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Substitute Senate Bill No. 59

PUBLIC ACT NO. 96-214

AN ACT CONCERNING PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) As used in sections 1 to 6, inclusive, of this act: (1) "Charter school" means a public, nonsectarian school which is (A) established under a charter granted pursuant to section 2 of this act, (B) organized as a nonprofit entity under state law, (C) a public agency for purposes of chapter 3 of the general statutes, and (D) operated independently of any local or regional board of education in accordance with the terms of its charter and the provisions of sections 1 to 6, inclusive, of this act; (2) "Local charter school" means a public school or part of a public school that is converted into a charter school and is approved by the local or regional board of education of the school district in which it is located and by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (e) of this section; and (3) "State charter school" means a new public school approved by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Sec. 2. (NEW) (a) On and after July 1, 1997, the State Board of Education may grant, within available appropriations, charters for local and state charter schools in accordance with this section.

(b) Any person, association, corporation, organization or other entity, public or independent institution of higher education, local or regional board of education or two or more boards of education cooperatively, or regional educational service center may apply to the Commissioner of Education, at such time and in such manner as the commissioner prescribes, to establish a charter school, provided no nonpublic elementary or secondary school may be established as a charter school and no parent or group of parents providing home instruction may establish a charter school for such instruction.

(c) The State Board of Education shall review, annually, all applications and grant charters, provided for the period from July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1999, (1) no more than twelve charters for local charter schools and no more than twelve charters for state charter schools are granted, (2) no state charter school enrolls more than two hundred and fifty students or twenty-five per cent of the enrollment of the school district in which the state charter school is to be located, whichever is less, and the total student population of all the state charter schools does not exceed one thousand students, (3) no more than two local charter schools and no more than two state charter schools operate within any Congressional district at any one time, and (4) no more than two charter schools operate within a school district at any one time. The State Board of Education shall give preference to applicants who will serve students who reside in a priority school district pursuant to section 10-266p of the general statutes, as amended, and to applicants for state charter schools that are institutions of higher education. In determining whether to grant a charter, the State Board of Education shall consider the potential of over concentration of charter schools in contiguous school districts.

(d) Applications pursuant to this section shall include a description of: (1) The mission, purpose and any specialized focus of the proposed charter school; (2) the interest in the community for the establishment of the charter school; (3) the school governance and procedures for the establishment of a governing council by the applicant, teachers, administrators and parents and guardians of students enrolled in the school; (4) the financial plan for operation of the school, provided no application fees or other fees for attendance, except as provided in section 5 of this act, may be charged; (5) the educational program, instructional methodology and services to be offered to students; (6) the number and qualifications of teachers and administrators to be employed in the school; (7) the organization of the school in terms of the ages or grades to be taught and the total estimated enrollment of the school; (8) the student admission criteria and procedures to ensure (A) effective public information, (B) open access on a space available basis, and (C) that the school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, disability, athletic performance or proficiency in the English language, provided the school may limit enrollment to a particular grade level or specialized educational focus and, if there is not space available for all students seeking enrollment, the school may give preference to siblings but shall otherwise determine enrollment by a lottery; (9) a means to assess student performance that includes participation in state-wide mastery examinations pursuant to chapter 163c of the general statutes; (10) procedures for teacher evaluation and professional development for teachers and administrators; (11) the provision of school facilities, pupil transportation and student health and welfare services; (12) procedures to encourage involvement by parents and guardians of enrolled students in student learning, school activities and school decision-making; and (13) a five-year plan to sustain the maintenance and operation of the school. Subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of section 4 of this act, an application may include or a charter school may file requests to waive provisions of the general statutes and regulations not required by sections 1 to 6, inclusive, of this act and which are within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education.

(e) An application for the establishment of a local charter school shall be submitted to the local or regional board of education of the school district in which the local charter school is to be located for approval pursuant to this subsection. The local or regional board of education shall: (1) Review the application; (2) hold a public hearing in the school district on such application; (3) survey teachers and parents in the school district to determine if there is sufficient interest in the establishment and operation of the local charter school; and (4) vote on a complete application within sixty days of receipt of such application. Such board of education may approve the application by a majority vote of the members of the board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the board called for such purpose. If the application is approved, the board shall forward the application to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall vote on the application within seventy-five days of receipt of such application. Subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of this section, the State Board of Education may approve the application and grant the charter for the local charter school or reject such application by a majority vote of the members of the state board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the state board called for such purpose. The state board may grant the charter for the local charter school for the period of time requested in the application or five years, whichever is less.

(f) An application for the establishment of a state charter school shall be (1) submitted to the State Board of Education for approval in accordance with the provisions of this subsection, and (2) filed with the local or regional board of education in the school district in which the charter school is to be located. The state board shall: (A) Review such application; (B) hold a public hearing on such application in the school district in which such state charter school is to be located; (C) solicit and review comments on the application from the local or regional board of education for the school district in which such charter school is to be located and from the local or regional boards of education for school districts that are contiguous to the district in which such school is to be located; and (D) vote on a complete application within seventy-five days of receipt of such application. The State Board of Education may approve an application and grant the charter for the state charter school by a majority vote of the members of the state board present and voting at a regular or special meeting of the state board called for such purpose. Charters shall be granted for the period of time requested in the application or five years, whichever is less.

(g) Charters may be renewed, upon application, in accordance with the provisions of this section for the granting of such charters.

(h) The Commissioner of Education may at any time, upon complaint or otherwise for good cause shown, including but not limited to failure to comply with provisions of the charter, place a charter school on probation in accordance with the terms of a remedial plan agreed to by the commissioner and the charter school governing council or revoke the charter, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (a) The governing council of a charter school shall submit annually, to the Commissioner of Education, a school profile as described in subsection (c) of section 10-220 of the general statutes, as amended.

(b) The governing council of each charter school shall submit annually, to the Commissioner of Education, at such time and in such manner as he prescribes, and, in case of a local charter school, to the local or regional board of education for the school district in which the school is located, a report on the condition of the school, including (1) the educational progress of students in the school, (2) the financial condition of the school, including a certified audit statement of all revenues and expenditures, and (3) accomplishment of the mission, purpose and any specialized focus of the charter school.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (a) For purposes of this section, "school professional" means any school teacher, administrator or other personnel certified by the State Board of Education pursuant to section 10-145b of the general statutes, as amended.

(b) Subject to the provisions of this subsection and except as may be waived pursuant to subsection (d) of section 2 of this act, charter schools shall be subject to all federal and state laws governing public schools. At least one-half of the persons providing instruction or pupil services in a charter school shall possess the proper certificate other than (1) a certificate issued pursuant to subdivision (3) of subsection (c) of section 10-145b of the general statutes, as amended, or (2) a temporary certificate issued pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-145f of the general statutes, as amended by section 9 of this act, on the day the school begins operation and the remaining persons shall possess a certificate issued pursuant to said subdivision (3) or such temporary certificate on such day. The commissioner may not waive the provisions of chapters 163c and 169 of the general statutes and sections 10-15c, 10-153a to 10-153g, inclusive, 10-153i, 10-153j, 10-153m and 10-292 of the general statutes, as amended. The state charter school governing council shall act as a board of education for purposes of collective bargaining. The school professionals employed by a local charter school shall be members of the appropriate bargaining unit for the local or regional school district in which the local charter school is located and shall be subject to the same collective bargaining agreement as the school professionals employed by said district. A majority of those employed or to be employed in the local charter school and a majority of the members of the governing council of the local charter school may modify, in writing, such collective bargaining agreement, consistent with the terms and conditions of the approved charter, for purposes of employment in the charter school.

*(c) School professionals employed by a local or regional board of education shall be entitled to a two-year leave of absence, without compensation, in order to be employed in a charter school provided such leave shall be extended upon request for an additional two years. At any time during or upon the completion of such a leave of absence, a school professional may return to work in the school district in the position in which he was previously employed or a comparable position. Such leave of absence shall not be deemed to be an interruption of service for any purpose of employment, including seniority and employee benefits, except that time may not be accrued for purposes of attaining tenure. A school professional who is not on such a leave of absence and is employed for forty school months of full-time continuous employment by the charter school and is subsequently employed by a local or regional board of education shall attain tenure after the completion of twenty school months of full-time continuous employment by such board of education in accordance with section 10-151 of the general statutes, as amended.

*(Revisors' note: See also P.A. 96-244, S. 56, 63.)

(d) An otherwise qualified school professional employed in a charter school may participate in the state teacher retirement system under chapter 167a of the general statutes on the same basis as if such professional were employed by a local or regional board of education. The governing council of a charter school shall make the contributions, as defined in subdivision (7) of section 10-183b of the general statutes, for such professional.

Sec. 5. (NEW) (a) For the purposes of education equalization aid under section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended, a student enrolled (1) in a local charter school shall be considered a student enrolled in the school district in which he resides, and (2) in a state charter school shall not be considered a student enrolled in the school district in which he resides.

(b) The local board of education of the school district in which a student enrolled in a local charter school resides shall, pay, annually, in accordance with its charter, to the fiscal authority for the charter school for each such student the amount specified in its charter.

(c) The state shall, annually, pay in accordance with this subsection, to the fiscal authority for a state charter school, for each student enrolled in such school, an amount equal to one hundred five per cent of the foundation level pursuant to subdivision (9) of section 10-262f of the general statutes, as amended, per student for the fiscal year in which the payment is made. Such payment shall be made as follows: Ten per cent of the amount determined pursuant to this subsection on July first based on student enrollment on May first and thirty per cent of such amount on October first, January first and April first each based on student enrollment on September first.

(d) The local board of education of the school district in which the charter school is located shall provide transportation services for students of the charter school who reside in such school district pursuant to section 10-273a of the general statutes, unless the charter school makes other arrangements for such transportation.

(e) Charter schools shall be eligible to the same extent as boards of education for any grant for special education.

(f) Charter schools shall receive, in accordance with federal law and regulations, any federal funds available for the education of any pupils attending public schools.

(g) The governing council of a charter school may (1) contract or enter into other agreements for purposes of administrative or other support services, transportation, plant services or leasing facilities or equipment, and (2) receive and expend private funds or public funds, including funds from local or regional boards of education, for school purposes.

Sec. 6. (NEW) (a) Each charter school may (1) sue and be sued, (2) purchase, receive, hold and convey real and personal property for school purposes, and (3) borrow money for such purposes.

(b) The state, a local or regional board of education or the applicant for a charter school shall have no liability for the acts, omissions, debts or other obligations of such charter school, except as may be provided in an agreement or contract with such charter school.

Sec. 7. Subsections (a) and (b) of section 10-235 of the general statutes, as amended by section 186 of public act 95-79, are repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Each board of education shall protect and save harmless any member of such board or any teacher or other employee thereof or any member of its supervisory or administrative staff, and the State Board of Education, the Board of Governors of Higher Education, the board of trustees of each state institution and each state agency which employs any teacher, and the managing board of any public school, as defined in section 10-183b, INCLUDING THE GOVERNING COUNCIL OF ANY CHARTER SCHOOL, shall protect and save harmless any member of such boards, or any teacher or other employee thereof or any member of its supervisory or administrative staff employed by it, from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, demand, suit or judgment by reason of alleged negligence or other act resulting in accidental bodily injury to or death of any person, or in accidental damage to or destruction of property, within or without the school building, or any other acts, including but not limited to infringement of any person's civil rights, resulting in any injury, which acts are not wanton, reckless or malicious, provided such teacher, member or employee, at the time of the acts resulting in such injury, damage or destruction, was acting in the discharge of his or her duties or within the scope of employment or under the direction of such board of education, the Board of Governors of Higher Education, board of trustees, state agency, department or managing board; provided that the provisions of this section shall not limit or otherwise affect application of section 4-165 concerning immunity from personal liability. For the purposes of this section, the terms "teacher" and "other employee" shall include (1) any person who is a cooperating teacher, teacher mentor or assessor pursuant to section 10-220a, AS AMENDED (2) any student teacher doing practice teaching under the direction of a teacher employed by a local or regional board of education or by the State Board of Education or Board of Governors of Higher Education, (3) any student enrolled in a regional vocational-technical high school who is engaged in a supervised health-related field placement program which constitutes all or part of a course of instruction for credit by a regional vocational-technical school, provided such health-related field placement program is part of the curriculum of such vocational-technical school, and provided further such course is a requirement for graduation or professional licensure or certification, (4) any volunteer approved by a board of education to carry out a duty prescribed by said board and under the direction of a certificated staff member including any person, partnership, limited liability company or corporation providing students with community-based career education, (5) any volunteer approved by a board of education to carry out the duties of a school bus safety monitor as prescribed by said board, (6) any member of the faculty or staff or any student employed by The University of Connecticut Health Center or health services, (7) any student enrolled in a constituent unit of the state system of higher education who is engaged in a supervised program of field work or clinical practice which constitutes all or part of a course of instruction for credit by a constituent unit, provided such course of instruction is part of the curriculum of a constituent unit, and provided further such course (i) is a requirement for an academic degree or professional licensure or (ii) is offered by the constituent unit in partial fulfillment of its accreditation obligations and (8) any student enrolled in a constituent unit of the state system of higher education who is acting in the capacity of a member of a student discipline committee established pursuant to section 4-188a.

(b) In addition to the protection provided under subsection (a) of this section, each local and regional board of education AND EACH CHARTER SCHOOL shall protect and save harmless any member of [a] SUCH local or regional board of education OR CHARTER SCHOOL GOVERNING COUNCIL or any teacher or other employee thereof or any member of its supervisory or administrative staff from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, demand or suit instituted against such member, teacher or other employee by reason of alleged malicious, wanton or willful act or ultra vires act, on the part of such member, teacher or other employee while acting in the discharge of his duties. In the event such member, teacher or other employee has a judgment entered against him for a malicious, wanton or willful act in a court of law, such board of education OR CHARTER SCHOOL shall be reimbursed by such member, teacher or other employee for expenses it incurred in providing such defense and shall not be held liable to such member, teacher or other employee for any financial loss or expense resulting from such act.

Sec. 8. (NEW) Within available appropriations, the Commissioner of Education shall annually, review and report, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, on the operation of such charter schools as may be established pursuant to sections 1 to 6, inclusive, of this act to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education.

Sec. 9. Subsection (c) of section 10-145f of the general statutes, as amended by section 15 of public act 95-259, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

*(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section and section 10-145b, the following persons shall be eligible for a nonrenewable temporary certificate: (1) A person who has resided in a state other than Connecticut during the year immediately preceding application for certification in Connecticut and meets the requirements for certification, excluding successful completion of the competency examination and subject matter assessment, if such person holds current teacher certification in a state other than Connecticut and has completed at least one year of successful teaching in another state in a public school or a nonpublic school approved by the appropriate state board of education [and] (2) a person who has graduated from a teacher preparation program at a college or university outside of the state and regionally accredited, and meets the requirements for certification, excluding successful completion of the competency examination and subject matter assessment AND (3) A PERSON HIRED BY A CHARTER SCHOOL AFTER JULY FIRST IN ANY SCHOOL YEAR FOR A TEACHING POSITION THAT SCHOOL YEAR, PROVIDED THE PERSON HIRED AFTER SAID DATE MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A CERTIFICATE ISSUED PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION (3) OF SUBSECTION (c) OF SECTION 10-145b. The nonrenewable temporary certificate shall be valid for one year from the date it is issued. Any board of education employing a person who holds a nonrenewable temporary certificate issued pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection shall provide a program to assist each such person who has not successfully completed the competency examination by January fifteenth of the school year in which such certificate was issued. Said program, developed in consultation with the state Department of Education, shall include academic and classroom support service components. Each such person who does not successfully complete said examination by said January fifteenth shall participate in said program.

*(Revisors' note: See also P.A. 96-244, S. 57, 63.)

Approved June 4, 1996. Effective October 1, 1996.

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