4a).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

32

Nay

0

(03/24/2017)