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Sine Die

Gavel down! 

Last night marked the end of a short and busy 2024 legislative session. 

A huge THANK YOU to Education Chairs, Senator McCrory and Representative Currey, Higher Education Chairs, Senator Slap and Representative Haddad, Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Chair, Senator Miller, and the legislators who worked tirelessly on behalf of students this session! 

Here are the big takeaways for education.

Budget Stabilization

On Tuesday, as reported by Keith Phaneuf for the CT Mirror, the General Assembly voted on a budget stabilization bill, a $370M package allocating the spend-down of the remaining federal pandemic aid through the American Rescue Plan Act. HB 5523 makes serious investments in UConn and the CSCUs. It also requires the State Department of Education to apportion the much-disputed $150M in education finance reform dollars that was originally allocated last year in the state’s biennium budget; these funds are now targeted towards the already committed Education Cost Sharing Grant, charter schools, interdistrict magnet schools, the Open Choice program, and agriscience and technology centers. For FY 2025, the bill also makes adjustments to fund all public school students based upon their learning needs, rather than upon the type of school they attend. (More on this from the School and State Finance Project here.)

Interestingly, the bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to develop a plan to convert the State Board of Education into an advisory board, rather than an entity to which the Commissioner herself reports. For FY 2025, it also implements new provisions that will fund all public school students based upon their learning needs, rather than based upon the type of school they attend.

Educator Preparation and Certification

The legislature unanimously passed HB 5436, An Act Concerning Educator Certification—which seeks to modernize educator preparation and certification by simplifying the process of moving through certification tiers, broadening certain certification endorsements, prioritizing pathways for paraeducators, reducing burdensome testing requirements for prospective teachers, and establishing a new standards board to monitor systems of preparation and certification on an ongoing basis.

In a press statement, New Teacher Track Coalition said the bill “represents considerable consensus across varied stakeholder groups… who have all come together to modernize our teacher pipeline for the benefit of Connecticut students.”

The Coalition has also released a document outlining the roles, responsibilities, and deadlines of the new standards board, which has been tasked with developing proposals and guidance regarding educator preparation and certification on an ongoing basis. This new board will be responsible for duties such as producing alternative approaches to the Praxis II exam, as well as alternative pathways to progressing through tiers of certification. It will also oversee the development of a statewide longitudinal dashboard for educator workforce data and more.

Mandate Relief

HB 5437, An Act Concerning Mandate Relief, establishes an Education Mandate Review Council composed of ten members, which will produce a report by January 2025 that includes a review of education mandates and recommendations regarding repeal. It also establishes a new role for a Director of School Climate Improvement within the State Department of Education.

Early Literacy

The legislature passed two broad bills that touch upon the implementation of Right to Read. 

Among a variety of interesting changes, SB 154, An Act Concerning Schools, delays ongoing implementation of the state's racial imbalance law, addresses the administration of medications in schools, and amends existing rules regarding behavioral interventions and expulsions. It also addresses term limits for members of Connecticut's Reading Leadership Implementation Council, an advisory group that gives counsel to the Director of the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success (The Center) that oversees Right to Read.

SB 14, An Act Assisting School Districts in Improving Educational Outcomes, also covers a variety of issues, including a lot on early child care, school readiness, and the establishment of Early Start CT. It also expands the State Seal of Biliteracy effort in Connecticut, which acknowledges students who achieve a high level of proficiency in English and another foreign language. On early literacy, this bill requires The Center to make resources and research available to teacher preparation programs, and tasks the Office of Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities with verifying that educator preparation programs are in compliance with the state's literacy efforts. This will ensure a comprehensive approach to early literacy across the state.

Schools of Choice

Schools of choice advanced this session with $1.47M additional for grade growth.

In addition, advocates of school choice successfully amended an existing state grant to cover the costs of replacing or upgrading their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Previously, the law only allowed certain types of districts and schools to apply for this grant, but the new legislation will extend eligibility for these state grants to endowed academies and state charter schools. This is progress in an uphill year for education funding. Way to go CT Charters! 

The One that Got Away: Legacy Preference

A bill to ban the discriminatory practice of legacy admissions in both public and private institutions of higher education passed out of the Committee on Higher Education with a bi-partisan vote. 

Legislators heard from the Chancellor of the CSCUS, from local and national advocates, from students in Connectiut’s Promise programs, and from Yale and Trinity College about the importance of ending legacy preference. It degrades the meritocratic nature of higher education, and it hoards opportunity predominantly among white and wealthy families. Check out an OpEd from two Yale students this week in the national outlet Inside Higher Ed. They talk about how, even though their own future children stand to benefit from legacy preferences, they oppose the practice.

When the bill reached the Senate, substitute language eliminated the outright ban, instead requiring institutions of higher education to provide data on their use of donor preferences and legacy preferences, so that the legislature can take action on a future date. That amended legislation passed with strong bi-partisan support out of the Senate. 

Nevertheless, the bill was never called in the House, despite broad support. It’s doubtful that this will be the end of the discussion on legacy preference in Connecticut. Both across the state and the nation, the tides have turned. It’s just a matter of time. 


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