OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7253 (as amended by House "A")*

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

SUMMARY

This bill makes the following changes in 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 (the highest level of public school teacher certification) ( 2 & 3);

3. establishes a specific date by which the education commissioner must annually submit reports to the Education Committee on the commissioner's network of schools and requires the commissioner to annually present the reports to the committee by a specific date ( 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 and specifically allows an automated screening device to be considered equivalent to a Snellen chart screening and to be used in public school vision screenings ( 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. allows a board of education to request from the education commissioner a one-time probationary extension for an uncertified, acting superintendent under certain circumstances ( 13);

11. establishes a task force to study issues related to high school interscholastic athletics programs ( 14);

12. provides that certain teachers and school administrators who return to work for a board of education after retirement under the existing reemployment exceptions can keep their Teacher Retirement System (TRS) health coverage during the reemployment ( 15); and

13. adds a representative from the Connecticut Association of Schools to the membership of SDE's Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, the body charged in statute with helping SBE develop teacher evaluation and support guidelines ( 16).

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

*House Amendment “A”: (1) requires the commissioner to present reports regarding the commissioner's network of schools that she submits to the education committee by September 30 of each year, rather than the underlying bill's requirement of meeting with the commissioner for this purpose; (2) specifies that an automated screening device can be considered equivalent to a Snellen chart screening and can be used in the required school vision screenings; (3) removes the required qualifications from two members of the task force on high school athletics programs and makes a minor clarification regarding the task force mission; (4) adds the provision regarding the health insurance coverage of teachers and administrators who are reemployed at a school district after retirement; and (5) adds the additional member to PEAC.

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 ( 13), the athletics programs task force ( 14), and the TRS health coverage ( 15) 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. Under the bill, the reports are due September 15, 2017, and annually thereafter.

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 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 commissioner to present these reports to the Education Committee by September 30 of each year, 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 state auditors 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 Individualized Education Program (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 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 on 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 — 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.

14 — 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 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 regarding school districts' performance reviews of interscholastic athletics,

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

The House speaker, the House majority leader, the House minority leader, the Senate president pro tempore, the Senate Republican president pro tempore, and the Senate majority leader each appoint one member to the task force. The legislative leaders' six appointees may be legislators.

The following associations each have one representative on the task force:

1. Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference,

2. Connecticut High School Coaches Association,

3. Connecticut Athletic Directors Association,

4. Connecticut Association of Boards of Education,

5. Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, and

6. Connecticut Parent Teacher Association.

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.

15 — HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR REEMPLOYED RETIRED TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS

Under the bill, certain teachers and school administrators who return to work for a board of education after retirement under the existing reemployment exceptions can continue their TRS health coverage during the reemployment.

Generally, retired public school teachers and administrators cannot return to work for a school district and continue to receive retirement benefits from the TRS. By law, there are four exceptions to this. It is allowed if one of the following is met, the:

1. employee's salary is capped at no more than 45% of the maximum salary for the position;

2. employee has at least 34 years of credited retirement service, is reemployed in an alliance district, and was already reemployed in that district on July 1, 2015;

3. employee works for a board of education (a) in a position designated as a shortage area or (b) of a priority school district; or

4. employee does not receive any retirement benefits during the reemployment (i.e., the employee “unretires”).

In each of these situations under current law, the reemployed employee cannot receive TRS health coverage. The bill changes this for the first three groups listed above. It gives TRS health coverage to such groups by eliminating the current provisions that (1) mandate such employees are eligible for health insurance benefits provided to active teachers and (2) prohibit such employees from receiving TRS health insurance coverage.

For the fourth group (the “unretired”), the bill applies the above-mentioned provisions, however another statute (CGS 10-183t(a)), unchanged by the bill, only provides TRS health coverage to those receiving retirement benefits. Therefore the legal effect of these changes is unclear for the fourth group.

BACKGROUND

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, and submitting annual progress reports on plan implementation to the Education Committee (CGS 10-16nn).

Legislative History

The House referred the bill (File 552) to the Appropriations Committee, which reported a substitute that (1) eliminated the provision that adjusted SDE's timetable for distributing individualized education program software to school districts, (2) removed provisions that specified the types of public schools and boards of education subject to SBE's statutorily prescribed complaint process, and (3) made a technical change to reflect the Senate Republican president pro tempore's title for purposes of a task force appointment.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

32

Nay

0

(03/24/2017)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

48

Nay

0

(05/12/2017)