A Sneak Peak at the State Department of Education’s Legislative Proposals

LR-conn-statehouse-dome-11x17-72dpiThe General Assembly is back in session.  This year is an even-year, short-session, which means that pursuant to Article Third, Section Two of the Connecticut Constitution, the business of the General Assembly is limited to consideration of “budgetary, revenue and financial matters, bills and resolutions raised by committees of the general assembly and those matters certified in writing by the speaker of the house of representatives.”

As the session unfolds, Education Law Notes will strive to keep you abreast of significant legislative developments that will likely have an impact on public education.  To that end, we thought we would start with a brief of overview of the State Department of Education’s [“SDE”] draft legislative proposals.

If you weren’t already aware, the State Office of Policy and Management solicits and posts on its website the legislative proposals of many state agencies, the link to which is here.  The draft proposals are, of course, just that — draft proposals; consequently, they are subject to change.  Nonetheless, they provide a good preview of potential legislative changes.

The SDE’s proposals are relatively bare-bones in comparison to the massive legislative reform efforts we have seen in recent years.  There are only five proposals listed.  Here are some highlights from each:

  • An Act Concerning Minor Revisions:  Don’t judge a book by its cover; despite the name, this proposal contemplates some fairly significant statutory changes.  Amongst other revisions, the draft bill would:  1) eliminate the yearly requirement that Regional Education Service Centers provide the SDE by April 15 of each year with a list of the available open seats that are eligible to be filled through the Open Choice program; 2) eliminate the current requirement under Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-226h that boards of education provide biennial reports to the Commissioner of Education about local efforts to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation; 3) delay by one year a reduction of the maximum tuition that Vo-Ag centers can charge sending districts; and 4) push back from June 30 to September 15 the deadline by which superintendents must report annual summative ratings to the Commissioner of Education.
  • An Act Making Local and State Charter Schools More Accountable and Transparent:  As stated in the SDE’s summary, this proposed act will seek to “equalize” state and local charter schools.  For reference, “state” charter schools are new public schools whose operating charters are granted by the State Board of Education.  “Local” charter schools are public schools or parts of public schools that are converted into charter schools and have their charters granted by both the State Board of Education and local or regional board of education.  At present, the only local charter school in Connecticut is the Elm City Montessori School in New Haven.

The proposed bill includes new disclosure and governing council requirements for local charters, but also makes local charters eligible for state capital grants.  Another very interesting provision would extend per-student local charter school grants for full-day pre-school students.  The pre-school grant would be capped at $4,000 and subject to available appropriations.

  • An Act Concerning the Connecticut Technical High School System:  Extends certain educational grant eligibility to the Technical High School System.
  • An Act Concerning the Sale of Beverages:  This proposed act would amend Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-221q, which specifies which beverages public school students in Connecticut may purchase at school cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, etc. during the school day.  As you might imagine, artificial sweeteners, added sodium and the like are on the chopping-block.
  • An Act Concerning Magnet Schools:  This proposed act would allow inter-district magnet schools to remain eligible for operating grants even if they are temporarily out of compliance with minority enrollment requirements due to later statutory changes in the definition of “diversity” as a result of ongoing Sheff v. O’Neill negotiations.

As noted, whether any or all of these proposed changes will ultimately become law is anyone’s guess.  Nevertheless, Education Law Notes will keep you posted.