Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CT - Update On The Withdrawal Bill - SB162

Spearheaded by Liz DePalma, Sue Cox, and Jenny Mosher, a group of about a dozen constituents of Senator Thomas Gaffey, Co-Chairman of the Education Committee, met with the Senator today to discuss why he changed the language in Senate Bill 162 and asking him to change it back to the original language proposed by Rep. O’Neill.

While Attorney Deborah Stevenson, Executive Director of NHELD, and Judy Aron, Research Director of NHELD, went with those constituents to attend the meeting, Senator Gaffey refused to allow attorney Stevenson or Judy Aron into the meeting, although Senator Gaffey had his aide, and three attorneys from the Education Committee, the Office of Legislative Research, and the Legislative Commissioner’s Office in attendance at that meeting.

Because NHELD was refused access to the meeting, we have asked those who were in attendance to write letters describing what occurred in the meeting, which we will publish as soon as they are available. Sen. Gaffey also refused to allow his constituents to tape record the meeting when they asked to do so in order to provide an accurate account of what occurred at the meeting.

His constituents were firm in their commitment, raised questions, offered opinion and suggestions, and told him that SB 162, (as it was changed by Sen. Gaffey and approved by the Education Committee), needed to be amended to revert back to the original language as proposed by Rep. O’Neill and approved by the Select Committee on Children, or it must die.

From what we understand, Sen. Gaffey offered explanations of why he changed the language, and had his lawyers chime in with their opinion as well. While his constituents tried to get him to change the language back to the original Rep. O’Neill version, it would appear that Sen. Gaffey gave no firm commitment that he would do so. In the end, he merely indicated that he would “take a look at it”. We hope that he will. We hope that he will support the changes to 10-220 and leave the changes to 10-184 for another time to be properly debated at a public hearing.

Meanwhile, the bill, in its current form (Gaffey's version), appeared on the Senate calendar for the first time today. According to the rules of the legislature, a bill must remain on the calendar for three days before a vote may be taken on it. Once it appears on the calendar for three days, a vote may be taken immediately, or it may be passed and voted on at some other time, or perhaps never. There really is no way to tell when it will come up for a vote. The fact remains, it could be voted on as early as this week.

NHELD thanks all of those who attended the meeting with Sen. Gaffey today. They did a tremendous job of making their points known. Connecticut parents truly owe them a debt of gratitude.

It remains to be seen what Sen. Gaffey will do, but we remain hopeful.

We merely said this: Reinstate and pass the O'Neill version (which fixes the problem of schools not taking children off their enrollment list when directed to by parents, and then subsequently reporting them to DCF for truancy), and if they really want this new language that basically mandates a Notice of Intent and changes CGS 10-184, then they ought to bring it up next session and give it a full and proper public hearing that people can come and comment on.

Joint favorable report is here

Rep. O'Neill offered up a similar version of the bill in the past.

Until this language offered up by Rep. O'Neill gets codified, parents will have difficulty withdrawing their children from public school no matter if they plan to homeschool them or place them in private school. Schools will still be allowed to abuse their authority and make false reports to DCF without consequence and parents will continue to have to deal with legal bills and a DCF record. This is what is at stake here. Every parent who has a child in public school needs to take notice. The language as it is now really does nothing to fix the problem and it gives the Department of Education more power and control. It also removes the fundamental right of parents to withdraw their children from public school as they have always been able to.

This is all we want and this is what must be inserted in CGS 10-220 (The Duties of Boards of Education)

when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends, to the superintendent of schools for the school district in which such school is located or the local or regional board of education for such school district, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of the child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184, the principal of the school that the child attends, the superintendent and the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice