PA 17-237—sHB 7271

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL SYSTEM AS AN INDEPENDENT AGENCY

SUMMARY: This act converts the Connecticut technical high school system into an independent executive branch agency in two phases over a three-year period. It renames the system the “Technical Education and Career System” (“the system”) and renames the system's high schools “technical education and career schools” (“system schools”).

The first phase of the transition occurs during FYs 18 and 19 (i.e., the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years). During this phase, the system remains under State Board of Education (SBE) oversight and is advised by the 11-member system board, as under prior law. Under the act, the education commissioner retains her authority under existing law to hire and remove school system staff, including the system superintendent, and to make rules for the system's funds management and expenditure. The system superintendent, serving a term that overlaps with the second phase of the transition by one year, is responsible for the system schools' operation and administration. The system maintains the same budgeting process as under existing law, but it must create new accounts for educational and non-educational expenses. The act also requires SBE to hire a consultant for FY 18 to help the system board develop a transition plan to become an independent agency.

The second phase of the transition begins in FY 20 (i.e., the 2019-20 school year). During this phase, the act establishes the system as an independent executive branch agency that is no longer under SBE oversight, governed by an executive director who is appointed by the governor and responsible for the system's operation, administration, and financial accountability. The previously appointed superintendent continues to be responsible for the system schools' operation and administration for the first year of the second phase, as well as all other matters relating to education in the system. Thereafter, the superintendent appointed by the executive director is responsible for these matters. The system board's membership is reconstituted, and the board maintains an advisory role on the topics of training matters, student attraction and retention, and student admissions. The system becomes a separate budgeted agency that is completely removed from the State Department of Education (SDE). The act changes its budgeting process by requiring system schools, the superintendent, and the executive director to each create and submit specific budgets for the system, culminating in the executive director's creation and submission of a system-wide operating budget to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM).

Additionally, the act (1) establishes accountability and efficiency mechanisms for the system, (2) requires evaluation of existing career technical education standards and curriculum in the system and in local and regional school districts, and (3) modifies certification requirements for system teachers in occupational subject areas.

The act also makes technical and conforming changes (including 21-24, 26-30, 32-36, 38-117 & 120 in their entirety).

EFFECTIVE DATE: Provisions about the first phase of the system transition ( 1, 3, 8, 16, 25, 31 & 37), legislative oversight ( 11), uniform standards and curriculum for programs offered by boards of education ( 13), efficiencies ( 15, 17 & 19), staff training ( 18), teacher certification ( 118 & 119), and sections containing only technical and conforming changes take effect July 1, 2017; except technical and conforming changes to the expulsion statute take effect on August 15, 2017 ( 76). Provisions on the second phase of the transition ( 2, 4-7, 9 & 10) and the Auditors of Public Accounts ( 20) take effect July 1, 2019. Provisions about SDE's review of system admissions policies and academic standards for programs offered by the system ( 12 & 14) take effect upon passage.

1, 3, 8, 16, 25, 31 & 37 — FIRST TRANSITION PHASE

System Board ( 1 & 3)

The act allows the system board, whose membership remains unchanged by the act in phase one, to recommend a candidate for system superintendent to the education commissioner. Under prior law, the education commissioner and the system board jointly recommended a candidate to SBE (CGS 10-95(c)). The act requires the system board to recommend another candidate should the commissioner reject one.

The act also adds to and modifies certain areas of the system board's authority. It gives the board the authority to accept gifts, grants, and donations on behalf of the system, including in-kind donations, designated for the purchase of equipment or materials, the hiring of teachers, or the acquisition of real property and facilities construction. Existing law, unchanged by the act, also gives SBE the authority to accept any money or property bequeathed to the system schools, and requires SBE to transfer this money to the state treasurer for investment (CGS 10-9(b)).

The act also allows the system board to enter into a new type of cooperative arrangement with boards of education, private occupational schools, higher education institutions, job training agencies, and employers. This type of arrangement is for the provision of postsecondary education or work experience.

The act eliminates the system board's authority to regulate student admissions to the system schools. It instead allows the board to recommend to the system superintendent policies governing student admissions that comply with state and federal law.

Superintendent ( 1 & 3)

Under the act, the superintendent appointed by the education commissioner during the first phase of the transition serves a term that expires on June 30, 2020 (i.e., through the first year of the second phase). The superintendent is responsible for the system schools' operation and administration, as well as all other matters relating to vocational, technical, technological, and postsecondary education in the system.

The act allows the system superintendent, in conjunction with the education commissioner, to arrange for training for the system board, when appropriate, to help the board conduct its business.

System Budget ( 8)

Through FY 19, the act requires that the system continue to be budgeted as an agency separate from SDE as under existing law. However, it also requires that the budget contain two new, separate accounts: (1) an educational account for educational and school-based accounts and expenditures and (2) a non-educational account.

