Substitute House Bill No. 6832

Public Act No. 99-230

An Act Concerning School Readiness.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 10-16p of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) As used in sections 10-16o to 10-16r, inclusive, [and] as amended by this act, section 17b-749a, as amended by this act and section 17b-749c, as amended by this act:

(1) "School readiness program" means a nonsectarian program that (A) meets the standards set by the department pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and the requirements of section 10-16q, as amended by this act, and (B) provides a developmentally appropriate learning experience of not less than four hundred fifty hours and one hundred eighty days for eligible children, provided, for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1998, and June 30, 1999, the commissioner may approve programs that provide learning experiences which are for less than said hours and days;

(2) "Eligible children" means children three and four years of age and children five years of age who are not eligible to enroll in school pursuant to section 10-15c, [provided no child shall participate in a school readiness program for more than two years] or who are eligible to enroll in school and will attend a school readiness program pursuant to section 9 of this act;

(3) "Priority school" means a school in which forty per cent or more of the lunches served are served to students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, excluding such a school located in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p;

(4) "Severe need school" means a school in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p in which forty per cent or more of the lunches served are served to students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches;

(5) "Accredited" means accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a Head Start on-site program review instrument or a successor instrument pursuant to federal regulations, or otherwise meeting such criteria as may be established by the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services;

(6) "Approved" means meeting the criteria established by the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services;

(7) "Year-round" means fifty weeks per year;

[(7)] (8) "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Education; and

[(8)] (9) "Department" means the Department of Education.

(b) The Department of Education shall be the lead agency for school readiness. School readiness program providers eligible for funding from the Department of Education shall include local and regional boards of education, regional educational service centers, family resource centers and providers of child day care centers, as defined in section 19a-77, Head Start programs, preschool programs and other programs that meet such standards established by the Commissioner of Education. The department shall establish standards for school readiness programs. The standards may include, but need not be limited to, guidelines for staff-child interactions, curriculum content, lesson plans, parent involvement, staff qualifications and training, and administration. The department shall develop age-appropriate developmental skills and goals for children attending such programs. The commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioners of Higher Education and Social Services and other appropriate entities, shall develop a continuing education training program for the staff of school readiness programs.

(c) The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services, shall establish a grant program to provide spaces in accredited or approved school readiness programs for eligible children who reside in priority school districts pursuant to section 10-266p. Under the program, the grant shall be provided, in accordance with this section, to the town in which such priority school district is located. Eligibility shall be determined for a five-year period based on an applicant's designation as a priority school district for the initial year of application. Grant awards shall be made annually contingent upon available funding and a satisfactory annual evaluation. The chief elected official of such town and the superintendent of schools for such priority school district shall submit a plan for the expenditure of grant funds and responses to the local request for proposal process to the Departments of Education and Social Services. The departments shall jointly review such plans and shall each approve the portion of such plan within its jurisdiction for funding. The plan shall: (1) Be developed in consultation with the local school readiness council established pursuant to section 10-16r, as amended by this act; (2) be based on a needs and resource assessment; (3) provide for the issuance of requests for proposals for providers of accredited or approved school readiness programs, provided, after the initial requests for proposals, facilities approved to operate a child care program financed through the Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority and who have received a commitment for debt service from the Department of Social Services pursuant to section 17b-749i, are exempt from the requirement for issuance of annual requests for proposals; and (4) identify the need for funding pursuant to section 17b-749a in order to extend the hours and days of operation of school readiness programs in order to provide child day care services for children attending such programs.

(d) The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Services, shall establish a competitive grant program to provide spaces in accredited or approved school readiness programs for eligible children who reside in an area served by a priority school. A town in which such a school is located or a regional school readiness council, pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-16r, as amended by this act, for a region in which such a school is located may apply for such a grant in an amount not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars per priority school. Eligibility shall be determined for a five-year period based on an applicant's designation as having a priority school for the initial year of application. Grant awards shall be made annually contingent upon available funding and a satisfactory annual evaluation. The chief elected official of such town and the superintendent of schools of the school district or the regional school readiness council shall submit a plan, as described in subsection (c) of this section, for the expenditure of such grant funds to the Department of Education. In awarding grants pursuant to this subsection, the commissioner shall give preference to applications submitted by regional school readiness councils. A town or regional school readiness council awarded a grant pursuant to this subsection shall use the funds to purchase spaces for such children from providers of accredited or approved school readiness programs.

(e) (1) [Eighty-five] Ninety-three per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section shall be used for the grant program pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. Priority school districts shall receive grants based on their proportional share of the sum of the products obtained by multiplying the number of enrolled kindergarten students in each priority school district for the year prior to the year the grant is to be paid, by the ratio of the average percentage of free and reduced price meals for all severe need schools in such district to the minimum percentage requirement for severe need school eligibility.

(2) [Fourteen] Six and five-tenths per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section shall be used for the competitive grant program pursuant to subsection (d) of this section.

