State Rep. Kathy Kennedy (R-119) last week supported two pieces of legislation in the legislature’s Education Committee aimed at establishing clear minimum guidelines and standards for remote learning to ensure quality education and establishing a social-emotional learning to adequately mental health support for all Connecticut students.
The distance learning proposal, “An Act Concerning Virtual Learning,” would require the state Department of Education to create uniform standards for online learning by July, as well as conduct an audit of the remote learning programs being used by school districts across the state and report their findings, committee leaders said. The department would also determine what should and should not be considered an excused absence from online classes and approve the virtual learning platforms being used by districts.
“We are hearing from many parents that their children have fallen behind. This bill looks to set clear minimum standards for virtual learning to ensure Connecticut students, families and teachers will be more prepared to hit the ground running, rather than scramble in uncertainty,” said Rep. Kennedy.
The social-emotional learning proposal, HB-6557, “An Act Concerning Social and Emotional Learning,” would work to implement the recommendations of the Social Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative and to integrate the principles of social-emotional learning and restorative practices into the provision of public education in Connecticut while adequately addressing the need for mental health counselors in our schools.
Rep. Kennedy said, “The current pandemic has highlighted the pervasiveness of mental health concerns like never before. