Education Bills before the Connecticut General Assembly
As the 2009 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly proceeds, there are now nearly fifty education bills proposed in the Senate and nearly one hundred such bills proposed in the House. While only a small number of bills ever see the light of day, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of these bills.
I have broken bills into my views about appropriate sections and added my commentary on the bills. I’ve only gotten through about three quarters of the Senate bills, and this has gotten to be very long. However, I hope this is interesting and will get others to think about bills before their state legislatures.
While the topics suggested sound reasonable, I’m not sure that the legislators are the people that I want designing school curricula. For each new thing required, how does this affect what else is being taught? That said, one proposal seems particularly interesting:
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to establish a state-wide recommended elementary, middle and high school curriculum to reduce costs and eliminate duplication of services.
My first reaction to this was that I didn’t think it was a great idea. I like local schools to be able to adjust curricula based on the needs of the community. Yet to the extent that these would be recommended curricula instead of required curricula, I can see the benefit of this in terms of providing a benchmark and a starting point for discussions about what works best in each town.
That section 10-221a of the general statutes be amended to require high school students to take one full credit in the arts in order to be eligible for graduation.
I’m a big supporter of arts education and hope that such a requirement be included in the recommended curriculum described above, but I’m not convinced it should be a hard and fast graduation requirement.
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to require that instruction in child development, child safety and parenting skills be included in the health curriculum in high school and the family and consumer sciences curriculum in middle school. Such instruction shall emphasize the needs of children birth to age five and may be provided online or through attendance at an accredited child development course or parenting skills course taught in the community.
That section 10-16b of the general statutes be amended to require all public high schools in the state to include a concise, thirty-minute curriculum that educates students about the basics of home mortgage lending, excessive speculation and the dangers of excessive debt. Such course shall be taught as part of an appropriate course by any faculty member in a relevant subject area, such as mathematics or home economics, and may be available online.
Wow! Get high school kids to understand the basics of home mortgage lending, excessive speculation and the dangers of excessive debt in just thirty minutes. I want to see the Senator that proposed that do the first couple sessions.
That section 10-221a of the general statutes be amended to include in the high school graduation requirements a one-half credit requirement in money and debt management and economics.
This sounds a little more reasonable than the suggestion above, yet still, I think it would be better as part of a recommended curriculum instead of a hard and fast graduation requirement.
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to include in the curriculum of schools instruction regarding Internet safety and online sexual predator awareness.
While I applaud the intent of this bill, I’m not sure that it is effectively addressing the real problems. First, it is my understanding that in most cases there are already requirements for teaching Internet safety in order to receive various grants, such as with the Federal E-Rate program. Beyond that the Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force seems to indicate that bullying, both online and offline is the more frequent threat and that most victims of sexual predation “involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity”.
Hopefully any instruction regarding Internet safety will take into consideration the task force’s report and help students address aspects of appropriate behavior in all aspects of their lives.
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to integrate teen dating violence education into the health curriculum of schools.
This actually sounds like a better proposal than the one on Internet safety. Actually, it would make more sense for these to be combined into a more comprehensive bill about teaching appropriate behavior.
This is a hot area. The topic of in-school suspensions is one that people like to argue about. Then, there is the Doninger case.
In school suspensions were the subject of several bills.
That section 10-233c of the general statutes be amended to eliminate the requirement for in-school suspensions.
This was the text of at least two different bills in the Senate.
Another version says:
That section 10-233c of the general statutes be amended to provide local and regional boards of education with discretion to administer in-school suspensions or out-of-school suspensions.
I’m not sure how making it optional is really any different than eliminating it.
That section 10-233c of the general statutes be amended to delay for two years the implementation of the in-school suspension requirement.
Or make it optional, providing there are other effective plans.
That section 10-233c of the general statutes be amended to allow local and regional boards of education to opt out of the in-school suspension requirement provided such board has adopted an effective plan to minimize out-of-school suspensions.
Personally, I like this option the best.
That section 10-233h of the general statutes be amended to permit municipal police departments to share information about enrolled students involved in criminal activity and issues involving a student who has been adjudicated as a child from a family with service needs with the superintendent of schools of the school district in which such student resides. It is further proposed that such superintendent be permitted to share such information with such police departments.
I don’t know enough about what is currently done right now, and what the bill would change to be able to comment. On the surface this sounds like a good idea, but I do worry about the privacy rights of students.
