New laws mean big changes for students and parents

School is out for the summer, but students returning in August are in for some changes – all thanks to new laws that just passed.

John Craven

Jun 15, 2023, 9:26 PM

Updated 304 days ago

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School is out for the summer, but students returning in August are in for some changes – all thanks to new laws that just passed.
Here are a few of the changes coming in the next few years.
KINDERGARTEN AGE RAISED
Sulay Savinon's son is about to start kindergarten. But beginning in fall 2024, some kids will have to wait an extra year to enroll.
Right now, children can enroll in school if they turn 5 years old by Jan. 1. But a newly passed bill moves that date up to Sept. 1 – at the start of the school year.
“I don't agree with that, because kids have to be doing something,” said Savinon.
The change puts Connecticut in line with most other states. The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, argued that kindergarten has gotten more academically demanding.
“You walk into a kindergarten classroom today and they’re doing writing prompts and they’re doing reading,” said CEA president Kate Dias. “Our curriculum is really developmentally inappropriate for those 4-year-olds.”
NEW GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
When kids finish school, they'll have two new graduation requirements – filling out a FAFSA federal student aid form and passing a financial literacy class.
“If it's for high schoolers, it's good, because they're going to start getting jobs for money,” said Naveah Baskin of Norwalk, who just graduated. “And it could really teach them about finance.”
The new financial literacy requirement applies to this fall’s freshman class, which will graduate in 2027. The FAFSA requirement begins with the Class of 2025.
MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS
Several new laws focus on students' mental health. Schools across the state will now have a uniform bullying complaint form and a “school climate” survey. They will also have the ability to perform suicide risk assessments.
There's also more transparency surrounding school resource officers' restraint and arrest policies. Districts will now have to publicly post online “the SRO’s duties and procedures for restraining students, using firearms, making school-based arrests, and reporting on investigations and behavioral interventions.”
SROs are common in Connecticut. According to the Office of Legislative Research, 68% of school systems use police or outside security officers – including Norwalk, Bridgeport and Westport. A survey from the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents found that school security is armed in 10% of districts.
But a report from Connecticut Voices for Children found, students in schools with SROs were twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement – and Black students were 17 times more likely to get arrested.
“This is an issue,” said Nicole Broadus, an organizer with Hearing Youth Voices, at a February news conference. “That information is important and that information should be accessible.”
SPENDING TRANSPARENCY
Schools are getting $150 million extra this year, but that money comes with new strings attached.
Beginning next year, each district’s detailed spending list – called a “chart of accounts” –will be publicly available on the state Department of Education website. The data will also be uniform, so parents and lawmakers can compare school systems.
“We are interested in finding out where our tax dollars, and how our tax dollars, are being spent in public education,” said state Sen. Douglas McCrory (D-Hartford), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Education Committee.
NON-ENGLISH-SPEAKING PARENTS
Finally, for parents who don't speak English, schools now have to translate letters sent home and other key communications.
“It's a little frustrating because you need to have a person to know English that can talk to you about that letter,” said Stamford parent Carmelita Oliba.


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