OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1039 (File 111, as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION ISSUES.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes changes in education laws relating to (1) health professionals authorized to perform school health assessments; (2) mandates on regional education service centers (RESCs); (3) school district reporting on efforts to address racial, ethnic, and economic isolation in schools; (4) the education commissioner's authority to renew international teacher permits; (5) the contents of annual school district expenditure reports; (6) the payment schedule for state interdistrict magnet school grants; (7) annual financial audits for interdistrict magnet schools; (8) Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructors and assistant instructors working in schools; (9) approving applications for, and funding, charter schools; and (10) a program allowing national corps of teachers' training program graduates to teach under special state-issued durational shortage area permits (DSAPs) in certain school districts.

*Senate Amendment “A” eliminates a provision requiring the State Board of Education (SBE) to “spin off” the State Education Resource Center as a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity. It adds the provisions relating to JROTC instructors and assistant instructors, charter schools, and the national teacher corps program.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except for the provisions concerning (1) annual financial audits for interdistrict magnet schools and (2) the national corps of teachers' training program graduates, which are effective July 1, 2011.

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.

501 — JROTC PROGRAM INSTRUCTORS WORKING IN SCHOOLS

The bill overrides statutory requirements requiring a public school teacher to be certified to allow a board of education to employ as a JROTC Program instructor or assistant instructor in a school anyone who is certified as such by the U. S. armed forces (see BACKGROUND).

502 — TIME LIMIT FOR REVIEWING STATE CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICATION

The bill extends, from 75 to 90 days after it receives the application, the deadline for the SBE to review and approve or disapprove an application to establish a state charter school.

A state charter school is a nonsectarian public school organized as a nonprofit corporation and operated independently of a local or regional board of education. The SBE grants and renews the charters, usually for five years and, as part of the charter, may waive certain statutory requirements applicable to other public schools.

503 — NEW CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING PRIORITIES

By law, SBE must approve new charter schools, and if in any year it approves more than one, must prioritize those that receive funding according to several factors listed in priority order in the law. The bill adds a new prioritization factor to the list, gives the new factor the highest priority, and applies the priority requirements to local as well as state charter schools.

Current law requires SBE to determine the order in which newly approved charter schools are funded by applying the following factors in the following order of importance:

1. whether the applicant has a demonstrated record of achievement;

2. whether the school is located in a district with a demonstrated need for student improvement; and

3. whether the applicant has plans for preparing facilities, staff, and outreach to students.

The bill adds, as the most important factor, the quality of the school's proposed program as measured against criteria required by the statutory charter school application process. It does not change the existing factors or their order of priority in relation to one another.

504 — DURATIONAL SHORTAGE AREA PERMITS FOR NATIONAL TEACHER CORPS GRADUATES

The bill extends, from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2015, the sunset date for a program allowing qualified graduates of a national teacher corps training program (such as Teach for America) to work under special durational shortage area permits (DSAPs) issued by SDE in certain school districts.

The special DSAPs for teacher corps graduates allow them to work at the elementary or secondary level in regular public and charter schools in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven and in state charter schools in Stamford. By law, when issuing the special DSAPs, SBE must first meet the needs of schools run by the Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven boards of education and second, the needs of charter schools in those districts plus Stamford.

A DSAP is a temporary public school teaching credential issued by SBE at the request of a local board of education. It allows an uncertified person to teach in a particular position for which no suitable certified teacher is available. The special DSAPs for national teacher corps graduates are valid for one year and can be renewed once. To qualify for the special permit, graduates must (1) be enrolled in an SBE-approved teacher preparation or alternative route to certification program in the subject they are teaching and (2) have completed at least 12 semester hours of credit in, or passed the SBE-approved test for, the subject they are teaching.

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.

JROTC INSTRUCTORS AND ASSISTANT INSTRUCTORS

JROTC programs train high school cadets in citizenship; promote community service; and instill responsibility, character, and self discipline. Students who participate receive high school credit. JROTC instructors and assistant instructors are retired military members and must meet standards for such positions established by their service branch. Instructors must be retired officers and have at least a bachelor's degree, with a master's degree and teaching experience preferred. Assistant instructors must be retired noncommissioned officers with at least 20 years of active duty, a high school diploma or equivalent, and must obtain an associate's degree within five years of JROTC employment.

Instructors and assistant instructors must also meet physical requirements and possess high standards of military bearing, appearance, and moral character.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

30

Nay

0

(03/02/2011)

Public Health Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

22

Nay

0

(04/19/2011)