That sections 10-233c and 10-233d of the general statutes be amended to prohibit school authorities from punishing students for the content of electronic correspondence transmitted outside of school facilities or with school equipment, provided such content is not a threat to students, personnel or the school.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you should know my opinion on this. If our schools and our courts upheld the First Amendment, we wouldn’t need such a bill. However, they don’t and this bill is sorely needed.
Clearly, funding of schools is a very big issue. All kinds of different ideas are presented. Some seem straight forward and reasonable. Others seem to be pushing a particular agenda, independent of whether it is really the best approach.
That chapter 166 of the general statutes be amended to require principals of public schools to spend one-half day each school year visiting a charter school of the same education level.
I suspect that Boards of Education and the school administrations are much better equipped to determine what sort of additional training principals should receive. To the extent that Charter schools can be shown to bring improvements, then principals should seek to learn from them. On the other hand, perhaps we should require principals of charter schools to visit public schools. At the same time, maybe we should require principals of public and charter schools to visit magnet schools or even parochial schools.
Or maybe, we should let educators work together, without the interference of the legislature to find the best of every different type of school. As an aside, for those interested in more information on charter schools, please check Connecticut Charter School Evaluation
That section 10-262f of the general statutes be amended to remove from the definition of "total need students" the provision that reduces by one-quarter the number of resident students of the town for the school year enrolled in full-time approved interdistrict magnet school programs.
This gets into the arcane subject of the Educational Cost Sharing Formula (ECS). My gut feeling is that this is a good idea, but I don’t fully understand ECS. I’m not sure who does.
That the general statutes be amended to allow the town of Hamden to reduce the number of its own students attending the Wintergreen Magnet School to less than fifty-five per cent over the next three to five years.
I don’t know why they shouldn’t be allowed to do this, but I don’t know what the real issues are there. Perhaps this is more ECS stuff.
That the State Bond Commission be empowered to authorize the issuance of bonds of the state in accordance with section 3-20 of the general statutes, in principal amounts not exceeding in the aggregate one million dollars, the proceeds of which shall be used by the State Department of Education for the purpose of providing grants-in-aid to nonpublic schools for purchasing and installing security infrastructure, including, but not limited to, security cameras, entry buzzers, metal detectors, panic alarms and scan cards.
I have mixed feelings about this. Why is it limited to security? What sort of oversight will be used to make sure that such systems are appropriate, appropriately bid for, appropriately installed and so on?
That the sum of three million dollars be appropriated to the State Department of Education, from the General Fund, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, for purposes of establishing a textbook loan program for students that are residents of Connecticut attending nonpublic schools.
Same concerns as expressed about the bond program above.
That section 10-264l of the general statutes be amended to establish a date in which students shall notify the local or regional board of education otherwise responsible for educating such student that such student will be attending an interdistrict magnet school during the next school year. Such date shall be prior to the finalization of local and regional school districts' budgets.
On the surface, I can understand why people would like this. It would be nice to know ahead of time how many people are going to be in school. However, this really doesn’t address the problem. People move. People decide to send their kids to private school, or take their kids out of private school and place them in public schools. Many variables affect class size. By reducing the choices available to parents, we might be able to decrease the variations in class sizes a little bit, but not enough to warrant the limits it puts on parents.
That section 10-264l of the general statutes be amended to require that only those districts participating in an interdistrict magnet school that has a prekindergarten program pay for such prekindergarten tuition costs, except that any student currently enrolled in such a program whose tuition is paid for by a nonparticipating district be allowed to continue in such program and that such student's tuition be capped at the current tuition rate
This seems like a basic fairness issue. We shouldn’t make districts that aren’t using a service pay for the service. On the other hand, given the importance of prekindergarten programs, perhaps we should make it simpler by requiring all school districts to participate in prekindergarten programs.
That chapters 164 and 172 of the general statutes be amended to require full funding of existing school readiness programs and reestablish funding for early reading programs in the priority school districts.
That sounds like a more reasonable approach than the prekindergarten proposal above.
That chapters 164 and 170 of the general statutes be amended to require the regionalization of school district governance and functions to reduce costs and eliminate duplication of services.
On the surface, this sounds like it has some merit. The problem is in the details. Hopefully, this idea will be expanded upon so its merits can better be considered.
