OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION.
This bill eliminates the State Department of Education's (SDE) Office of Early Childhood Planning, Outreach, and Coordination and some of its duties. It requires SDE to perform one of the eliminated duties: starting, not later than September 1, 2011, a statewide longitudinal evaluation of early childhood programs, in consultation with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and within available appropriations.
The bill transfers the responsibility for implementing an Early Childhood Education Information System and requirements for developing a communications outreach strategy from the Office of Early Childhood Planning to the Early Childhood Education Cabinet.
It also makes changes to the membership of the cabinet and expands the membership from 17 to 18 members.
EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2011
OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD PLANNING ELIMINATED AND SOME DUTIES TRANSFERRED
The bill eliminates the Office of Early Childhood Planning and its following duties:
1. planning, developing, and coordinating, with other agencies, the delivery of services to children from birth to nine years old;
2. developing and reporting on an early childhood accountability plan, in consultation with the cabinet; and
3. developing, coordinating, and supporting public and private partnerships to aid early childhood initiatives.
Longitudinal Evaluation of School Readiness Program
The bill requires SDE, in consultation with DSS and within available appropriations, to start a statewide longitudinal evaluation of early childhood programs by September 1, 2011. Under current law the early childhood office was to start the longitudinal evaluation by January 1, 2010. The provision transferring the evaluation takes effect July 1, 2011, but SDE has until September 1 to begin it.
The bill maintains the same definition of the longitudinal evaluation. It must examine the educational progress of children from pre-kindergarten programs to grade four, including a reliability and validity study of the kindergarten assessment tool required by law to measure the preparedness level of kindergarten children.
Early Childhood Information System
Under the bill, the Early Childhood Cabinet, rather than the early childhood office, must develop and implement an Early Childhood Information System capable of tracking (1) the health, safety, and school readiness of all children receiving early care and education from a local or regional board of education or any program receiving public funding and (2) the characteristics of these programs. The tracking is to be done in a manner similar to the existing public school information system.
By law, SDE must develop a public school information system that (1) assigns a unique student identifier to each student, (2) includes student transcript data, (3) includes assessments of student readiness to enter kindergarten, and (4) includes a number of other items (many focused on children older than the early childhood age range). The bill specifies that the information system being transferred to the cabinet be implemented in a manner similar to the public school information system described above. Presumably, this means it would capture the early childhood information described above as part of the public school information system.
The bill eliminates the specific requirement for Early Childhood Planning Office to assign a unique identifier for all children and staff. The bill's requirement that the early childhood information system be similar to the public school information system means it would include a unique identifier for children and teachers. Since existing law requires identifiers for all staff, a group that is larger than just certified teachers, the bill would not mandate capturing paraprofessionals or other educational employees working in early childhood
Under current law, the tracking system includes the characteristics of the existing and potential workforce employed in early childhood programs at school districts or in any publicly funded program. The bill removes this element.
The bill also requires the cabinet to implement an outreach communications strategy to families, service providers, and policymakers, which under current law, is a duty of the early childhood office.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CABINET MEMBERSHIP
The cabinet is made up of various department heads or their representatives, including SDE, DSS, and the Department of Public Health, plus legislators and representatives of prekindergarten programs.
The bill changes cabinet membership as follows, it:
1. replaces the mental health and addiction services commissioner or her designee, with the children and families commissioner,
2. changes the House minority leader's appointment from a Head Start program representative to a parent of a child attending a school readiness program, and
3. increases the gubernatorial appointments from one to two by adding a representative of the CT Head Start Association.
School readiness programs provide nonsectarian developmentally appropriate learning for children ages three and four (and five year olds who are not eligible to enroll in school or choose school readiness instead according to statute) at least 450 hours over at least 180 days, with some exceptions. The programs must meet state standards (CGS § 10-16p).
Early Childhood Cabinet's Duties to Satisfy Federal Head Start
The cabinet carries out various coordination and planning duties and submits annual reports to the legislature regarding the health, safety, and learning of children birth to nine years of age (CGS § 10-16z(b)). These duties are required to satisfy the federal Head Start Act of 2007 (P. L. 110-134).
Joint Favorable Substitute