Because the state is facing a serious budget crisis, education initiatives took much more of a backseat this year than in previous legislative sessions. Still, one significant measure passed, and another good proposal came very close.

Green jobs: Now awaiting the governor’s signature, HB-1068 will allow the state Department of Economic and Community Development to apply for federal stimulus dollars to promote green jobs, energy conservation and other green investments. CBIA supports this initiative because environmental sustainability and energy efficiency have enormous potential for creating jobs and industries to meet the demand.

Education reform: A proposal (SB-939) containing several education-improvement measures—including a plan to upgrade academic standards in Connecticut’s high schools—was passed unanimously by the state Senate in the last week of the session. The proposal subsequently was amended in the House to exclude the high school reform plan. Because it was changed, the bill had to go back to the Senate, where time ran out before the proposal could be approved.

Supporters of SB-939, including CBIA, promoted the measure, recognizing its value to Connecticut’s economic future. It would have improved quality in the public schools by making it easier for mid-career professionals to become teachers via the Alternate Route to Teacher Certification program. Other aspects of SB-939 were designed to help charter schools.

Although finally excluded from the bill, the high school reform proposal would have placed greater emphasis on the core academic skills high school students need to succeed in higher education or the workforce. It established a minimum of 25 credits to graduate, including four in English, four in math, three in sciences, two in a world language, one in the arts or vocational education, and a senior project.

Even though high school reform did not pass this year, it attracted support from legislators. CBIA looks forward to pursuing the issue, working with both sides of the aisle to craft a positive piece of legislation that can be adopted by both chambers.

Technology
One positive measure approved this year was SB-1014, which promotes the use of technology to improve the quality of education. The State Department of Education will develop and implement a student tracking system to help make sure that students don’t fall through the cracks when moving from institution to institution. As with the field of health care, using technology to gain more information can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the state’s efforts.