Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CT - SB162 Withdrawal Bill Update, Gaffey Language Changes, And Agenda Posted Late

Senator Gaffey confirmed yesterday (March 17, 2008) that he plans to put before the Education Committee at its 1:00 p.m. meeting today, March 18, 2008, Senate Bill 162 containing what he is calling “compromise language”. Senator Gaffey did not make available to parents the content of the “compromise language”. We cannot know what that language will look like, but from certain of his comments to parents and to other legislators today, we have some idea.

So much for transparency in government.

It would appear that Senator Gaffey will propose making changes to Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184, the Duties of Parents. The change to Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184 may contain a provision requiring parents to send a letter of withdrawal to the public school superintendent. The change in Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184 may be similar to the “mysteriously changed” language we saw earlier in this session, that the Select Committee on Children rejected in favor of the language as it originally was proposed by Rep. O’Neill. Rep. O’Neill’s bill, as unanimously adopted by the Select Committee on Children makes changes to Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-220, the Duties of Boards of Education. That's where this language rightfully belongs.

Rep. O’Neill’s bill basically says that WHEN a parent sends a certified letter of withdrawal to a superintendent, the superintendent MUST ACCEPT the withdrawal and immediately consider the child withdrawn. The “mysteriously changed” language we saw earlier, and possibly the “compromise language” Senator Gaffey intends to introduce, says IF a parent provides equivalent instruction and sends a certified letter of withdrawal, then the superintendent MAY consider the child withdrawn. Rep. O’Neill’s language respects the already existing right of parents to withdraw their children and compels the superintendent to accept the withdrawal. The “mysteriously changed” language, for the first time in our state’s history, would statutorily authorize public school superintendents to determine if and when a parent may withdraw a child from school.

Parents and legislators have made it known that they OPPOSE ANY CHANGE TO SB162 AND TO ADOPT IT AS IS.

1. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184 should not be changed at all.

2. SB 162 must change Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-220.

3. Parents always have had the right to withdraw their children from public school.

4. Parents have been withdrawing them by sending the school a certified letter. School districts have refused to acknowledge the withdrawal and kept the children on the “enrollment” list.

5. The school districts must be directed to respect the parents’ right to withdraw their children. That’s why it is Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-220 that must be changed, not §10-184.

6. The State Department of Education is behind the effort to change in the language in SB 162. Yet, no one from the State Department of Education attended the public hearing held by the Select Committee on Children to publicly state their opposition to the existing language.

7. The unwillingness of the State Department of Education to come out in public to voice any opinion on the bill, yet, their willingness to maneuver behind the scenes to convince individual legislators to make changes to the bill, is indicative of the manner in which the State Department of Education has been encouraging the abuses by school districts all along. Their actions indicate their continued unwillingness to inform school districts to respect the already existing rights of parents.

8. A change in Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-184 will do nothing to end the current abusive practices by public school districts. It will send the opposite message. It will say to public school officials that the local boards of education have NO DUTY to accept the right of parents to withdraw their children. Because it is not written into the statute describing the duties of the local board of education, a court of law easily could interpret it not to be one of their duties.

9. Legislators must ask themselves why the State Department of Education, the Department that is encouraging school districts to report parents to DCF when they withdraw their children from enrollment, did not speak out at the public hearing, and does not want any change in the duty of board of education (10-220).

10. Not one person, not one legislator, not one member of the public, spoke out against the language as it was proposed by Rep. O’Neill and as it currently exists, at the Select Committee on Children’s public hearing. Why does Senator Gaffey propose making any changes now?

11. The language in SB 162 is the exact language that was approved by the Legislative Commissioner’s Office during the last legislative session when Rep. O’Neill proposed it on the floor of the House. It does not need to be changed now.

12. Legislators are our elected officials, the lawyers in the Legislative Commissioner’s office are not. Legislators may make any law they see fit. It is right and just to change Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-220. It must be done to end the abuse.

Today’s Education Committee meeting is scheduled for 1 PM, Legislative Office Building, Room 2E.