Additionally, beginning FY 18, the act requires the governor, when considering budgetary rescissions for executive branch agencies, to prioritize the system's educational and instructional staffing needs as identified in the annual statement submitted by the system superintendent. The act also requires the governor to make every effort to avoid impairing the system's educational mission and interrupting instructional time during this period.

State Board of Education Representation ( 1 & 37)

It is unclear under the act whether the system board chairperson or the system superintendent must serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member of SBE as a representative of the system. As of July 1, 2017, the act requires the (1) system board chair to serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member and (2) system superintendent to serve in the same position.

Programmatic Offerings ( 1)

The act allows, rather than requires, the system to offer part-time and evening programs in vocational, technical, and technological education and training. It also allows part-time and evening programs in postsecondary education and training.

Bonding Requests ( 25)

Existing law requires the State Bond Commission to vote on whether to authorize the issuance of at least $2 million in unallocated General Assembly-approved bonds for the general maintenance and equipment for any school in the system. Prior law allowed the system board chairperson to request bond authorizations in excess of $2 million if there (1) was a sufficient balance of approved bonds and (2) were pending general maintenance and equipment transactions in excess of $2 million.

The act allows the system superintendent, rather than the system board chairperson, to make such a request of the commission.

Transition Plan ( 16)

For FY 18, the act requires SBE to hire a consultant who will do the following:

1. help the system board develop a transition plan for the system and

2. identify and provide recommendations on which services could be provided more efficiently through, or in conjunction with, another local or regional board of education; municipality; or state agency through a memorandum of understanding with the system.

By January 1, 2019, SBE must submit to the Education Committee a report on the transition plan and such identified services, along with any recommendations for legislation to implement them.

2-7 & 9-10 — SECOND TRANSITION PHASE

Governance ( 2, 4 & 7)

During the second transition phase, the act establishes the system as an executive branch agency outside SBE oversight, governed by an executive director (see 3-6 below).

System Board ( 2, 3 & 5)

Membership. In the second phase of the transition, the act reconstitutes the membership of the 11-member system board. The governor appoints all members, rather than a few as under phase one, with the General Assembly's advice and subject to its confirmation or rejection, and appoints the chairperson as under existing law and transition phase one. Table 1, below, compares the reconstituted board with the board membership under existing law and the first phase.

Table 1: System Board Membership

Board Membership under Existing Law (CGS 10-95) and Transition Phase One (through FY 19)

Board Membership under the Act for Transition Phase Two (beginning FY 20)

Four executives of Connecticut-based employers, nominated by the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission and appointed by the governor

Two executives of Connecticut-based employers, nominated by the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission

Five appointed by SBE

Commissioner of Education, or her designee

Commissioner of Economic and Community Development

Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, or her designee

Commissioner of Labor

Commissioner of Labor, or his designee

 

Two with expertise in manufacturing or a trade offered by the system, or who are system alumni

 

Four members with unspecified expertise

The governor may fill any vacancy. However, as under existing law for legislative confirmations, unless the General Assembly is in regular session, he may not appoint a person (1) who was nominated for an appointment subject to legislative approval and (2) whose nomination was rejected by the legislature during the last regular legislative session to the same or a similar vacancy.

Advisory Role. Under the act, the system board continues to serve in an advisory capacity to the system as under the first phase of the transition.

During the second phase, the system board advises the superintendent and executive director (see 3-6 below) on vocational, technical, technological, and postsecondary training matters. The act allows the system board to create advisory boards to appoint committees necessary for it to efficiently conduct business. It also allows the system board to recommend to the executive director and superintendent policies to (1) attract and retain students who will pursue careers that meet workforce needs and (2) govern the admission of students to any system school in compliance with state and federal law.

Student Achievement. The act requires the system board to continue to establish specific achievement goals for students at each grade level in system schools, a duty also required under existing law and the first phase. The board must measure each school's performance and identify a set of quantifiable measures to use to do so. The measures must include factors such as 10th or 11th grade student performance on the statewide mastery exam (i.e., the SAT), trade-related tests, dropout rates, and graduation rates.

Superintendent Hiring Process. For FY 20, the act continues to allow the system board to recommend a candidate for system superintendent as under the first phase of the transition. Starting on and after July 1, 2020 (the second year of phase two), however, the system board must recommend the candidate to the executive director rather than the education commissioner (see 3 below). The act requires the system board to recommend another candidate should the executive director reject one.

Removed Authorities. The act transfers from the system board to the executive director the authority to enter into specified cooperative arrangements. It also transfers to the executive director the board's authority to accept gifts, grants, and donations on behalf of the system, but it requires the executive director to consult the board before doing so (see 4 below).

