Sen. Boucher Helps Usher Education Bills through Senate

May 31, 2013

Resurrected mandate relief initiative with the help of the leader of the Education Committee

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), ranking member of the legislature’s Education Committee, helped achieve unanimous senate approval for a proposal to bring mandate relief to high-performing schools in Connecticut. Boucher also helped passed a package of important revisions to last year’s education reforms.

House bill 6358; An Act Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools, will help address one of the original six objectives set by Governor’s bill and accepted as a bipartisan framework for the 2012 education reform bill. That objective is to remove red tape and other barriers to success, especially in high-performing schools and districts.

The bill was amended to include the appointment of a task force that must deliver by October 1, 2013 a list of concrete recommendations for mandates and routine requirements from which high-performing schools can choose to be relived.

The bill was dead on arrival from the House until Senator Boucher resurrected the bill with the help of the chair of the Education Committee.

“Although there have been other efforts to bring mandate relief to Connecticut schools none have born any fruit,” said Sen. Boucher. “However, by resurrecting the bill many Connecticut towns will have a voice in the process to reduce the pressure that mandates place on our schools. If they are high-performing this relief will allow them to save money by operating more efficiently and free up resources to pursue real innovation in learning that can benefit all school districts.”

Sen. Boucher has regularly initiated and supported mandate relief and looks for this new proposal to bear fruit. Recommendations should have a positive outcome and recognize those high performing districts. The task force should recognize that our schools our weighed down by the current labyrinth of mandates and reports that school systems are subjected too. Which take valuable time away from student instruction?

It is true that the large achievement gap that exists in the state has compelled the state department of education to add strong measures to reform failing schools with greater oversight and controls. “However, all districts shouldn’t be painted with the same broad brush. We should allow them the flexibility to continue do their good work that has produced excellent results,” added Sen. Boucher.

The Committee may find other areas to save districts money and time. This is especially important as these high performing districts get less state money than most urban centers.
The second education bill, Senate Bill 1097; An Act to make revisions to the Education Reform Act of 2012 makes clarifying language changes which should help districts achieve education reform goals.

“We are making adjustments to help individual school districts implement these reforms more effectively by allowing a waiver to the current process for evaluation and also focusing on reading instruction at the early grades of K-3,” said Senator Boucher.

Senator Boucher said local school districts in southwestern Connecticut helped identify and suggest several necessary revisions. According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research, the bill makes, ‘substantive and procedural changes to teacher evaluation provisions’ from last year’s law and addresses reading and literacy initiatives, as well as the teacher evaluation waiver process.

The bill extends the deadline for new, mandatory reading assessments and refines the schedule by which certain primary schools are identified and chosen for the intensive reading program.

“The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus worked hard on making sure we focus on those who teach early reading skills,” said Sen. Boucher. “Those educators are charged with making sure our students read at a required level and proficiency. I have worked with this caucus and helped to support recommendations to improve reading instruction and additional professional development that directly relates to the strengths and weaknesses in the teaching of reading available to teachers who oversee early reading programs. It is one of the most effective ways to close the achievement gap and make sure students succeed in their future careers. Reading is the foundation of all learning.”

Sen. Boucher said studies show that children who lag in reading abilities by the third grade have a hard time catching up. “One of the frightening statistics is that our correctional managers actually look at the data of how many children fail to read in the third grade to plan ahead for the number of actual jail cells and the capacity of our prisons,” according to Sen. Boucher.

Senate Bill 1097 now moves on to the House of Representatives.