PA 17-220—sHB 7276

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION MANDATE RELIEF

SUMMARY: This act alters or eliminates several state mandates placed on local and regional boards of education (hereinafter “boards”). Among other things, the act:

1. allows, rather than requires, boards to follow a uniform regional school calendar ( 1);

2. expands the type of alternative education for expelled students that boards must offer and requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to develop alternative education standards ( 2 & 3);

3. reduces the number of school employees who must receive training in student restraint and seclusion practices and makes other changes to the training requirements ( 5); and

4. shortens the former employer lookback period that boards must consider when conducting background checks of prospective employees ( 6).

The act also requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to conduct a survey of digital reporting software used by school districts ( 4).

It also makes conforming and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the alternative education for expelled students section ( 2) is effective August 15, 2017, and the requirement for SBE to develop alternative education standards ( 3) is effective upon passage.

1 — UNIFORM REGIONAL SCHOOL CALENDAR

For school years beginning July 1, 2017 and thereafter, the act allows, rather than requires, boards to adopt a uniform regional school calendar developed by their respective regional education service center (RESC) (see BACKGROUND). Under prior law, all boards had to adopt the uniform calendar starting with the 2016-17 school year, or starting with the 2017-18 school year if employee contracts prevented implementation in 2016-17.

The act requires the education commissioner to report to the Education Committee, by July 1, 2017, and annually thereafter, on which boards have chosen to adopt a uniform regional calendar and any related legislative recommendations. Under prior law, the commissioner reported annually on the mandated adoption of the calendar.

2 & 3 — ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION FOR EXPELLED STUDENTS

Under PA 16-147, effective August 15, 2017, a board must offer, to any expelled student under age 16, an alternative educational opportunity during the expulsion period that is equivalent to the standard number of days and hours required in Connecticut public schools (i.e., 180 school days and 900 hours of school work).

This act modifies PA 16-147 (codified at CGS 10-233d(d)) so that a board must instead offer either the standard number of days and hours to an expelled student (if the board already offers this) or an alternative educational opportunity in accordance with standards SBE develops. The act requires SBE to adopt the standards by August 15, 2017. The standards must include the kind of instruction and number of hours to be provided to an expelled student.

4 — SURVEY OF DIGITAL REPORTING SOFTWARE

By January 1, 2018, the act requires SDE to survey boards on their use of digital school management and reporting software. The survey must include questions on whether a board uses a digital school management and reporting software for creating, submitting, and sharing digital copies of education-related documents with SDE and among authorized users. It must also include questions addressing whether the software:

1. allows authorized users to create and submit a complete digital copy of education-related documents to a portal and share the copy with (a) SDE and (b) a board when a student transfers;

2. provides 24-hour access to an unlimited number of authorized users;

3. allows boards to purchase supplementary programs; and

4. protects against unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure according to industry standards when an education-related document is created, submitted, and shared using the software.

SDE must compile the survey results and submit a report on its findings to the Education Committee. The report must include any recommendations, based on the results, regarding the statewide implementation of a uniform school management and reporting software.

The act defines “education-related documents” as a student's education records and any report required under state education law, including the strategic school profile report and data included by law in the statewide public school information system.

5 — RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION TRAINING

The act reduces the number of school district employees whom a board must train in the physical restraint and seclusion of students.

Prior law required a board to train all school professionals, administrators, and paraprofessionals in the proper means of student restraint and seclusion. The act instead requires a board to train the members of the crisis intervention team, who the act defines as any teacher, administrator, paraprofessional, and other school employee who has direct contact with students and is designated by the principal. Under prior law, a team included school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators trained in physical restraint and seclusion. The act requires each board to maintain a list of crisis intervention team members for each school.

The act also allows boards to train any other teacher, administrator, paraprofessional, or school employee in student restraint and seclusion. “School employee” includes a substitute teacher, superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, or coach employed by a board, or any other employee who, in the regular performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students.

The act delays, from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2017, the date by which a board must begin the training and eliminates a provision that phases in the training over three years. It requires a board to provide the training during the 2017-18 school year and annually thereafter.

Under the act, the training must include information on the proper use of physical restraint and seclusion, as well as an annual overview of relevant laws and regulations regarding its use on students as required under existing law.

Prior law required the training to include plans for boards to provide training and professional development on preventing incidents that require restraint and seclusion and the proper means of physically restraining or secluding a student. The act delays the deadlines for the plans' implementation from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018 and eliminates the references to professional development.

6 — BACKGROUND CHECKS AND FORMER EMPLOYERS

By law, boards, charter school governing councils, and magnet school operators must obtain certain information from any job applicant seeking a position that involves direct student contact. The law requires a board, council, or operator to conduct employment history checks of all such applicants, including directly contacting former employers that either were boards, councils, or operators or employed the applicant in a position that included direct contact with children. The act narrows the definition of “former employer” to include only those the applicant has worked for in the previous 20 years before applying. Prior law did not establish any such time limit.

BACKGROUND

RESCs and Uniform Regional School Calendar

Each of the six RESCs in the state serves a different geographical region. The RESCs provide various services to boards.

By law, each RESC has to develop a uniform regional school calendar that includes the following:

1. at least 180 days of sessions in a school year (as already required by law);

2. a common start date for students of the last Wednesday in August, with a three-day flexible window before or after that Wednesday;

3. uniform days for statutorily required professional development and in-service training for certified employees;

4. up to three uniform school vacation periods during each school year, of which up to two must be one-week vacations and one must be during the summer;

5. Election Day in November as a professional development day when no students attend school; and

6. five flexible days for individual district needs.