Superintendent ( 3)

Under the act, the superintendent appointed by the executive director on or after July 1, 2020 serves a three-year term that may be extended for up to three years at any one time. As under the first phase of the transition, the superintendent continues to be responsible for the system schools' operation and administration, as well as all other matters relating to vocational, technical, technological, and postsecondary education in the system.

For the second phase, the act transfers from the superintendent to the executive director the primary authority to arrange for system board training (see below).

Executive Director ( 3-6)

The act establishes an executive director, appointed by the governor, as the head of the system and agency. It gives the executive director the authority to appoint and prescribe the duties of any subordinates, agents, and employees as he or she finds necessary.

Under the act, the system's executive director has the following duties:

1. operation, administration, financial accountability, and oversight of the system in matters relating to the central office, system-wide management, and other non-educational matters;

2. organization of the system into bureaus, divisions, and other units as necessary to efficiently conduct system business (these units may be created, abolished, transferred, or consolidated as necessary);

3. review and approval of all system contracts;

4. establishment of a master system schedule that may be amended;

5. notifying the education commissioner and Education Committee if a system school is on probation or at risk of losing its accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (under existing law and transition phase one, the commissioner notifies the committee); and

6. direct communication with the OPM secretary to request the creation or filling of staff positions included in the system operating budget.

The act also requires that (1) the review of requests for staff positions prioritize requests for instructional staff as identified in the superintendent's annual statement of staffing needs and (2) every effort be made to avoid interrupting instructional time during this review.

Additionally, the act gives the executive director the authority to do the following:

1. hire or reject any candidate for superintendent recommended by the system board;

2. enter into cooperative arrangements with boards of education, private occupational schools, higher education institutions, job training agencies, and employers to provide general education; vocational, technical, technological, or postsecondary education; and work experience;

3. accept gifts, grants, and donations for the system with the system board's approval, including in-kind donations, designated for purchasing equipment or materials, hiring teachers at system schools, or acquiring real property and constructing facilities; and

4. arrange, in conjunction with the superintendent, for training for the system board (which was the superintendent's authority under phase one of the transition).

System Budget ( 9 & 10)

The act makes the system a separately budgeted agency completely removed from SDE beginning in FY 20. As in the first phase of the transition, the second phase budget must contain two new, separate accounts: (1) an educational account for educational and school-based accounts and expenditures and (2) a non-educational account.

The act also changes the budgeting process in the second phase, particularly regarding (1) operating budgets for individual technical high schools in the system (“school budgets”); (2) the superintendent's creation of a specialized budget for the system (“education budget”); (3) the executive director's central office budget and system operating budget; (4) the submission of budget documents to the General Assembly; and (5) online posting of budget documents.

School Budgets. Prior law required each high school in the system to annually submit to the superintendent a proposed operating budget for the next school year. The act renames such budgets “school budgets,” which must contain a statement of school staffing needs as under existing law. The act requires the superintendent to use the proposed school budgets to create a school budget for the system (presumably, this is an “education budget;” see below).

Education Budgets. Under existing law and the first phase of the transition, the superintendent must submit a proposed operating budget for the system to the system board, which the board must review, amend, approve, and then submit to SBE, which SBE then must submit to OPM. Under the act, during phase two of the transition, the superintendent must instead prepare and submit an “education budget” to the executive director. The education budget must include (1) the school budget for each system school, (2) a statement of staffing needs for the schools, and (3) educational and school-based accounts and expenditures. The act defines these expenditures as funds used to (1) support instruction, programming, and curriculum within the system and (2) purchase supplies and equipment for school instruction.

The act requires the executive director to review the education budget and include it as part of the operating budget for the system (see below). The executive director must report any financial inconsistencies or irregularities discovered during the review to the OPM secretary, the Department of Administrative Services commissioner, and the Auditors of Public Accounts.

Central Office Budget. The act requires the executive director to prepare the system's central office budget, which must include (1) non-educational and central office accounts and expenditures and (2) a staffing needs statement for the central office. The executive director must include this budget as part of the overall system operating budget.

Overall System Operating Budget. Under existing law and phase one of the transition, the system board sends the superintendent's proposed system operating budget to SBE for review, and SBE then sends the budget to OPM with comments or recommendations for revisions. Under the act, in phase two the executive director must prepare a system operating budget and submit it directly to OPM in accordance with statutorily-prescribed guidelines.

Submission of Budget Documents. The act requires the executive director, rather than the system board, to annually submit a copy of the following documents to the Education and Appropriations committees as required under existing law: (1) an itemized school budget for each system school, including the statement of the staffing needs for each school; (2) the education budget; (3) the central office budget, including a statement of the office staffing needs; and (4) the system operating budget.