(3) The Department of Education may retain up to five-tenths of one per cent of the amount appropriated for purposes of this section for coordination, program evaluation and administration.

(4) If a town that is eligible for a grant pursuant to subsection (c) of this section does not submit, by January first, a plan which is subsequently approved for the expenditure of the entire amount of funds for which such town is eligible, the department may use up to ten per cent of any amounts such town has not earmarked for expenditure to provide supplemental grants to other towns that are eligible for grants pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.

(f) Any school readiness program that receives funds pursuant to this section shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion or disability. For purposes of this section, a nonsectarian program means any public or private school readiness program that is not violative of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut or the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States of America.

(g) [No] Subject to the provisions of this subsection, no funds received by a town pursuant to subsection (c) or (d) of this section shall be used to supplant federal, state or local funding received by such town for early childhood education, provided (1) a town may use up to five per cent but no more than fifty thousand dollars of the amount received pursuant to subsection (c) or (d) of this section for coordination, program evaluation and administration, and (2) if a town provides twenty-five thousand dollars in local funding for early childhood education coordination, program evaluation and administration, such town may use up to ten per cent but no more than seventy-five thousand dollars of such amount for coordination, program evaluation and administration. Each town that receives a grant pursuant to said subsection (c) or (d) shall designate a person to be responsible for such coordination, program evaluation and administration and to act as a liaison between the town and the Departments of Education and Social Services. Each school readiness program that receives funds pursuant to this section shall provide information to the department or the school readiness council, as requested, that is necessary for purposes of any school readiness program evaluation.

(h) For the fiscal years ending June 30, 1998, [and] June 30, 1999, and June 30, 2000, grants pursuant to this section may be used to prepare a facility or staff for operating a school readiness program and shall be adjusted based on the number of days of operation of a school readiness program if a shorter term of operation is approved by the commissioner.

(i) A town may use grant funds to purchase spaces for eligible children who reside in such town at an accredited or approved school readiness program located in another town. A regional school readiness council may use grant funds to purchase spaces for eligible children who reside in the region covered by the council at an accredited or approved school readiness program located outside such region.

(j) Children enrolled in school readiness programs funded pursuant to this section shall not be counted as resident students for purposes of subdivision (22) of section 10-262f.

Sec. 2. Subsection (a) of section 10-16q of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Each school readiness program shall include: (1) A plan for collaboration with other community programs and services, including public libraries, and for coordination of resources in order to facilitate full-day and year-round child care and education programs for children of working parents and parents in education or training programs; (2) parent involvement, parenting education and outreach; (3) (A) record-keeping policies that require documentation of the name and address of each child's doctor, primary care provider and health insurance company and information on whether the child is immunized and has had health screens pursuant to the federal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services Program under 42 USC 1396d, and (B) referrals for health services, including referrals for appropriate immunizations and screenings; (4) nutrition services; (5) referrals to family literacy programs that incorporate adult basic education and provide for the promotion of literacy through access to public library services; (6) admission policies that promote enrolment of children from different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds and from other communities; (7) a plan of transition for participating children from the school readiness program to kindergarten and provide for the transfer of records from the program to the kindergarten program; (8) a plan for professional development for staff; (9) a sliding fee scale for families participating in the program pursuant to section 17b-749d; and (10) an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. On and after July 1, 2000, school readiness programs shall use the assessment measures developed pursuant to section 10-16s, as amended by this act, in conducting their annual evaluations.

Sec. 3. Section 10-16r of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) A town seeking to apply for a grant pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-16p, as amended by this act, shall convene a local school readiness council. Any other town may convene such a council. The chief elected official of the town or, in the case of a regional school district, the chief elected officials of the towns in the school district and the superintendent of schools for the school district shall jointly appoint and convene such council. Each school readiness council shall be composed of: (1) The chief elected official, or his designee; (2) the superintendent of schools, or a management level staff person as his designee; (3) parents; (4) representatives from local programs such as Head Start, family resource centers, nonprofit and for-profit child day care centers, group day care homes, prekindergarten and nursery schools, and family day care home providers; and (5) other representatives from the community who provide services to children. The chief elected official shall designate the chairperson of the school readiness council.

(b) The local school readiness council shall: (1) Make recommendations to the chief elected official and the superintendent of schools on issues relating to school readiness, including any applications for grants pursuant to sections 10-16p, as amended by this act, 17b-749a and 17b-749c, as amended by this act; (2) foster partnerships among providers of school readiness programs; (3) assist in the identification of the need for school readiness programs and the number of children not being served by such a program; (4) submit biannual reports to the Department of Education on the number and location of school readiness spaces and estimates of future needs; (5) cooperate with the department in any program evaluation and, on and after July 1, 2000, use measures developed pursuant to section 10-16s, as amended by this act, for purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of school readiness programs; (6) identify existing and prospective resources and services available to children and families; [(5)] (7) facilitate the coordination of the delivery of services to children and families, including (A) referral procedures, and (B) before and after-school child care for children attending kindergarten programs; [(6)] (8) exchange information with other councils, the community and organizations serving the needs of children and families; [(7)] (9) make recommendations to school officials concerning transition from school readiness programs to kindergarten; and [(8)] (10) encourage public participation.

