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Mid-Session, These Are the Top 10 Education Equity Bills to Watch

The daffodils are blooming, the birds are chirping, and we’re about halfway through the 2024 Legislative Session. With the deadline for the Higher Education Committee just passed and the one for the Education Committee fast approaching on 3/25, here are the top 10 education equity bills to watch!

1. On Fair College Admissions:  SB-203 - An Act Concerning The Consideration Of Familial Relationship During The Admissions Process By An Institution Of Higher Education. This bill would ban the discriminatory practice of legacy admissions in both public and private institutions of higher education—which could make Connecticut the first state in the nation to end the practice of legacy preference in private colleges. (The race is on!) Legacy preferences have been proven to perpetuate racial and socio-economic inequities, and research from our affiliate, ERN CT, shows that over a quarter of CT 4-year colleges explicitly engage in this practice.


Status: Passed out of the Committee on Higher Ed, with a bi-partisan 18-4 vote, including substitute language additionally targeting donor preference—where admissions weights are given to students related to donors. 


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2. On Teacher Shortages:  HB 5436 - An Act Concerning Educator Certification. Years in the making, the bill was developed through a unique consensus-building process through several cohorts of stakeholders and experts. Between the CT Innovation Cohort, the Connecticut Educator Certification Council, and New Teacher Track Coalition—there have been a lot of leaders at the table, but they’ve found significant areas of alignment. This bill

represents a strong step in the right direction when it comes to updating Connecticut’s educator preparation and certification systems. Still requires fine tuning to address teacher diversity.


Status: Public hearing was on March 13, 2024. Vote by the Ed Committee likely today!


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3. On Literacy:  SB 14 - An Act Assisting School Districts In Improving Education Outcomes. Introduced at the request of the Governor, this bill would implement his budget recommendations. For proponents of Right to Read, this bill is interesting because it shifts responsibility over ensuring educator preparation program compliance to the purview of the Office of Dyslexia, a change that we heartily endorse. This will help the state to establish oversight over teacher preparation so that it aligns to the science of reading.


Status: Passed out of the Ed Committee, moved to the Appropriations Committee. 


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4. On Resource Equity:  HB 5212 - An Act Concerning Education Funding. Last year, the biennial budget made a historic $150M investment in K-12 education, which was intended to accelerate the phase-in of the Education Cost Sharing grant. But Governor Lamont’s budget proposal this year would divert some of that promised investment to other causes like early childhood education—leading to heated debate between the Executive and Legislative branches. This bill would protect the $150M investment and expand weighted funding for students attending public schools of choice. 


Status: Passed out of the Ed Committee, moved to the Appropriations Committee.


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5. On Special Education Costs:  SB 5 - An Act Concerning School Resources. Connecticut has an unusual model for funding special education through the Excess Cost Grant, which only reimburses districts when a student’s special needs cost 4.5 times the district’s regular per-pupil expenditure. By only funding cases with extraordinarily high costs, the state fails to support the needs of the majority of students with disabilities who fall under that threshold. Moreover, the Excess Cost Grant is currently not fully funded; the state instead relies upon a tiered structure to determine the extent to which districts get reimbursed within available appropriations. This bill appears to entitle all districts to full funding of Excess Costs, which would be expensive for the state, and still fail to fund most students with special needs. It also contemplates artificial intelligence, heating, ventilation, and AC.


Status: Passed out of Ed Committee.


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6. On Governance:  HB 5435 - An Act Concerning The Development Of A Plan For The Conversion Of The State Board Of Education To An Advisory Board Within The Department Of Education. Currently, the State Board of Education (SBOE) is the "department head," and the Connecticut Commissioner of Education reports to the Board. If passed, this bill would flip that dynamic, making the Commissioner the head of the CSDE and transitioning the SBOE into an advisory role. The bill tasks the CSDE with developing a plan for that transition, which could markedly change education governance in our state.


Status: Public hearing on March 13, 2024. Up for review by the Committee today.


7. On Educator Professional Development:  HB 5437 - An Act Concerning Mandate Relief. This bill would establish an Educator Professional Development Mandate Review Advisory Council to report annually on training requirements. It would also task the CSDE with building an "educator professional development (PD) and in-service training records database" to digitize information regarding teachers’ ongoing learning and training. This database could be used to facilitate compliance with PD mandates and compare information across districts.


Status: Public hearing on March 13, 2024. Up for review by the Committee today.


8. On Multilingual Learners:  HB 5180 - An Act Implementing The Recommendations Of The Department Of Education. Among numerous activities, this bill would broaden access to the State Seal of Biliteracy, which gets affixed to high school diplomas in order to recognize graduates who have attained proficiency in languages beyond English. Since Connecticut is becoming an increasingly diverse state, it makes sense to leverage the assets of Connecticut’s multilingual learners, support their advancement, and build their career opportunities. 


Status: Passed out of Ed Committee.


9. On Automatic College Admissions:  SB 109 - An Act Modifying The Connecticut Automatic Admissions Program. The CAAP program, established in 2021, uses an eligibility threshold for high school seniors to be automatically admitted to participating colleges and universities. By simplifying admissions for students who are academically prepared, the bill proactively offers postsecondary opportunities that they might not otherwise have considered. This bill would change the threshold requirement of a minimum class rank percentile to a minimum grade point average.


Status: Passed out of the Committee on Higher Ed, on the Senate Calendar.


10. On School Climate:  SB 380 - An Act Concerning School Discipline. This bill addresses both school discipline and school climate—requiring local districts to consider whether student services are needed whenever a young student receives an out-of-school suspension; developing standards for a school climate survey and a model school climate improvement plan; requires the CSDE to report on incidences of bullying that are related to a student’s membership in a protected class; and creates a new Director of School Climate Improvement role within the CSDE.


Status: Public hearing on March 13, 2024. Up for review by the Committee today.


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