Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

June 1, 2023

State Senator Saud Anwar Joins Senate Passage of Bill Promoting Student Success, Financial Transparency

Today, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) voted for the State Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 1, a priority bill for Senate Democrats this year focused on educational improvements. Senate Bill 1 would advance several measures to promote student academic success and well-being including increasing transparency in how school districts spend funding, improving air quality in schools, and identifying strategies to improve school climate and prevent bullying.

“I’m proud that the Senate is continuing to invest time and effort into improving Connecticut’s educational systems,” said Sen. Anwar. “Its wide-ranging efforts will continue to bolster and benefit our schools, aiding school construction and budgets while providing more resources to students and families and supporting the state’s long-term educational needs. I look forward to its swift passage in the House.”

Municipalities in Connecticut spent about $9.3 billion on education, not including school construction expenses paid for by the State of Connecticut, in fiscal year 2021. School districts are required to report financial data on certain expenditures to the Connecticut Department of Education. However, the nine categories to report data on are vague and broad, such as “Support Services – school based administration” (supplies), “Support Services – students” (employee benefits), and “Enterprise operations.” Senate Bill 1 will require greater information sharing and clear reports by school districts on spending to better target state investments in education.

In addition, SB 1 will develop guidelines for the improvement of air quality in classrooms. Poor indoor environmental quality in schools is a public health issue and with new guidelines put in place, students will have a better learning experience.

Furthermore, Senate Bill 1 addresses strategies to improve school climate and prevent bullying. School leaders will be required to implement evidence and research-based interventions, including, but not limited to, restorative practices, in the school community.

Under Senate Bill 1, there are several sections to help improve each school district around Connecticut.

Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility:

The State Department of Education (SDE) will be required to:

Publish data from the education financial system (EFS) reports and returns online sorted by EFS codes along with a guide to understand the codes.
Develop and publish the data in a way that allows comparison between districts and schools; Offer a training program for newly elected Board of Education members related to their responsibilities, duties, and obligations about school budgets and finance; Study virtual reality in instruction, including safety and responsible investment in tech and submit a report by January 2025; Establish an educator apprenticeship initiative to enable and pay students in educator preparation programs, residency programs, or alternate routes to gain classroom teaching experience; Require each school board to (1) submit its increasing educator diversity plan (referred to in current law as the minority educator recruitment plan) to the education commissioner by March 15, 2024, for review and approval and (2) implement its approved plan beginning with the 2024-25 school year.

Alliance Districts:

All alliance districts must have family resource center programs in each elementary school. Each alliance Board of Education member must submit an improvement plan to the department; The SDE must administer a grant for an alliance district to embed a professional chef to assist school meal programs in improving meal quality, diner satisfaction, and streamlining operations for a financially viable program. They will grant 5 of these awards at $150K each.

Aspiring Educators Diversity Scholarship Program:

Under this bill, the Minority Teacher Candidate Scholarship Program will be changed to the Aspiring Educators Diversity Scholarship Program and reduces the maximum annual grant amount from $20,000 to $10,000; This program will also establish an incremental scholarship repayment schedule if a recipient is not employed as a certified teacher and requires SDE to hire four staff members to administer the program.

Curriculums:

Adds cursive writing and world language to the K-8 model curriculum that SDE is currently developing; Allows school boards to award high school graduation credit for completing LEAP and other approved credit recovery programs.

Local Foods for Local Schools Program:

A program called, ‘Local Foods for Local Schools’ will be established which will reimburse schools for food that is bought from local farms.

Workforce Development:

Aerospace and Aviation Apprenticeship — allows local or regional boards of education (i.e., “boards of education”) to partner with local businesses to provide aerospace and aviation apprenticeship training programs to students; Pre-apprenticeship Grant — requires SDE, by January 1, 2024, to establish a preapprenticeship grant program for boards of education that include Department of Labor (DOL)-registered pre-apprenticeship programs in their high school curriculum; Dual Credit and Enrollment (esp. healthcare) — requires SDE, in partnership with boards of education and public higher education institutions, to expand opportunities for dual credit and dual enrollment for high school students, including courses required for health care occupations.

School Nurses:

Requires each school nurse to biennially complete at least 15 hours of school board-approved professional development programs or activities.

School Climate:

For school years 2023-24 and 2024-45, each BOE may adopt school climate policy. For school year 2025-2026 and beyond, they will need to adopt and implement school climate policy. For the school year 2025-2026 and beyond, the superintendent of schools or an administrator appointed by the superintendent will be each school’s school climate coordinator. They will need to:
provide district-level leadership and support for the implementation of the school climate improvement plan for each school; collaborate with the school climate specialist to develop a continuum of strategies to prevent, identify and respond to challenging behavior like bullying, and communicate strategies via tools like the school handbook; collect and maintain data regarding school climate improvement; meet with the school climate specialist for each school at least twice during the school year to: identify strategies to improve school climate, propose recommendations for revisions to the school climate improvement plan, and assist with the completion of the school climate survey

Principals of each school or their qualified designees will need to:
lead in the prevention, identification and response to challenging behavior, including, but not limited to, reports of alleged bullying and harassment,
implement evidence and research-based interventions; schedule meetings for and leading the school climate committee; lead the implementation of the school climate improvement plan

The school climate specialist will appoint members to the school climate committee who are racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse. The committee will be responsible for:
assisting in the development, annual scheduling and administration of the school climate survey; using the school climate survey data to identify strengths and challenges to improve school climate, and to create or propose revisions to the school climate improvement plan; assisting in the implementation of the school climate improvement plan and recommending any improvements or revisions to the plan; advising on strategies to improve school climate and implementing evidence and research-based interventions, including, but not limited to, restorative practices, in the school community; annually providing notice of the uniform bullying complaint form; engaging the school community, at community meetings at least twice during the school year

The school climate committee will administer a school climate survey to students, school employees and families of students. The school climate specialist and school climate coordinator will develop a school climate improvement plan, which will be submitted to the school climate coordinator for review. It will then be used to mitigate and respond to challenging behavior.

Air Quality:

The Connecticut Department of Administrative Services (DAS) will need to develop an air quality reporting form to be used by BOEs during inspections. They will also need to develop a heating and A/C reporting form; Each BOE will have to inspect air quality in each building in addition to heat and A/C and be published on the DAS website; The Department of Public Health (DPH) will need to develop guidelines regarding an optimal thermal comfort range between 65-80 degrees for schools, except gyms and natatoriums which can have a wider range.