With less than a week remaining in the 2015 regular legislative session, Governor Malloy and state legislative leaders continue to meet to negotiate the significant differences in their proposed budgets. As budget deliberations continue, a variety of key education initiatives supported by the Hartford Foundation have yet to be taken up in either chamber of the Connecticut General Assembly.
The legislature’s Appropriations Committee passed a budget which restored many of the proposed cuts in early childhood and K-12 education in the Governor's proposed budget. The legislature’s Finance Committee also enacted a variety of new taxes to pay for these programs. The Hartford Foundation submitted testimony to the Finance Committee to encourage legislators to maintain reliable funding streams to vital programs for children and families. The Foundation testified that this effort is crucial to continuing the important progress made in the last year in building a high-quality, coordinated early childhood system and supporting K-12 schools to ensure that every child enters kindergarten ready to learn and graduates from high school prepared to succeed.
Over the past and upcoming weeks, Hartford Foundation staff members will continue their efforts to talk to key members of the legislature, the administration and our partners and monitor the progress of these bills to help ensure that the budget and legislation promote opportunities for residents in our region.
Among the key pieces of legislation that the Foundation has focused its efforts on this year that have yet to be enacted are:
- H.B. 7020 (File No. 769), An Act Concerning Early Childhood Educators and Initiatives, based on its contributions to building a high-quality early childhood system in Connecticut. Among the key initiatives included in this plan is a requirement that the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) collaborate with local and regional early childhood councils that play an important role in developing and implementing comprehensive plans for early childhood systems at the local level. The Foundation provided testimony in support of these local collaborative and urged the Governor and legislature to preserve funding to support their work. However, the current bill language only requires funding be provided to the councils within available appropriations. Should the bill pass, the Foundation will continue to work with the OEC directly and through our active membership in the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative to promote the local early childhood councils as a vital part in developing a local-state early childhood infrastructure. The Foundation also participates a member of the Early Childhood Alliance to support the aspects of the bill that promote a high-quality early childhood workforce and data collection on school readiness and the impact of programs for young children.
- H.B. 6835 (File No. 812), An Act Concerning English Language Learners, based on the recommendations of the English Language Acquisition and Educational Equity Work Group to provide support for Connecticut’s English Language Learners to improve EL students’ outcomes. Sara Sneed, the Hartford Foundation’s director of educational investments, was a key contributing member of this Work Group. Among these recommendations is a proposal to allow school districts the option of increasing the current period of bilingual instruction from 30 months to up to 60 months (5 academic years) and requiring school districts to meet with families of eligible students to explain the benefits and provide clear guidance about the district’s language program options and any native language accommodations that can be made for students on standardized tests. The bill also requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide boards of education with information on research-based best practices involving parents of bilingual eligible students in the language acquisition process and adds the enhancement of bilingual education programs to the list of allowable things that may be included in plans to SDE from the Alliance District (the state’s lowest performing districts).
- S.B. 795 (File No. 804), An Act Concerning a Two-Generational School Readiness and Workforce Development Pilot Program, based on the Two-Generation Policy Work Group. The Hartford Foundation’s Richard Sussman serves as a member and contributed to the Workgroup’s report to the legislature. The current proposed bill approved by the Appropriations Committee requires the Department of Labor to create a pilot program that promotes academic and job readiness support across two generations in low-income families to foster long-term economic success. Richard Sussman testified in support of the original bill before the Human Services Committee and made recommendations to strengthen the proposed scope of the bill, highlighting the Foundation’s extensive investment in in two-generation models that recognize that the well-being and life success of parents and children are interdependent. The current bill language states that the pilots shall include partnerships between state and national philanthropic organizations to enable state-wide replication and implementation of the program. The Foundation is working with the members of the Work Group and our philanthropic peers to ensure that the design and implementation of the pilot program includes state philanthropy and builds on existing statewide learning and investments in early childhood and workforce development.
To learn more about these issues, a variety of resources are available including: