Our local school systems currently labor under 380 state education mandates, most of them unfunded. While perhaps individually well-intentioned, this heap of mandates has stolen flexibility from our local school officials and increased the cost of education.
This year, the legislature finally provided some relief by passing into law HB 7276, An Act Concerning Mandate Relief, a bill I cosponsored. The Education Committee, on which I sit, introduced this bill with input from superintendents, board of education members, and education advocates. It passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by the governor this past week.
This bill eliminates the requirement that schools adopt the regional school calendar, gives districts more flexibility in educating expelled students, eliminates the requirement that all school professionals be trained in physical restraint and seclusion, and provides that only the last twenty years’ worth of employers need be contacted for potential new hires.
A lot of work remains to be done, but HB 7276 provides at least some financial and bureaucratic relief to our schools. This is especially important given the current state budget crisis, when the state is cutting education funding for our towns and contemplating billing our towns millions of dollars for teachers’ retirement—a state program. The time, money, and resources this can save schools should work to lessen the impact of the fiscal crisis for municipalities. It also signals that state government is beginning to understand that unfunded, one-size-fits-all state mandates hold our schools back and inhibit educational success for our children.
HB 7276 is a bright spot this legislative session. I hope we can do more next session to eliminate mandates and provide our schools the space they need to flourish.
State Representative Adam Dunsby represents the 135th district communities of Easton, Redding, and Weston.