OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1039

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION ISSUES.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes changes in education laws relating to (1) the State Education Resource Center (SERC); (2) health professionals authorized to perform school health assessments; (3) mandates on regional education service centers (RESCs); (4) school district reporting on efforts to address racial, ethnic, and economic isolation in schools; (5) the education commissioner's authority to renew international teacher permits; (6) the contents of annual school district expenditure reports; (7) the payment schedule for state interdistrict magnet school grants; and (8) annual financial audits for interdistrict magnet schools.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except for the provision relating to annual financial audits for interdistrict magnet schools, which is effective July 1, 2011.

1 — STATE EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER

The bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to “spin off” SERC as a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity. SERC, formerly the Special Education Resource Center, was established in 2005 to help the SBE provide programs and activities promoting educational equity and excellence. The bill eliminates this express purpose.

The bill continues to (1) require SERC to help the education commissioner in providing grants to districts with low-achieving schools and (2) allow it to support programs and activities concerning early childhood education, the federal No Child Left Behind Act, closing the achievement gap between socio-economic subgroups, and other related programs.

2 — SCHOOL HEALTH ASSESSMENTS BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AT MILITARY BASES

The bill allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants stationed on military bases to perform required health assessments for students attending public schools. Under current law, such APRNs and physician assistants may perform student assessments only if they are licensed in Connecticut.

The bill also allows licensed physicians (“legally qualified medical practitioners”) stationed on military bases to perform such health assessments. This does not appear to be a substantive change. The law already requires physicians performing student health assessments to be “legally qualified” but does not require that they be licensed under Connecticut law.

The bill does not change existing law allowing only Connecticut-licensed registered nurses to perform student health assessments.

3 — REGIONAL EDUCATION SERVICE CENTER MANDATES ELIMINATED

The bill eliminates requirements that each RESC (1) spend at least 6. 25% of its annual state operating grant to help school boards implement SBE-established educational goals and objectives and (2) support data collection and analysis on school district efforts to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation. RESCs must continue to support regional efforts to recruit and retain minority teachers.

4 — REPORTING ON EFFORTS TO REDUCE, RACIAL, ETHNIC AND ECONOMIC ISOLATION IN SCHOOLS

The bill simplifies the process and changes the schedule for required biennial school district reports on programs and activities to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation. Instead of requiring school districts to report to the RESCs and the RESCs to report to the education commissioner, the bill requires districts to report directly to the commissioner. It also changes the filing deadline for the district reports from July 1 to October 1 biennially, starting October 1, 2011.

By law, reports must include (1) information on the number of school district programs to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation; how long they last; and the number of students involved and (2) evidence that the district is making progress in reducing such isolation.

5 — INTERNATIONAL TEACHER PERMIT RENEWALS

The bill removes the limit on the number of times the education commissioner can renew a temporary international teacher permit at the request of a local or regional board of education. It allows the commissioner to renew a permit as long as, at the time of the renewal, the international teacher maintains a valid J-1 visa (see BACKGROUND). Under current law, the commissioner is limited to a maximum of two one-year renewals in the two years after issuing the permit.

An international teacher permit allows a qualified foreign teacher to teach in a public school in a subject shortage area identified by the education commissioner. The permit is valid for one year and is issued only at a school board's request.

6-8 — SCHOOL DISTRICT ANNUAL EXPENDITURE REPORTS

School districts must report specified annual education expenditures to the state for purposes of state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) and other state education grants. Among the expenditures they must include when reporting net current, regular, and current program expenditures are debt service payments.

The bill eliminates a requirement that districts adjust reported debt service expenditures to amortize principal payments according to a State Department of Education (SDE)-approved schedule based on substantially equal installment payments over the life of the debt. The amortized debt payments were used in calculating district ECS minimum expenditure requirements (MERs), but are now obsolete. The MER was replaced by the minimum budget requirement (MBR) in 2005.

9 — PAYMENT SCHEDULE FOR INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL GRANTS

The bill adjusts the payment schedule for state magnet school operating grants. It requires SDE to pay 70%, rather than 50%, of the grant by September 1, and the balance on May 1, instead of January 1, annually. Under both the current law and the bill, if a magnet school's actual enrollment is lower than projected in its approved grant application, SDE must adjust the second payment to reflect actual enrollment on the preceding October 1. But, under the bill, SDE must base the adjustment on revisions of October 1 enrollment data as of the following March 1.

In cases where the magnet school's annual financial audit shows a grant overpayment, the bill also requires SDE to adjust the May payment based on the difference between the prior year's total grant and the current year's preliminary grant amount.

10 — INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL ANNUAL FINANCIAL AUDITS

The bill requires all interdistrict magnet schools, not just those operated by RESCs, to file annual financial audits with the education commissioner.

BACKGROUND

J-1 Visa

A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa provided to foreign visitors who fall under the “Exchange Visitor” designation and are allowed to come to the United States to promote mutual educational and cultural exchanges. The visitor's sponsor must be accredited through the U. S. State Department's Exchange Visitor Program. Among those who qualify for J-1 status through the program are high school, college, and graduate students; business and flight aviation trainees; primary and secondary school teachers; college professors; research scholars; and medical residents and interns receiving U. S. medical training.

Qualifications for an International Teacher Permit

To qualify for the international teacher permit, a teacher must:

1. hold a J-1 visa from the State Department;

2. teach in the U. S. either under a memorandum of understanding between Connecticut and the teacher's home country or as part of the Exchange Visitor Program run by the State Department's Teacher Exchange Branch;

3. have the equivalent of a bachelor's degree from a higher education institution regionally accredited by a foreign accrediting agency recognized by the education commissioner;

4. have the degree with either (a) a major in, or closely related to, the subject he or she is to teach or (b) an unrelated major plus successful completion of an SBE-approved teacher test in that subject;

5. have completed, in his or her home country, the equivalent of a regionally accredited teacher preparation program; and

6. successfully complete an English oral proficiency exam approved by the education commissioner.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

30

Nay

0

(03/02/2011)