A Day on the Hill is an incredible event of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE). The event allows for superintendents, school administrators, and students to hear from and talk with state legislators about issues surrounding education policy.
The event included remarks by Govenor Dannel P. Malloy, Senator Andrea Stillman, Representative Andy Fleishmann, and Senator Toni Boucher. These legislators play a large role in the realm of education. Senator Stillman acts as the Senate Chair of the legislature’s Education Committee as of January 2013. Fleishmann serves as Chairman of the Education Committee and Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Elementary and Secondary Education. Senator Boucher is the Senate Ranking Member of the Education Committee and of its Higher Education Committee as well as acting as a member of the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.
After the morning briefings and remarks, participants walk to the capitol. In the online brochure, this time is marked as “Education Funding Rally.” Interestingly, that title is not on the agenda of the group. Instead this timeframe is marked as “March to the Capitol.” The students “marched” to the capitol from across the street at the Bushnell with intentions of touring while lobbyists talked to legislators. This action consisted of lobbying rather than a true “rally.” From 1:00-1:30, the agenda is marked “Student Conversations.” It is between the march and a scheduled capitol tour that I come upon five senior girls from John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT.
In the lobby of the capitol building, groups of two to five people are engaged in conversations. NBC Connecticut news staff walk past in a hurry. Further in the lobby, a large group of high-school aged students are seated at tables. I approach a table of business-dressed teenage girls and ask about the event. After some introductions, they each agree to be interviewed and photographed.
The girls recall the discussion topics from that morning. They explain that it was a long morning with a range of topics covered. Each girl seems to remember a different aspect as they all interrupt each other. “The governor talked about the budget” “-and school security, after you know, Newt-“ “They talked about special ed.” The scattered recollections of these high school seniors demonstrate the vast coverage of the event, but also what aspects stood out to them.
Gonzalez handed me her packet to leaf through. An itinerary is followed by biographies of each of the legislators present at the event. The last two pages identify bills that the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education is currently following. I point out a few and these seniors do not seem to remember which ones in particular were discussed at the Bushnell. The budget seems to be the most prevalent discussion, according to these participants in particular. The “Education Funding Rally” title of the time slot seems to make sense despite its absence from personal itineraries.
Looking through the various CABE bills, two directly reference the issues of budget; one addresses implementation while the other discusses the Department of Education reporting an annual budget. Other concerns include innovations in schools, alternative programs, English-language learners, and the achievement gap. The two that impact the structure and implementation of budget concerns were listed. Looking into the Connecticut General Assembly site, the bills and their status are as follows.
Connecticut House Bill 6357, an act implementing the budget recommendations of the Governor concerning education, consists of 52 pages, available on the Connecticut General Assembly website (http://www.cga.ct.gov/). This bill was introduced and referred to the Joint Committee on Education February 7, 2013 and discussed at the public hearing February 15, 2013.1
Connecticut State Bill 998 AAC was introduced and referred to the Joint Committee on Education February 27, 2013 and discussed at the public hearing March 4, 2013.2This bill requires the Department of Education to report annual budgets of regional education service centers to the Connecticut General Assembly.
These bills require looking into for an understanding. The bills may have been directly referenced at the briefings at the Bushnell, but the particular high school seniors I talked to could not refer to them. While they could not point out the specifics of the bills, their understanding of educational policy and its impact, they agreed, was bettered by their attendance at A Day on the Hill. I asked them of their interest in educational policy in their futures.
“I want to be a teacher,” Laccone answered. “I am definitely interested in it,” Biggins stated, “in policy.” The five girls seem bright-eyed and new to the field. As seniors, a new chapter is just beginning for them. They each tell me which college they are attending in the fall. Their plans for future involvement are open-ended. A teacher had selected them from their high school to attend the event. Overall, the event opened the eyes of these high school seniors to the complexities of educational policy and its impact.
1 Connecticut General Assembly. (2013, March). Bill Status (Governor’s H.B. No. 6357). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB06357&which_year=2013
2 Connecticut General Assembly. (2013, March). Bill Status (Raised S.B. No. 998). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00998&which_year=2013