JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING VARIOUS REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill is to make several revisions and additions to the existing education statutes, as outlined in the substitute language.
Section 1 extends the school security grant program to fiscal year 2018.
Section 2 provides direct certification reciprocity with other states for teachers. This certification is valid for four years and exempts applicants from completing the beginning educator program and special education course.
Section 3 extends the current resident teacher certification from one to two years.
Section 4 states that an incarcerated has the right to all his or her minor child's educational records except in the cases of information protected under 10-154a, professional confidentiality between a teacher or nurse and a student; specified sexual assault crimes; and the existence of a court order prohibiting such parent from such information.
Section 5 outlines guidelines for the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards and defines “teacher” as “a certified professional employee who is employed by a local or regional board of education” for the purpose of such council.
Section 6 specifies that local boards of education are required to submit to an audit examining the monitoring of student attendance in contracted private special education programs.
Section 7 gives local boards of education the authority to require quarterly reports from private special education programs, review and reconcile such reports, and allow periodic visits to such sites.
Section 8 requires school districts within 12 miles of the school districts of West Hartford, New Haven, Shelton, and Montville to participate in a pilot program providing school transportation services for students to attend nonpublic schools in the same school districts. This requirement is applicable through the 2024-25 school year and does not apply if fewer than 10 resident students request such transportation.
Section 9 provides automated vision screening devices as an option for vision screening testing.
Section 10 requires private schools to carry out background checks for employee applicants.
Section 11 further requires such background checks specified in section 10 to include contacting former employers.
Section 12 requires the State Department of Education to create forms with which to contact former employers with regards to such previously specified background checks by July 1, 2017.
Section 13 allows boards of education to enter into contracts with the boards of finance or equivalent entity of such boards' towns to carry out specified non-educational tasks for such boards of education.
Section 14 specifies additional required training for school nurses.
Section 15 requires school districts to complete a survey pertaining to health information and to submit such survey to the State Department of Education for each school year beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
Section 16 specifies that the representative of the Connecticut Association of Public School
Superintendents holding membership on the School Nurse Advisory Council shall be employed in a private or parochial school.
Section 17 requires the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that school transportation contractors review the required driver reports by conducting random audits of such contractors. The Department of Motor Vehicles must further maintain a record of each review it conducts and make such record available to the public upon request.
Section 18 requires boards of libraries and public reading rooms to adopt policies regarding the use of the Internet and accessible content of patrons of the library and reading room on computers and other various electronic devices provided by such library and reading room.
Section 19 requires the State Department of Education to establish a Literacy Is Fundamental For Education program, which will, within the appropriations available, provide grants to local and regional boards of education which are designated as alliance districts.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Dianna Wentzell, Commissioner, State Department of Education (SDE):
The Commissioner offered the following testimony on various sections of S.B. 1014 on behalf of SDE:
Regarding Section 1, the Commissioner testified that SDE cannot support the creation of a Division of Interscholastic Athletics within SDE as SDE does not have qualified, state-funded staff that such a division would require.
Regarding Sec. 3, the Commissioner indicated that SDE strongly supports the intent of the legislation but not the language. The Commissioner testified that the belief of the SDE is that in-state and out-of-state should be more closely allied than specified in the language at the time S.B. 1014 was heard and expressed SDE's willingness to continue to work on the language with the Committee.
Regarding Sec. 5, the Commissioner testified that SDE could likely support a provision enabling incarcerated parents to obtain a paper copy of their child's report card; however, SDE would not support measures limiting parents' access to their child's educational records to only report cards. The Commissioner requested additional information as to the intent of the legislation.
Regarding Sec. 10, the Commissioner testified that SDE was unable to support the current language as automated screening devices do not measure visual acuity, the measurement used to determine whether a student requires glasses. Further, such automated screening devices are expensive, and the Commissioner expressed concern that there might exist a future mandate requiring schools to purchase such devices and provide staff training in the use of such devices.
Regarding Sec. 11, the Commissioner requested further information as to the intent of the legislation. The Commissioner also testified that SDE would support disallowing out-of-school suspension for students in preschool through the 12th grade, except in the instance of their disorderly conduct involving violence or being of a sexual nature that puts others in danger.
Regarding Sections 12-14, the Commissioner testified that SDE supports extending public school educator background check requirements to non-public schools.
Regarding Sec. 15, the Commissioner testified that SDE does not support this language because of their concern that towns might be led to believe that taking on non-educational services would entitle them to reduce their appropriation to boards of education.
Regarding Sections 16-17, the Commissioner testified of SDE's support of the requirements specified in such sections.
Regarding Sec. 22, the Commissioner testified that classroom sizes should not be a requirement of Alliance District plans as they are between districts and teachers' unions.
Regarding Sec. 23, the Commissioner testified that SDE supports the administration of a Literacy is Fundamental for Education Program on the condition that SDE was given the required resources for the establishment and continuation of such program.
Regarding Sections 24-25, the Commissioner testified that SDE does not support the requirement for school districts and SDE to erase references of “unsubstantiated” claims of abuse or neglect as reported by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The Commissioner further testified that it is necessary to define “unsubstantiated” and mentioned that SDE would be happy to work with the Education Committee and stakeholders to determine language that would allow SDE to investigate such claims of abuse or neglect.
Steven Hernández, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors (CWCS):
Mr. Hernández testified on behalf of CWCS supporting Section 11 of S.B. 1014 and recommending that the extra step be taken to give “therapeutic services, restorative practices or positive behavioral support strategies” in school or in a clinic to children from preschool through the second grade rather than out-of-school suspension.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
State Representative Joe Aresimowicz, Speaker of the House:
Speaker Aresimowicz provided testimony in support of Section 10 of S.B. 1014 in the interest of providing schools with the ability to quickly check children's eyes for diseases in addition to distance vision.
State Senator Cathy Osten, D-19:
Senator Osten testified in support of Section 9 of S.B. 1014, which establishes a pilot program for transportation between towns for students of nonpublic schools and includes a town in the district she represents.
Paul Angelucci, Head, Plumbing and Heating Department, Wilcox Technical High School, Meriden, CT:
Mr. Angelucci submitted testimony in support of Section 24 of S.B. 1014 because of personal experience with unsubstantiated allegations from a student. While the accusation against Mr. Angelucci was unsubstantiated, the documents regarding this incident remain in his file and would be available to anyone who filed a Freedom of Information request. Mr. Angelucci states that many other teachers have had similar experiences and that S.B. 1014 would protect such individuals' reputations.
Paul Armor, Lions Club of Southington, CT:
Mr. Armor spoke on behalf of the Lions Club of Southington, CT, in support of S.B. 1014, especially Section 10. Mr. Armor testified that volunteers from the Lions Club assist schools in vision screening and said that allowing these volunteers to use automated vision screening devices would make the process of vision screening quicker and more accurate. Additionally, Mr. Armor provided examples of children who have benefitted from automated vision screening devices, including the nine-year-old grandson of a member of the Southington Lions Club who was found to have an eye condition that could have cost him his vision in one eye had it not been detected during a vision screening.
Jocelyn Ault, CommPACT Community Schools Collaborative:
Ms. Ault supports measures outlined in S.B. 1014 to create and continue to develop sustainable community schools.
Michael Bloom, Executive Director, Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT):
Mr. Bloom testified on behalf of JFACT to say that they support S.B. 1014. Mr. Bloom spoke of Section 2, which would allow Jewish schools that have been recently threatened more time to apply for security grants, and of Section 9, where he requested that Stamford be included in the pilot program to provide transportation to students who wish to attend a nonpublic school in certain towns.
Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE):
CABE submitted testimony regarding S.B. 1014 to oppose Section 9 because of a concern that local boards of education would not be able to financially support such a pilot program and stating that any such program should be conditional upon the willingness of the district in question to participate. Additionally, CABE opposes Sec. 17, which contains a mandate to file the Health Services Program Information Survey, as a burden upon both school districts and SDE.
Daniel Giungi, Senior Legislative Associate, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM):
Mr. Giungi submitted testimony on behalf of CCM stating such organization's support of S.B. 1014 with language modifying Section 15 of the bill to “allow a local board finance [sic] or selectman to make adjustments or eliminate any noneducational expense in a proposed local board of education budget.” CCM stated that such a revision would assist cities in managing the balance between the needs of schools and the needs of other departments within municipalities.
Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport:
Dr. Cheeseman testified in support of Section 9 of S.B. 1014 regarding transportation for nonpublic schools. Dr. Cheeseman also suggested the following additions to the bill: allocating funds for nonpublic school transportation to inter-district transportation; and assigning a small number of school buses to residential neighborhoods to reduce the amount of motor traffic and thereby reduce risk to children. In addition, he testified that Catholic schools were willing to share bus routes in the interest of efficiency.
Michael Corjulo, Health Coordinator, Area Cooperative Education Services (ACES):
Mr. Corjulo testified in support of S.B. 1014, speaking to the possibility of screening for more than just distance vision with automated vision screening devices as well as objectivity in screening and the ability to screen more students than previously possible without an automated vision screening device.
Sarah Eagan, Office of the Child Advocate (OCA):
Ms. Eagan testified on behalf of OCA supporting S.B. 1014 in the interest of preventing unnecessary suspension of children from school, especially very young children. Ms. Eagan noted that many of the reports of out-of-school suspension of young children received by OCA involve behavior that indicates that the child in question needs special services or therapy.
Attorney Andrew A. Feinstein, Feinstein Education Law Group:
Mr. Feinstein supports Section 2 of S.B. 1014 but urges investigation into whether there are security options that will not be traumatizing to young children as locked doors and metal detectors might.
Henry Fiore, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Norwich:
Mr. Fiore testified in support of Section 9 of S.B. 1014 regarding transportation for nonpublic schools. Mr. Fiore also suggested the following additions to the bill: allocating funds for nonpublic school transportation to inter-district transportation; and assigning a small number of school buses to residential neighborhoods to reduce the amount of motor traffic and thereby reduce risk to children. In addition, he testified that Catholic schools were willing to share bus routes in the interest of efficiency.
