On January 4, the 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly began. The session is scheduled to adjourn on June 7, 2017. One can assume that a plethora of proposed bills affecting Connecticut school districts will be unleashed during the session, most of which will never see the light of day.
The Education Committee will be the place where the “real” significant action initially occurs. Hearings on those bills deemed somewhat worthy by the Committee will likely take place in February and early March. While not yet firmly scheduled, the deadline for the Committee to approve and “forward” bills out of Committee will be sometime in mid-March. Of course, relevant bills may also emerge from other committees (such as the Judiciary Committee), and bills affecting labor and employment issues may emerge from the Labor and Public Employees Committee.
While we do not have a crystal ball, and while attempts to forecast the future may be especially more daunting in light of the closer balance in membership between the two major political parties, issues that are likely to be considered in this session include 1) continuing review of the teacher evaluation system and teacher professional development, 2) paraprofessional training, 3) further attempts at encouraging regionalization, and 4) review of and future plans for magnet schools. In addition, while on appeal and thus not final and binding, the trial court’s ruling in CCJEF v. Rell will almost certainly spur further discussion if not action with respect to significant revisions to the various mechanisms for the state’s funding of education (for example, education cost sharing grants, building grants, special education funding). At the same time, attempts to resolve the state’s continuing fiscal crisis will still likely predominate during this session, which will lead to further changes (if not actual reductions) in state aid. Indeed, in the backdrop of the twin demands of the state’s fiscal crisis and the CCJEF litigation, Governor Malloy is seeking to dedicate the shrinking pot of available state aid to the poorest school districts.
Education Law Notes will follow the action at the General Assembly and report on any significant developments as they may occur. Of course, there is always the potential for last minute surprises, including legislation emerging with little or no debate and the ever popular last minute “implementer” bill. Stay tuned.