PA 17-68—sSB 1014

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING VARIOUS REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES

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

1. extending the school security grant program another year to FY 18 ( 1);

2. making certified teachers from another state, U.S. possession or territory, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico eligible for a temporary teaching certificate ( 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 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 Montville, New Haven, Shelton, Stamford, and West Hartford school districts ( 8);

7. extending to private schools the applicant and employee background check requirements that apply to public schools ( 9 & 10);

8. requiring boards to conduct an annual health information survey ( 13);

9. 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are fulfilling their duty to monitor the commissioner's periodic reports on drivers who have had their licenses withdrawn, suspended, or revoked ( 15);

10. specifying that boards of libraries must adopt policies and rules for Internet usage and content access ( 16); and

11. authorizing private schools to issue “certificates of age” (i.e., working papers) that allow minors to work in a variety of settings ( 18).

It also makes a number of minor, conforming, 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 effective upon passage.

1 — SCHOOL SECURITY GRANT PROGRAM

This act extends the school security infrastructure grant program to FY 18. Under prior law, the program expired at the end of FY 17. 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 for public and private schools, charter schools, technical high schools, endowed academies that function as public high schools, and schools operated by regional educational service centers (RESCs). The act specifies that the grants are also available to private child care centers or preschools that have received threats.

2 — OUT-OF-STATE TEACHER PERMIT

The act makes teachers who have taught for at least two years and hold an appropriate teaching certificate issued by another state, a U.S. possession or territory, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico eligible for a nonrenewable temporary teaching certificate in Connecticut. It makes the temporary certificate valid for one year and allows the State Board of Education (SBE) to extend it for an additional two years.

By law, the temporary certificate exempts applicants from the standard teacher requirements of completing a four-year degree in a teacher preparation program (or in an alternate route to certification program) and teacher testing, including specific subject area testing.

3 — RESIDENT TEACHER CERTIFICATE

The act extends the life of the existing resident teacher certificate from one to two years.

By law, to qualify for a resident teacher certificate an applicant must (1) hold a bachelor's degree from a higher education institution 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 (ARC) program. Once a teacher has graduated from the ARC program, he or she becomes eligible for an initial educator certificate, the first of three levels of permanent teacher certificate.

4 — INCARCERATED PARENTS AND ACCESS TO STUDENT RECORDS

By law, a minor student's parents or legal guardians are entitled to know about and access their student's educational, medical, or similar records unless the information is not disclosable because it concerns a student's alcohol or drug problem and was acquired by a teacher or nurse through professional communication with the student. The act specifies that an incarcerated parent is also entitled to this knowledge and access unless (1) the parent has been convicted of sexual assault in this or another state or (2) 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 act makes a technical change to the designation of two appointing authorities to the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards. The act 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 — PRIVATE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS MONITORING

Audits

The act requires each board that has contracted with a private special education services provider to submit to an audit by the state auditors. The audit must examine the board's monitoring of student attendance in the private special education programs in order to ensure that proper services are being provided and to control costs. The board must allow the auditors to access all records and accounts necessary to conduct the audit.

Contract Provisions

For agreements entered into or amended on or after July 1, 2017, the act permits local boards to (1) require the private special education provider they contract with to provide monthly or quarterly reports detailing the services being provided and their frequency, (2) review and reconcile such reports to the contracted services covered in the agreement, and (3) conduct periodic site visits at the provider's location.

8 — PRIVATE SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION PILOT PROGRAM

The act creates a 10-year private school transportation pilot program in five areas of the state. It requires, with certain conditions, school districts within 12 miles of the Montville, New Haven, Shelton, Stamford, and West Hartford school districts to provide school transportation for students to attend an equivalent private school located in the five named school districts.

Under the act, the board that provides the transportation must be reimbursed for the costs by either the students or by the private school in which the students are enrolled.

The act 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 private school must be in one of the five named districts, and

3. a 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, 2017 and ends in the year that starts July 1, 2026. The act authorizes a board providing the transportation to designate one or more pick-up and drop-off locations within the town.