Patti Fusco, Divisional Vice President PreK-12, AFT Connecticut:
Ms. Fusco testified in favor of S.B.1014; however, she expressed concern regarding teachers accused incorrectly of abuse and requested that a provision be included that teachers cleared of such allegations have their licenses reinstated and their names removed from the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry.
David Hayes, President, Bristol Federation of Teachers:
Mr. Hayes supports S.B. 1014 in its provision that young students may still be subject to out-of-school suspension in the case of actions that involve extreme violent or sexual danger to others. He also supports the removal of unsubstantiated allegations from a teacher's record.
Anne LaMonica, Associate Director for Education, Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference:
Ms. LaMonica supports Section 9 of S.B. 1014 and urges the addition of language requiring a student's town to cover the cost of transportation.
Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director, Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS):
Ms. Niehoff testified on behalf of CAS in opposition of Section 1 of S.B. 1014, which would place oversight of interscholastic athletics under the State Department of Education rather than the Connecticut Interscholastic Conference.
Michele Ridolfi O'Neill, Connecticut Education Association (CEA):
Ms. O'Neill testified on behalf of CEA to say that the organization does not support Section 3 of S.B. 1014, as CEA thinks it would be best for teachers to be hired from in-state institutions. CEA also opposes Sec. 4 of the bill, desiring to see teacher certification taken more seriously. CEA supports the provisions for teacher retention in Sec. 6. CEA supports the intent behind the language of Sec. 22, but desires stronger incentives for Alliance Districts in the area of appropriate class sizes.
Ray Rossomando, Connecticut Education Association (CEA):
Mr. Rossomando testified on behalf of CEA to say that the organization supports Section 21 of S.B. 1014 because community schools benefit many parts of a community.
Nate Snow, Executive Director, Teach for America – Connecticut:
Mr. Snow spoke on behalf of Teach for America supporting Section 4 of S.B. 1014, which includes provisions for extending resident educator certificates from one to two years. Mr. Snow stated that Teach for America – Connecticut is supportive of the clarification to language dealing with resident educator certificates.
Mary Jane Williams, PhD, RN, Chairperson, Government Relations Committee for Connecticut Nurses Association (CNA):
Dr. Williams supports S.B. 1014 with the addition of the language “in consultation with the Connecticut Nurses Association” in Section 16 as specified in her written testimony. Dr. Williams further stated that the CNA representative present during the Advisory Committee meetings included such language and that it was “inadvertently omitted” when the bill was drafted.
Additional supporting testimony submitted by:
On Section 9:
Carol Giannini, Nursing Coordinator, Plymouth Public Schools
Martin Sandshaw, Lions Club International Foundation Coordinator for District B in the State of Connecticut
Dan Uitti, Lions KidSight Chairman, Connecticut
Sister Mary Grace Walsh, Provost for Education, Evangelization and Catechesis, Archdiocese of Hartford
On Section 19:
Dione Dwyer, Bridgeport, CT
Kate Kelly, New Haven, CT
Daniel Long, Connecticut Voices for Children
Grisell Myers, Waterbury, CT
James O'Donnell, Behavior Technician, West Side Middle School, Waterbury
Claudine Pettigrew, Bridgeport, CT
On Section 22:
Daniel Long, Connecticut Voices for Children
On Section 24:
Christopher P. Hankins, Legal Counsel to Connecticut Education Association
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Fred Balsamo, Executive Director, Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, Inc. (CAAD):
Mr. Balsamo testified on behalf of CAAD asking legislators to remove Section 1 of S.B. 1014. Mr. Balsamo mentioned that high school athletics are currently run by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) and that the State Department of Education (SDE) is not set up in a way that would make it able to run student athletics in the flexible and competent manner of CIAC.
Susan Glennon, Chair, Milford Board of Education:
Ms. Glennon testified in opposition to Section 9 of S.B. 1014, saying that it is essentially an unfunded mandate. She also testified against the provision of S.B. 1014 allowing boards of education to share the provision of noneducational services with boards of finance of towns. Ms. Glennon said it would be better for a board of education to remain in oversight of such services; she expressed concern that boards of finance would have oversight of services without sharing in the cost of such services and stated that boards of education have better knowledge of the employee vetting process required to keep school environments safe for students.
Shevon S. Hickey, Principal, St. Brigid-St. Augustine Partnership School, West Hartford:
Ms. Hickey testified against Section 9 of S.B. 1014, desiring to prevent another financial burden to school districts.
Thomas Scarice, Superintendent of Schools, Madison, CT:
Mr. Scarice testified to request that Connecticut discontinue use of the 1-5 classification system. Mr. Scarice reminded the Committee that federal law no longer requires use of this system and notes that since it is based on a single standardized test, it is often inaccurate.
Dr. Beth Smith, Headmaster, Shelton High School:
Dr. Smith opposes Section 1 of S.B. 1014 as unnecessary when the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has provided excellent oversight of Connecticut interscholastic athletics to date.
Trish Witkin, Athletic Administrator:
Ms. Witkin opposes Section 1 of S.B. 1014 as unnecessary when the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has provided excellent oversight of Connecticut interscholastic athletics to date.
Reported by: Sarah Welch