(c) Two or more towns or school districts and appropriate representatives of groups or entities interested in early childhood education in a region may establish a regional school readiness council. If a priority school is located in at least one of such school districts, the regional school readiness council may apply for a grant pursuant to subsection (d) of section 10-16p, as amended by this act. The regional school readiness council may perform the duties outlined in subdivisions (2) to [(8)] (10), inclusive, of subsection (b) of this section.

Sec. 4. Section 10-16s of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The Commissioners of Education and Social Services shall develop an agreement to define the duties and responsibilities of their departments concerning school readiness programs. The commissioners shall consult with other affected state agencies. The agreement shall include, but not be limited to, a multiyear interagency agreement to establish and implement an integrated school readiness plan. Functions to be described and responsibilities to be undertaken by the two departments shall be delineated in the agreement.

(b) On or before January 1, 2000, the commissioners shall adopt assessment measures for use by school readiness programs in conducting their annual evaluations pursuant to section 10-16q, as amended by this act. The commissioners may adopt the assessment measures used for Head Start programs.

Sec. 5. Subsection (b) of section 17b-28 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(b) The council shall make recommendations concerning (1) guaranteed access to enrollees and effective outreach and client education; (2) available services comparable to those already in the Medicaid state plan, including those guaranteed under the federal Early and Periodic Screening, [Diagnosis] Diagnostic and Treatment Services Program under 42 USC 1396d; (3) the sufficiency of provider networks; (4) the sufficiency of capitated rates provider payments, financing and staff resources to guarantee timely access to services; (5) participation in managed care by existing community Medicaid providers; (6) the linguistic and cultural competency of providers and other program facilitators; (7) quality assurance; (8) timely, accessible and effective client grievance procedures; (9) coordination of the Medicaid managed care plan with state and federal health care reforms; (10) eligibility levels for inclusion in the program; (11) cost-sharing provisions; (12) a benefit package; (13) coordination with coverage under the HUSKY Plan, Part B; and (14) other issues pertaining to the development of a Medicaid Research and Demonstration Waiver under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act.

Sec. 6. Subsection (e) of section 17b-749 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(e) All licensed child care providers and those providers exempt from licensing shall provide the Department of Social Services with the following information in order to maintain eligibility for reimbursement: (1) The name, address, appropriate identification, Social Security number and telephone number of the provider and all adults who work for or reside at the location where care is provided; (2) the name and address of the child's doctor, primary care provider and health insurance company; (3) whether the child is immunized and has had [EPSDT] health screens pursuant to the federal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services Program under 42 USC 1396d; and (4) the number of children cared for by the provider.

Sec. 7. Subsection (c) of section 17b-749c of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(c) The grants shall be used to:

(1) Help providers who are not accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to obtain such accreditation;

(2) Provide comprehensive services, such as enhanced access to health care, nutrition, family support services, parent education, literacy and parental involvement, and community and home outreach programs;

(3) Purchase educational equipment;

(4) Provide scholarships for training to obtain a child development associate certificate;

(5) Provide training for persons who are mentor teachers, as defined in federal regulations for the Head Start program, and provide a family service coordinator or a family service worker as such positions are defined in such federal regulations;

(6) Repair fire, health and safety problems in existing facilities and conduct minor remodeling to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; [and]

(7) Create a supportive network with family day care homes;

(8) Provide for educational consultation and staff development;

(9) Provide for program quality assurance personnel; and

(10) Provide technical assistance services to enable providers to develop child care facilities pursuant to sections 17b-749g, 17b-749h, as amended by this act, and 17b-749i.

Sec. 8. Subsection (c) of section 17b-749h of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(c) The amount of a direct loan under this section may be up to eighty per cent of the total amount of investment but shall not exceed [ten] twenty-five thousand dollars for such facility as determined by the commissioner except that if an applicant for a loan under this section has an existing loan that is guaranteed by the Child Care Facilities Loan Guarantee Program, established under section 17b-749g, the direct loan provided under this section shall not exceed twenty per cent of the investment. The amount of any guarantee and a direct loan under this section shall not exceed eighty per cent.

Sec. 9. (NEW) A local school readiness council may elect to reserve up to five per cent of the spaces in its school readiness programs for children who are five years of age and are eligible to attend school pursuant to section 10-15c of the general statutes. Such children shall only be eligible to participate in the school readiness program if they have been in the program for at least one year and the parent or legal guardian of such a child, the school readiness program provider and the local or regional school district in which the child would otherwise be attending school agree that the child is not ready for kindergarten.

Sec. 10. This act shall take effect July 1, 1999.

Approved June 29, 1999

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