On Wednesday, December 2nd, the Connecticut State Board of Education (Board) held its monthly meeting. This meeting was televised and is available on-demand online here. The meeting agenda can be found here.

This month’s agenda included:

Public comment included remarks on the African American, Black, Latino and Puerto Rican Curriculum, concerns regarding special education services complaints from parents to the state and concerns about the state’s re-opening in light of COVID-19.

Several SDE legislative proposals impact charter schools on issues including fingerprinting, background checks and misuse of funds. As a reminder, this package is currently at the proposal stage and must move through the full legislative process prior to being enacted into law.

Fingerprinting Proposal:

State law mandates that school employees undergo, among other checks, national criminal history records checks, which obtain criminal history information from a database maintained by the FBI. As a condition of accessing this information, the FBI requires that the state law mandate these background checks for school employees list governmental (public) and non-governmental (non-public) entities separately in statute. As such, Connecticut currently has separate statutes applicable to public and non-public entities. The proposed changes here seek to re-classify charter school governing boards and cooperative arrangements based on the FBI’s classification of these entities as non-public. The FBI is requiring these changes in order to allow educational entities to have continued access to its criminal history database.

Background Check Proposal:

Current state law requires members of CMOs and governing councils to complete background checks per the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) protocol. Since the FBI will not share this information with either the CMOs or charter school’s governing councils, SDE is proposing a change to the protocol for these checks, allowing flexibility for the checks to be conducted in ways other than the FBI protocol. This proposal has no impact on teacher background checks as it specifically applies to CMOs and school governing councils. This proposal was previously proposed for the 2020 legislative session but because that legislative session ended early due to the pandemic, it was not able to work through the full legislative process to get passed.

Misuse of Funds Proposal:

The Auditors of Public Accounts recommended that the SDE “should propose legislative changes to Section 10-66tt that would clearly identify its governance responsibilities regarding charter management organizations . . .to resolve certain financial losses.” Essentially, the proposal authorizes the state to recover misused state funds from charter school operators. While state law authorizes the Commissioner to recover from charter school grant funds that have been used improperly, there is currently no similar authority with respect to a charter management organization. This proposal was recommended by the Auditors of Public Accounts following the closure of Path Academy Charter School.

Other Legislative Proposals:

  • An Act Concerning The Age When A Special Education Student Shall Begin Receiving Transition Services

  • An Act Concerning Minor Revisions to Bilingual Education Certification

  • An Act Concerning the Resident Educator Certificate

  • An Act Concerning Technical Changes to Laws Requiring Fingerprinting in Schools

  • An Act Concerning the Technical Education and Career System Superintendent

  • An Act Concerning the Provision of Special Education Services at Technical High Schools

  • An Act Concerning Various Minor and Technical Revisions to the Education Statutes

Actions Taken:

The Board unanimously approved that the legislative package can be moved forward to be proposed during the 2021 legislative session. The full package of SDE’s 2021 legislative proposals can be found here. As with any legislation impacting the charter school community, we will monitor this legislation and keep you all updated.

On the African American, Black, Latino and Puerto Rican Curriculum, after a discussion with questions from the Board regarding the implementation of the curriculum, the State Board of Education unanimously accepted the report which includes the description, scope and sequence and course objectives for the curriculum.

During the Commissioner’s Report, Chief Performance Officer Ajit Gopalakrishnan reported on fall 2020 student attendance with respect to COVID-19 and reopening. The data presented can be found on the Department of Education’s data website, EdSight. The Department is also starting to collect this attendance data by student group (low-income, English Learner, etc.).

The next meeting of the State Board is expected in January of 2021, at which time we will continue our updates and share important information with you. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.