OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1014

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

SUMMARY

This bill makes numerous changes to a variety of education statutes, including:

1. extending the school security grant program another year to June 30, 2018 ( 1);

2. creating a new out-of-state teacher permit ( 2);

3. extending the length of a resident teacher certificate from one to two years ( 3);

4. specifying that an incarcerated parent is entitled, with exceptions, to access to all the educational, medical, or similar records of his or her minor child kept by the school district ( 4);

5. adding measures for the Auditors of Public Accounts (hereinafter, “state auditors”) and local or regional boards of education (hereinafter, “boards”) to more closely monitor private special education providers ( 6 & 7);

6. creating a private school transportation pilot program in school districts within 12 miles of the West Hartford, New Haven, Shelton, and Montville school districts ( 8);

7. extending to private schools the applicant and employee background check requirements that apply to public schools ( 10 & 11);

8. requiring certain training for new school nurses ( 14);

9. requiring boards to conduct an annual health information survey ( 15);

10. requiring the motor vehicles commissioner to ensure that school bus companies are fulfilling their duty to monitor the commissioner's periodic reports on drivers who have had their licenses withdrawn, suspended, or revoked ( 17);

11. specifying that boards of libraries must adopt policies and rules for internet usage and content access ( 18); and

12. creating a new Literacy is Fundamental grant program ( 19).

It also makes a number of minor and technical changes. A section-by-section analysis follows.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the sections regarding the school security grant program and the creation of a standardized form for contacting former employers of job applicants are upon passage.

1 — SCHOOL SECURITY GRANT PROGRAM

This bill extends the school security infrastructure grant program for one year, from June 30, 2017 to June 30, 2018. The program provides grants to develop or improve security infrastructure in schools, based on the results of school building security assessments conducted under the supervision of local law enforcement agencies (see BACKGROUND).

By law, the grants are available to private schools. The bill also specifies that this includes private child care centers or preschools that have received threats.

2 — OUT-OF-STATE TEACHER PERMIT

The bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to issue an out-of-state teacher permit with the appropriate subject endorsement to teachers from another state, territory, U.S. possession, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, who has taught for at least two years under an appropriate certificate issued by the other jurisdiction. The permit is nonrenewable and valid for four years.

The bill states the new permit is subject to all the existing rules for a teacher's certification to be revoked. Under the bill, a qualified applicant is exempt from (1) taking the state reading, writing and mathematics competency examination (i.e., Praxis I); (2) completing the mandated beginning educator program based upon the applicant's teaching experience after a showing of effectiveness as a teacher, as determined by SBE; and (3) completing a minimum of 36 hours of special education study.

The bill specifies that it does not supersede other teacher certification statutes, but the existing statute that grants out-of-state teachers a provisional teacher certification is very similar to the bill (i.e., it requires the teacher to hold a certification from the other jurisdiction and to have at least two years of teaching experience (CGS 10-145b(h)(3)). Thus, if the bill is enacted, it could cause confusion over which law applies to out-of-state applicants.

3 — RESIDENT TEACHER CERTIFICATE

The bill extends the existing length of a resident teacher certificate from one to two years.

To qualify for a resident teacher certificate an applicant must (1) hold a bachelor's degree from an institution of higher education accredited in Connecticut or regionally accredited, (2) have a minimum undergraduate college cumulative grade point average of 3.00, (3) have achieved a qualifying score on the appropriate SBE-approved subject area assessment, and (4) be enrolled in an SBE-approved alternate route to certification program.

4 — INCARCERATED PARENTS AND ACCESS TO STUDENT RECORDS

The bill specifies that an incarcerated parent is entitled to knowledge of, and access to, all the educational, medical, or similar records of his or her minor child kept by the school district except when:

1. information is not disclosable under the law regarding professional confidentiality between student and teacher or nurse;

2. the parent has been convicted of sexual assault in this or another state; or

3. the parent is prohibited from such knowledge of, or access to, the student's cumulative record under a court order.

5 — ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR TEACHER PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS

The bill makes a change to the appointing authority of two members of the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards. The bill changes the name of a union that appoints two members from the Connecticut Federation of Teachers-Connecticut to the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut.

6 & 7 — LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND MONITORING PRIVATE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS

The bill requires boards to submit to an audit by the state auditors that examines the board's monitoring of student attendance in the private special education programs that the board contracts with in order to ensure proper services are being provided and to control costs. The bill requires the board to submit all records and accounts necessary to conduct the audit.

The bill also authorizes local boards to (1) require the private special education programs they contract with to provide monthly or quarterly reports detailing the services and frequency of services being provided, (2) review and reconcile such reports to the contracted services, and (3) conduct periodic site visits at the provider's location. It is not clear if a board can impose new requirements on a contractual relationship with a private special education provider when a contract is already in place.

8 — PRIVATE SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION PILOT PROGRAM

The bill creates a private school transportation pilot program in four areas. It requires school districts within 12 miles of the West Hartford, New Haven, Shelton, and Montville school districts to participate in a pilot program to provide school transportation for students to attend an equivalent nonpublic school located in the four named school districts.

The bill includes the following conditions:

1. requests for transportation must be made at least 30 days in advance to the student's home district,

2. the nonpublic school must be in one of the four named districts, and

3. a local or regional board of education is not required to provide transportation if fewer than 10 students make such a request.

The program begins in the school year starting July 1, 2016 and ends in the year that starts July 1, 2025. (Although the bill uses July 1, 2016, presumably, this applies to the school year that begins starting July 1, 2017.) The bill authorizes a board providing the transportation to designate one or more pick-up and drop-off locations within the town.

The board of education providing the services will be reimbursed for costs of the transportation by either the students or by the nonpublic school in which the students are enrolled.

9 — VISION SCREENING TESTS AND AUTOMATED SCREENING DEVICES

By law, school districts must provide annual vision screenings to children in kindergarten and grades one and three to five, inclusive. The screening must use a Snellen chart or equivalent device. The bill adds that the device may be an automated vision screening device.

10 & 11 — PRIVATE SCHOOL EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND CHECKS

The bill extends to private schools the applicant and employee background check requirements that apply to public schools. It requires applicants for any positions in which the employee comes in direct contact with students to participate in, and consent to, a number of steps, including contacting former employers, to determine whether an applicant has a history of sexual misconduct or child abuse or neglect. Under the bill, job applicants must submit to state child abuse and neglect registry and state and national criminal background checks and provide contact information for current or former employers if the job involved contact with children.

The bill applies the following requirements regarding the hiring processes for private schools:

1. establishes procedures for hiring certain applicants for select positions with education employers, including student transportation workers, temporary hires, substitute teachers, and contractor employees;

2. establishes requirements for sharing information about applicants between education employers and SDE and among education employers;

3. grants immunity from civil and criminal liability to SDE and current and former employers that share information about applicants;

4. extends regional education service center (RESC) fingerprinting services and regulates fees for these services; and

5. extends the prohibition on a school entering into an agreement for resignation or severance or any other agreement that has the effect of suppressing information related to an investigation of suspected employee abuse, neglect, or sexual misconduct.

Under current law, private schools may choose to take these steps.

12 — STANDARDIZED FORM FOR CONTACTING FORMER EMPLOYERS

Under the bill and no later than June 30, 2017, SDE must make available to nonpublic schools a standardized question form to be used with current or former employers of education job applicants in order to obtain applicant background information.

13 — TOWN AND BOARD OF EDUCATION AGREEMENTS ON NON-EDUCATIONAL FUNCTIONS

The bill explicitly allows boards of education to enter into contracts with the board of finance, board of selectmen, or similar entity of the town, as appropriate, to perform certain non-educational functions for the board. Nothing in statute currently prevents boards of education and other parts of town government from making such agreements.

14 — SCHOOL NURSE TRAINING

The bill requires certain training for any school nurse who is (1) an advanced practice registered nurse or registered nurse licensed in Connecticut on or after July 1, 2017 and (2) appointed by a local or regional board of education to be a school nurse or nurse practitioner. It requires a nurse to successfully complete 12 hours of training, as prescribed by SDE, in consultation with the Association of School Nurses or a Visiting Nurse Association. The training (1) must be completed within one year after the nurse's appointment and (2) needs to be completed just once.

15 — REQUIRED HEALTH INFORMATION SURVEY

Beginning with the school year starting on July 1, 2017, and each year thereafter, the bill requires each board of education to complete the SDE-issued Health Services Program Information Survey and submit it to SDE in a form and manner prescribed by the department.

16 — SCHOOL NURSE ADVISORY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP

The bill makes a change to the membership of the School Nurse Advisory Council. It removes the requirement that the representative from the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut must be employed at a private or parochial school.

17 — DMV OVERSIGHT OF SCHOOL BUS COMPANY DRIVER MONITORING

The bill requires the motor vehicles commissioner to ensure that school bus companies are fulfilling their duty to monitor twice a month the commissioner's periodic reports on drivers who have had their licenses withdrawn, suspended, or revoked. The bill authorizes the commissioner to do this by:

1. conducting random compliance audits of bus companies to determine whether a company is performing the required review of the driver suspension report,

2. maintaining a record of each company review for the previous two years, and

3. making the record publicly available upon request.

By law, bus companies that fail to review the commissioner's report as required are subject to civil penalties.

18 — LIBRARY INTERNET USAGE POLICY

The bill specifies that boards of libraries and public reading rooms must adopt policies and rules for internet usage and content access by library patrons on library devices. By law, these boards adopt bylaws, rules, and regulations for the operation and governance of libraries and reading rooms.

19 — LITERACY IS FUNDAMENTAL GRANT PROGRAM

The bill requires SDE to create a Literacy Is Fundamental For Education program to award grants, within available appropriations, to local or regional boards of education in alliance districts, which are the 30 districts with the lowest scores based on the state's accountability index. For a grant, boards of education must submit an application in a form and manner the education commissioner decides.

The education commissioner must award the grants based on which application:

1. demonstrates need through the compilation of data on literacy and numeracy challenges facing students in the applying district;

2. provides for direct literacy and numeracy interventions by pairing individual students in kindergarten to grade three, inclusive, with a trained literacy or numeracy specialist;

3. demonstrates outreach and collaboration with nonprofit organizations that provide literacy or numeracy services to students in the applying district;

4. demonstrates the parental engagement in the application and in ongoing efforts to promote literacy and numeracy among all students; and

5. demonstrates outreach to nonprofit organizations or other community partners committed to providing ongoing financial support or other in-kind services.

BACKGROUND

School Security Infrastructure Grant Program

PA 13-3 established this competitive state grant program to improve security infrastructure in schools. The program reimburses towns, state charter schools, technical high schools, incorporated or endowed high schools or academies, private schools, and regional education service centers for certain expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2013 to (1) develop or improve security infrastructure; (2) train personnel to operate and maintain the security infrastructure; and (3) buy portable entrance security devices, such as metal detectors.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

32

Nay

1

(03/24/2017)