PA 17-41—sSB 912

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO THE STAFF QUALIFICATIONS REQUIREMENT FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS

SUMMARY: This act (1) delays the implementation of the two scheduled phases of higher level education requirements for school readiness staff and (2) makes it easier for staff to meet these requirements, primarily by accepting degrees from more out-of-state higher education institutions.

The act delays the start of the first phase by one year, from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, and the second phase by one year, from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

The act creates the following additional ways for school readiness staff to meet the higher level requirements: (1) for the first phase only, by holding an associate degree with a concentration in early childhood from a regionally accredited institution (i.e., does not have to be a Connecticut-approved institution); (2) by holding a bachelor's degree with a concentration in early childhood education from a regionally accredited institution; or (3) by earning an early childhood teacher credential the act establishes.

The act modifies the law that allows staff to submit a degree for state review to determine if it satisfies the requirements by expanding it to allow the review of associate degrees. (Bachelor's degrees are already allowed.)

It also makes conforming and technical changes and leaves unchanged the law that grandfathers existing early childcare workers into meeting the higher level education requirements (see BACKGROUND).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEFINITION

The act defines “concentration in early childhood education” as a program of study in early childhood education, including early childhood education, child study, child development, or human growth and development.

CURRENT SCHOOL READINESS STAFF REQUIREMENTS

Until the start of the first phase of the higher level requirements, existing law requires one person in each classroom to have certain credentials. The act modifies the current requirements by adding to the list of acceptable credentials an associate or a bachelor's degree with a concentration in early childhood education from a regionally accredited higher education institution (i.e., not necessarily a Connecticut-approved institution).

The law, unchanged by the act, already permits similar staff credentials. It allows an associate or four-year degree with 12 credits or more in early childhood education or child development. In either of these situations the coursework must be approved by the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) commissioner or the president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities after consultation with the OEC commissioner.

FIRST PHASE REQUIREMENTS

The first phase of the higher staff requirements establishes two groups of employees, with one group needing a higher level of education. The act makes changes affecting both groups.

Under prior law, at least 50% of classroom staff in each state-funded school readiness program had to have a higher level of education by holding either a:

1. teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood education or early childhood special education or

2. bachelor's degree with an early childhood education concentration from an institution both regionally and state accredited and from a program approved by the (a) Board of Regents (BOR) or Office of Higher Education (OHE) and (b) OEC.

The act modifies the bachelor's degree requirement by no longer requiring that it come from an institution that is accredited by, or has the program approved by, the state. It still requires that the institution be regionally accredited.

The act requires OEC to issue an early childhood teacher credential to applicants who hold an associate degree (or bachelor's) with a concentration in early childhood education from a higher education institution that is accredited regionally and from a program approved by (1) the BOR or OHE and (2) OEC. Under prior law this type of bachelor's degree satisfied the first phase requirements but was not called an early childhood credential as it is under the act. Also, under the act, staff with this credential count towards the 50% of classroom staff required to have a higher level of education. The act provides that if the early childhood teacher credential is based on an associate degree, the credential is valid until June 30, 2021 (the end of the first phase).

The act also makes minor changes in the first phase requirement for those who do not have a teaching certificate, a bachelor's degree, or the early childhood teacher credential. Under prior law, up to 50% of those employed in a state-funded school readiness program could meet the state qualification requirements if they held an associate degree with a concentration in early childhood education or a similar discipline from a higher education institution that was accredited regionally and by the BOR or OHE and from a program approved by (1) the BOR or OHE and (2) OEC. The act modifies this to an associate degree with a concentration in early childhood education from a regionally accredited institution, therefore no longer requiring accreditation or approval by the Connecticut state entities.

SECOND PHASE REQUIREMENTS

Overall, the act maintains prior law's approach for the second phase by requiring that all classroom staff in state-funded programs meet the qualifications by holding either (1) a teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood education or early childhood special education or (2) a bachelor's degree with an early childhood education concentration. As with phase one, the act modifies the bachelor's degree requirement by no longer requiring that it be from an institution accredited by, or from a program approved by, the state, thus making it easier for applicants who attended college out of state. It still requires that the institution be regionally accredited.

The act also authorizes OEC to issue an early childhood teacher credential to anyone who holds a bachelor's degree with a concentration in early childhood education from institutions that are accredited and approved in the same way as described above for the credential.

DEGREE REVIEW FOR SUFFICIENCY

The act expands the types of degrees that can be submitted for review in order for OEC to determine if the coursework is sufficient to meet the staffing requirements.

Under existing law, someone with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development or a bachelor's degree and at least 12 credits in such topics can submit documentation to OEC for review and assessment to determine whether the degree has a sufficient concentration in early childhood education to satisfy the phase one or two requirements. The act modifies this by also allowing those with associate degrees in early childhood education or child development or in other fields with the above mentioned coursework to submit for review a degree from a regionally accredited higher education institution.

BACKGROUND

Grandfathering

Two existing statutory provisions allow certain school readiness staff members to meet the higher education requirements (i.e., are grandfathered).

Under one provision, staff members are considered to have satisfied the requirements through June 30, 2025 if they have:

1. an associate degree with at least 12 credits in early childhood education or child development from a higher education institution accredited in Connecticut and regionally accredited and

2. been employed by the same school readiness program since at least 1995.

Beginning July 1, 2025, these staff members must hold a childhood development associate credential or an equivalent credential or otherwise meet the phase two requirements (CGS 10-16p(b)(5)).

Under a second provision, staff members are considered to have met the requirements if they were employed by a program on or before June 30, 2015 and have a (1) bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development or (2) bachelor's degree and at least 12 credits in early childhood education or child development (CGS 10-16p(b)(3)).