Here is the Agenda (which by the way, was NOT posted in accordance with Joint Committee Rules - 1 day in advance of the meeting!) This is on their webpage: " Committee Meeting Agendas are lists of proposed actions to be taken at an upcoming committee meeting. They are published at least one day before the scheduled meeting. The documents are listed here in reverse chronological order by meeting date and start time and will open in a new window when you access them. "

One day is 24 hours - is it not?

The clerk in the Education Office told me that 5PM prior day is the deadline for agendas to be posted for meetings the next day- that is not "at least one day" before the scheduled meeting when the scheduled meeting is at 1 PM the next day.

I am absolutely disgusted with the liberties that are taken in the legislative process here in CT. Information is withheld from the public, and the public is not given the opportunity to fully engage in the process, especially with meetings not being fully and properly noticed and information about the wording of bills not being made available at all!

Update: The Children's Committee Joint Favorable Report from the 02/19/08 public hearing is here. It says:
None expressed.
None expressed.

REASONS FOR BILL: This bill was originally created to allow parents to have an easier time removing their children from the public school system in order to home school them. This bill would require the Board of Education to accept a students removal into a home-schooling setting. The bill that was heard at the pubic hearing was not the bill that the Committee sent out. The verbiage of the 2008 draft of the bill had drastically changed the meaning of the one that was proposed by Representative Art O'Neill in the 2007 legislative session. The testimony was unanimous during the hearing to urge the committee not to vote for the bill in its present form, but to amend it to reflect the language of the 2007 bill. Before the hearing, Senator Meyer assured those at the hearing that: “…the bill that is in front of us is not the bill that was raised by the Committee. We're going to ultimately, if there are no amendments, be hearing the bill that was raised by Representative O'Neill.

Update: More Legislators sign on to sponsor this bill:
Sen. Edith G. Prague, 19th Dist.
Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, 86th Dist.
Rep. Arthur J. O'Neill, 69th Dist.
Rep. Pamela Z. Sawyer, 55th Dist.
Rep. Richard F. Ferrari, 62nd Dist.
Rep. Ruth C. Fahrbach, 61st Dist.
Rep. Al Adinolfi, 103rd Dist.
Sen. Robert J. Kane, 32nd Dist.
Rep. Patricia M. Widlitz, 98th Dist.
Sen. Dan Debicella, 21st Dist.
Rep. Anne L. Ruwet, 65th Dist.
Rep. Richard Roy, 119th Dist.
Rep. Lawrence G. Miller, 122nd Dist.
Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter, 38th Dist.
Rep. Shawn T. Johnston, 51st Dist.
Rep. Deborah W. Heinrich, 101st Dist.
Rep. Anthony J. D'Amelio, 71st Dist.
Rep. Jason W. Bartlett, 2nd Dist.
Rep. Ron Burns, 77th Dist.
Rep. Ed Jutila, 37th Dist.
Sen. Joan V. Hartley, 15th Dist.
Rep. Mike Alberts, 50th Dist.
Rep. David Aldarondo, 75th Dist.
Sen. Andrea L. Stillman, 20th Dist.
Rep. Karen Jarmoc, 59th Dist.
Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, 35th Dist.
Rep. Kathleen M. Tallarita, 58th Dist.
Sen. Edward Meyer, 12th Dist.
Sen. Sam S.F. Caligiuri, 16th Dist.
Rep. Jack F. Hennessy, 127th Dist.

Is YOUR legislator on the list?

and of course the legislators who passed it unanimously out of the Children's Committee were:

Sen. Meyer
Rep. McMahon
Sen. Harp
Rep. Mioli
Sen. Freedman
Rep. Ruwet
Rep. Giuliano
Rep. Mushinsky
Rep. Thompson, J.
(Rep Truglia was absent).

We, and our members, have also heard from other legislators who plan to support this bill as it is currently written, and these are just a few:

Sen. Sam Caligiuri
Rep. Witkos
Rep. Nafis
Rep. Kalinowski
Rep. Hamm
Rep. Shoenfield

Here is the bill language that we support.