That section 10-222 of the general statutes be amended to require that proposed budgets submitted to town budget-making authorities by local and regional boards of education include: (1) Estimated amounts of federal funds the board of education expects to receive, and (2) allocations equal to the amounts of such estimated federal funds. It is further proposed that there be a specific accounting of federal funds expenditures in the local or regional board of education's annual report to the town.
This one sounds good to me. I like to see transparency. I’m curious about what the downsides might be.
That chapter 173 of the general statutes be amended to include the conversion of a school building to alternative energy as an eligible project cost for purposes of the school building project grant.
You mean conversion of a school building to alternative energy isn’t already an eligible project cost for purposes of the school building project grant? I can’t see why it isn’t or why this shouldn’t be supported. Yet reading more of the bills, I find another one to “allow Shelton Upper Elementary School to utilize their state school construction grant for alternative energy”.
How should teachers be certified? What sort of continuing education should be provided?
That section 10-145b of the general statutes be amended to suspend the requirement that local and regional boards of education provide eighteen hours of professional development activities for continuing education credit for teachers.
This bill might fit better under funding, but it seems to me to fit better under a category about teachers. Should school districts be required to provide continuing education for teachers? Personally, I think they should and don’t think it is a good idea to suspend the requirement.
That section 10-145b of the general statutes be amended to permit reciprocity for teacher certification with those states that have similar or higher standards than the state of Connecticut.
Sounds like a good idea.
That section 10-145b of the general statutes be amended to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the requirement that an applicant seeking certification who participates in an alternate route to certification program hold a bachelor's degree with a major either in or closely related to the certification endorsement area, provided such applicant has achieved a sufficiently high score on Praxis II as determined by the commissioner.
This also sounds like a good idea. I’m a big supporter of alternate routes to certification.
That section 10-153f of the general statutes be amended to include changed or forecasted economic conditions as a factor to be considered in the financial capability of the town or towns to pay an arbitration award during the arbitration of education contracts.
This probably fits as well under funding, as it does under teachers. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but it does get into the very complicated issues of what teachers should get paid, and I’ll reserve judgment on this.
Boards of Education
That section 10-218 of the general statutes be amended to allow students to serve as nonvoting members on local and regional boards of education.
Great idea. If anything, I would propose a friendly amendment that the statutes should be amended to allow and encourage students to serve. Also, I would be inclined to strike ‘nonvoting’. Let each district decide to what extent the student board members might participate.
That section 7-192a of the general statutes, prohibiting adoption of charter provisions re nomination of candidates, be amended to authorize towns to provide for nonpartisan members of the local board of education.
Sounds like a good idea to me. I don’t see Boards of Education as having any strong reasons to be particularly partisan.
That section 10-15 of the general statutes be amended to establish a state-wide, uniform school start date that shall be after Labor Day, commencing in 2010.
I don’t see anything particularly bad about this. However, I don’t see it addressing any real problem, and I’d just as soon let local schools make their own decisions.
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to prohibit regularly scheduled instruction classes before 8:00 a.m. in any public high school.
While I can understand why people might want high school classes not to start before 8:00 a.m., I don’t think it should be prohibited. It seems like overkill.
That sections 12-701 and 12-701a of the general statutes be amended to allow taxpayers to deduct contributions to any qualified 529 plan.
I don’t know enough about what this is really changing to comment upon it.
That the general statutes be amended to provide that, notwithstanding section 10-10a of the general statutes, the State Department of Education may release the data generated by the state-wide public school information system database to a third party for the purposes of allowing such third party to conduct research and track student performance and achievement.
To the extent that all such data is properly scrubbed ahead of any information that could be used to identify individual students, this is probably a good idea.
That chapter 164 of the general statutes be amended to eliminate Connecticut Mastery Test scores as criteria for admission to regional vocational-technical schools.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of standardized tests, so I lean towards supporting this, but I don’t know enough about the issues to have a strong opinion.
That section 10-15c of the general statutes be amended to require a child to be five years of age by September first of the year such child enters school.
Fiona’s birthday is in October. Depending on the school, she could have started kindergarten at four years and eleven months and be one of the youngest students, or at five years and eleven months and be one of the older students. Since she was in a good preschool, we opted to let her have another year in preschool. I’m glad we had the choice, and I tend to be against this bill in that it limits parents’ choices. In addition, while the title references kindergarten, the text does not, and we should have children entering school in prekindergarten.