9, 10 & 11 — PRIVATE SCHOOL EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND CHECKS

The act extends to private schools the applicant and employee background check requirements that apply to public school education employers (i.e., boards of education, charter schools, and magnet schools) under existing law.

Existing law places some checks on all public school applicants and employees and places additional checks on applicants and employees who have direct contact with students. The act applies all of these checks, detailed below, to private school applicants and employees. Under prior law, private schools could choose to require job applicants to submit to state and national background checks.

Under the act, private school job applicants must submit to state child abuse and neglect registry checks before being hired and state and national criminal history records checks within 30 days of being hired. It also requires applicants 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.

It requires the supervisory agent of the private school to pay for the state and national criminal history records checks, as provided in state law (CGS 29-17a).

The act also applies to private schools several of the same hiring process procedures, prohibitions, and parameters that apply to public schools under existing law, including:

1. establishing specific procedures for hiring applicants for select positions with education employers, including temporary hires, substitute teachers, and contract employees;

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

3. requiring the applicant to consent to disclosure of required information by current and former employers and SDE;

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

5. extending to private schools access to regional education service center (RESC) fingerprinting services and regulating fees for these services;

6. prohibiting a private school from entering into a resignation or severance agreement or any other agreement that has the effect of suppressing information related to an investigation of suspected employee abuse, neglect, or sexual misconduct;

7. establishing that any applicant who knowingly provides false information or fails to disclose required information is subject to discipline, including denial of employment, by the private school; and

8. requiring private schools to make a documented good faith effort to contact an applicant's current and former employers, provided that such effort requires no more than three telephonic requests made on three separate days.

The act extends to private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools the prohibition on offering employment to any applicant who had a contract terminated by, or who resigned from, any such school if the person was convicted of violating the law that mandates reporting on child abuse and neglect when an allegation of abuse, neglect, or sexual assault has been substantiated.

Standardized Forms

Under the act, and no later than June 30, 2017, SDE must make available to private schools a standardized question form to be used with current or former employers of education job applicants in order to obtain applicant background information. Existing law already requires SDE to make such a form available to public education employers.

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

The act explicitly allows boards to enter into written agreements 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. (Prior to this, nothing in statute prevented boards and other parts of town government from making such agreements.)

13 — REQUIRED HEALTH INFORMATION SURVEY

Beginning with the school year that starts on July 1, 2017, the act requires each board to annually complete the SDE-issued Health Services Program Information Survey and submit it to SDE in a form and manner prescribed by the department.

14 — SCHOOL NURSE ADVISORY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP

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

15 — DMV OVERSIGHT OF SCHOOL BUS COMPANY DRIVER MONITORING

The act requires the motor vehicles commissioner to ensure that school districts and the school bus companies they hire (i.e., carriers) 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. It requires the commissioner to do this by: (1) conducting random compliance audits of carriers to determine whether a company is performing the required review of the driver suspension report, (2) maintaining a record of each carrier 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.

16 — LIBRARY INTERNET USAGE POLICY

The act 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.

17 — NEW MEMBER FOR THE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION ADVISORY COUNCIL (PEAC)

The act adds a representative from the Connecticut Association of School Administrators (an administrators' union) to the membership of PEAC, the body charged in statute with helping SDE develop teacher evaluation and support guidelines. Under existing law, the council has representation from SDE and a number of education interest groups, including the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education; Connecticut Education Association; and Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

18 — PRIVATE SCHOOL AUTHORITY TO ISSUE WORKING PAPERS FOR MINORS

The act extends the authority to issue “certificates of age” (i.e., working papers; see BACKGROUND) for minors to work in a variety of settings to private school supervisory agents. Under prior law, only a public school superintendent could issue such papers pursuant to SBE procedures.

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.

Working Papers

By law, a superintendent of schools can issue working papers certifying a minor's age, which authorizes the minor to work in the following settings:

1. if the minor is at least 16 years old, in any manufacturing, mechanical, or theatrical industry; restaurant or public dining room; or in any bowling alley, shoe-shining establishment, or barber shop;

2. if the minor is at least 15 years old, in any commercial or retail establishment; and

3. if the minor is at least 14 years old, at any municipal or private golf course.