Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly: The Education Committee Begins to Speak
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At its March 10, 2023 meeting, the General Assembly’s Education Committee began the process of approving bills.  The following is a brief summary of the bills that the Committee voted favorably on and advanced out of Committee for further consideration.   

S.B. No. 1095:  An Act Concerning School Resource Officers. This bill, as presently phrased, would amend the current law requiring memoranda of understanding between school districts and local law enforcement agencies with respect to school resource officers by requiring that such memoranda 1) be maintained in a central location in the school district and posted on the websites of the district and the school in which the school resource officer is assigned, and 2) include provisions specifying a school resource officer's duties concerning (and procedures for) the restraint of students, use of firearms and school-based arrests.

S.B. No. 1097: An Act Concerning School Nurses. This bill would require the State Board of Education by July 1, 2024 to adopt regulations to 1) require each school nurse to complete at least 15 hours of professional development programs or activities approved by the school district in each two-year period, and 2) create a special services endorsement for school nurses.

H.B. No. 6663: An Act Establishing The English Learners' Bill Of Rights. This bill would require the State Board of Education to draft a written “bill of rights” for parents or guardians of students who are English learners to guarantee that the rights of such parents and students are safeguarded and protected in the provision of bilingual education. The bill of rights is to include the following rights for English learner students: 1) The right to attend a public school regardless of the student's (or parent’s) immigration status and without having to submit immigration documentation; 2) The right to have translation services provided a) by a certified interpreter who is present in person or available by telephone or online technology, or b) through the Internet or other electronic application during “critical interactions” with teachers and administrators (for example, parent-teacher conferences, meetings with school administrators in which such child is attending, and meetings of or with members of the board of education); 3) The right to participate in a program of bilingual education offered by the school district when there are 20 or more eligible students classified as dominant in a language other than English; 4) The right of a parent or guardian of an English learner student to receive written notice (in both English and the parent’s dominant language) that such student is eligible to participate in a program of bilingual education or English as a new language program; 5) The right of an English learner student and their parent or guardian to receive a “high quality” orientation session in their dominant language from the school district that provides information relating to state standards, tests and expectations at the school for English learner students, as well as the goals and requirements for programs of bilingual education and English as a new language, prior to participation in such programs; 6) The right of the parent or guardian of an English learner student to receive information about the progress of a student's English language development and acquisition; 7) The right of an English learner student and their parent or guardian to meet with school personnel to discuss such student's English language development and acquisition; 8) The right to be placed in a program of bilingual education or English as a new language, if offered by the school district; 9) The right to have equal access to all grade-level school programming and core grade-level subject matter; 10) The right to receive annual language proficiency testing; 11) The right to receive support services aligned with any intervention plan that the school or school district provides to all students; 12) The right to be continuously and annually enrolled in a program of bilingual education or English as a new language while such student remains an eligible student; and 13) The right of a parent or guardian of an English learner student to contact the State Department of Education with any questions or concerns regarding the student's right to receive English learner services or accommodations available to such student or parent or guardian, including information regarding any recourse for failure of the board of education to provide or ensure such services or accommodations.

Commencing July 1, 2024, and each school year thereafter, each school district providing a program of bilingual education or English as a new language shall 1) provide the parents and guardians of eligible students with a copy of the English learner bill of rights in the dominant language of such parents and guardians, and 2) make such copies of the English learner bill of rights available on the district’s website.

S.B. No. 1164: An Act Concerning A Review Of The Regulations Relating To Education. This bill would broadly require the State Department to submit to the General Assembly’s Education Committee by January 1, 2024 a review of its regulations. 

S.B. No. 1165: An Act Concerning Financial Literacy Instruction. This bill would require the teaching of financial management and literacy instruction in the schools and would require all students graduating from high school on or after 2027 to earn one-half credit in personal financial management and financial literacy.

H.B. No. 6760: An Act Concerning Civics Education And Media Literacy. This bill would establish the “Connecticut Civics Education and Media Literacy Task Force” to study and develop strategies to improve how public schools provide instruction on civics, citizenship, media literacy and American government. Such study shall include, but need not be limited to: 1) reviewing existing curricula and the high school graduation requirements, 2) receiving recommendations from educators, administrators and the public, 3) a review of best practices, and 4) exploring the feasibility of establishing public and private partnerships to fund and support enhancements to such instruction. This bill also would include “civics and media literacy” in the required course of study in the public schools.

H.B. No. 6763: An Act Concerning An Audit Of The State-Wide Mastery Examination. As the title suggests, the bill would require the Commissioner of Education to conduct an audit of the administration of the state-wide mastery examination. This audit shall focus on the time, materials, costs and resources, by grade level and examination, expended by the State Department of Education and school districts in administering the state-wide mastery examination.

H.B. No. 6758: An Act Concerning Staffing For Certain Roles At The Department Of Education. This bill would require the State Department of Education to employ: 1) not fewer than five special education evaluators for the purpose of reviewing the special education services provided by school districts and evaluating complaints related to such services and 2) at least one curriculum coordinator to provide assistance and curriculum materials to school districts for the implementation of the courses of study required by state statute.

H.B. No. 6842: An Act Concerning The Establishment Of A Local Food For Schools Incentive Program And Expansion Of The CT Grown For CT Kids Grant Program. This bill would require the State Department of Education, in consultation with the State Department of Agriculture, to administer the “Local Food for Schools Incentive Program.” This program would provide reimbursement payments to eligible boards of education for the purchase of locally sourced food and regionally sourced food that may be used as part of a board's participation in an eligible meal program.

H.B. No. 6843: An Act Concerning The Career Technical And Education System. This bill would require the superintendent of the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System and the Chief Workforce Officer to jointly study whether the programs offered by the System provide the necessary training required to fill the technical careers available in our state. Such study shall include, but need not be limited to, an evaluation of: 1) the skills or certifications required to fill available jobs, 2) any deficiencies in the training or availability of equipment at the technical education and career schools to teach the skills required for these available jobs, and 3) opportunities to partner with employers or labor organizations in our state to provide relevant apprenticeships or internships to students.  The Superintendent and Chief Workforce Officer shall submit to the General Assembly’s Education Committee by January 1, 2024 a report (with recommendations) on this study. 

S.B. No. 1029 An Act Concerning The Legislative Commissioners' Recommendations For Technical Revisions To The Education And Early Childhood Statutes. As the title suggests, this bill would make various “technical” revisions to the education and early childhood statutes.

The deadline for the Education Committee to approve bills and advance them out of committee is March 27, 2023.  Bills affecting education issues may also emerge from other committees (such as the Children Committee).  The 2023 regular session of the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on June 7, 2023, so stay tuned to see if any of these bills are eventually enacted.

Please contact any of Pullman & Comley's School Law attorneys if you have any questions.

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