Education: School Reforms, Other Gains Pass
More than anything else, this was the year for education reform in Connecticut. Governor Malloy set the stage when he declared, “The time has come for change in our schools.”
Months later and after much debate and difficult negotiations, lawmakers ultimately passed a sweeping package of reforms.
Lawmakers also addressed some other education issues this year, including expanding manufacturing internships and making course credits more easily transferable for state college and university students.
This week the governor signed into lawa meaningful education reform bill (SB 458) that contains many practical steps to correcting Connecticut’s public schools.
The road to the signing desk started back in February, when Governor Malloy proposed a package of reforms in SB 24 that quickly became a subject of intense debate. The bill focused on meeting students’ needs, but special interests shifted the debate to the demands of adults. Subsequently, the legislature’s Education Committee stripped the bill of its most important provisions.
Reform advocates then stepped up their support for a bill with more substance. And when the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus publicly called for certain additions to the committee bill, it became clear that a weak bill might not even survive a vote in the House, let alone an implied veto from the governor.
Reintroduced as SB 458, the compromise education reform bill reflected days of rigorous negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor’s staff as the end of session loomed closer. In the end, the final bill is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Commissioner of Education and the Governor to enact critical reforms.
Overwhelmingly approved in the Senate and unanimously approved in the House, SB 458 will:
- Help at-risk children:Expands pre-K school readiness seats, focused in high-need, low-performing school districts; creates a pilot program to improve the literacy of students in grades K-3
- Help fix broken schools: Launches a pilot Commissioner’s Network to target and turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools and increases funding for state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts
- Expand choice:Increases funding and support for charter and magnet schools, including technical and agricultural science schools.
- Support teachers and administrators:Requires annual performance evaluations for teachers and principals, strengthens their professional development resources, and recognizes excellent teachers with a “distinguished educator” designation
- Promote accountability</strong>: Cuts red tape for high-performing schools and districts and calls for a common chart of accounts.
While there is much to be done to implement the reforms, the right foundation has been laid. CBIA is pleased that Connecticut’s students have been given priority over politics, and we look forward to the continued work required to make our schools exceptional and to ensure a quality education for all our children.
Lawmakers alsopassed legislation (SB 383) that will make it easier for younger students to get hands-on learning experiences in manufacturing.
The bill allows 16- and 17-year olds to participate in internships in manufacturing facilities. Right now there are only limited opportunities for minors to participate in this type of learning experience; those restrictions are relaxed at age 18.
It’s a practical, commonsense bill: Waiting until their 18th birthday to begin internships simply isn’t an option for most high school students who may only reach that age at the very end of their high school careers.
CBIA and its manufacturing members welcome this positive legislation.
If a student at a Connecticut state college or university transfers to another, the new school may or may not accept the other’s academic credits. Lawmakers addressed the issue with HB 5030, which requires the Connecticut State University System (CSUS) and community-technical colleges (CTC) to develop and implement a general and credit-transferable core of courses by July 1, 2013.
The new core of at least 30 academic credits will be offered in both CSUS's and CTC's liberal arts and sciences programs and any other degree program designated as a transfer program.
If a student earns academic credits from the core and then transfers to the other system or a different institution in the same system, the bill requires those credits to count toward that system's core requirements.
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