It also requires the executive director, rather than the superintendent, to semiannually submit the operating budget and expenses for each system school to OPM, the Office of Fiscal Analysis director, and the Education Committee.

Online Posting of Budget Documents. The act requires the executive director to post and update on the system website the system and central office operating budgets for the current school year. By law, unchanged by the act, the superintendent must post and update on the system website and on each system school's website the operating budget for each system school for the current school year.

Programmatic Offerings ( 2)

The act specifies that the system, rather than the system board as under prior law, offers programs in vocational, technical, technological, and postsecondary education and training.

11, 12 & 20 — ACCOUNTABILITY

Legislative Oversight ( 11)

The act adds an additional subject to the annual report the superintendent must deliver to the Education, Higher Education and Employment Advancement, and Labor committees under existing law. The superintendent must provide information about the steps the system is taking to become an independent agency, including the actions that the system board and superintendent have taken to create a budget process and maintain programmatic consistency for enrolled students.

Admissions Policy Review by SDE ( 12)

The act requires SDE to review the system's admissions policy on enrolling (1) students with disabilities and (2) students who are receiving or eligible to receive special education and related services. The review must consider the following:

1. applicable principles of state and federal law,

2. the purposes and public character of the system, and

3. enrollment data of students in the system receiving special education and related services compared to state and district averages.

By January 15, 2018, SDE must submit the review, along with recommendations about modifying the admissions policy or any applicable statute or regulation, to the system superintendent, the system board, and the Education Committee.

Auditors of Public Accounts ( 20)

The act requires the auditors, as often as they deem necessary, to examine the system's records and accounts. The auditors must report their findings in accordance with their statutorily prescribed duties.

13 & 14 — STANDARDS AND CURRICULUM

Programs Offered by Boards of Education ( 13)

The act requires SDE to develop and update as necessary, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, uniform standards and curriculum for all career technical education programs offered by local or regional boards of education. It allows the department to adopt existing uniform standards and curriculum and requires all standards and curriculum to be aligned with professional certification requirements. SDE must (1) make these standards and curriculum available to any board of education that offers a career technical education program and (2) provide technical assistance to help implement them.

Programs Offered by the Technical Education and Career System ( 14)

The act requires SDE to evaluate, within available appropriations, any existing standards relating to career technical education used by the system. The evaluation must examine whether the standards are (1) aligned with professional certification requirements and (2) uniform across the system. By October 1, 2018, SDE must report its findings and recommendations to the Education Committee.

15, 17 & 19 — EFFICIENCIES

Partnerships ( 15)

For the purpose of establishing partnerships, reducing redundancies, and consolidating programmatic offerings, the act requires the system superintendent, beginning in the 2017-18 school year, to consult with (1) each regional community-technical college and (2) the local or regional boards of education in towns that (a) host a technical high school and (b) offer any career technical education programs.

Inventories ( 17 & 19)

FYs 18 and 19. The act requires the system superintendent to create and maintain an inventory of all technical and vocational equipment, supplies, and materials purchased or obtained and used to provide career technical education in each system school. It requires the system board to consult this list at the following times: (1) during the preparation of the system budget; (2) before purchasing or obtaining any new equipment, supplies, or materials; and (3) for the purpose of sharing equipment, supplies, and materials among system schools.

FY 20. Beginning in FY 20 and every fiscal year thereafter, the act requires the executive director to instead complete the above inventory. It requires the executive director, rather than the system board, to consult this list at the same times and for the same purposes.

Inventories Performed by SBE. The act expands SBE's list of duties in existing law to include establishing and keeping an inventory account of real and personal state property with a value of $1,000 or more; securing such inventory to prevent theft or loss; and establishing controls over the disposal of such inventory. (As a state agency, SBE is already required to do this under existing law (CGS 4-36).)

Staff Training ( 18)

The act requires SDE, for FYs 18 and 19, to do the following:

1. provide training to individuals SDE employs within the system who will be responsible for performing central office and administrative functions for the system on and after July 1, 2019 (i.e., transition phase two) and

2. identify individuals within the system who can be trained to perform multiple functions or responsibilities for the system.

118 & 119 — TEACHER CERTIFICATION

The act requires SBE, on receiving a proper application, to issue an initial educator certificate (i.e., an entry-level certificate) to any applicant in the occupational subject endorsement area for vocational-technical schools who has completed six years of work experience in the field for which the certificate is to be endorsed. Work experience may include apprenticeship experience, as long as the applicant meets the statutory teacher certification requirements and state teacher certification regulation requirements.

The act also requires SDE to provide information and guidance to these applicants about how to present evidence that they have met these requirements when the applicant has completed an online program of study. SDE must make this information and guidance available on its website.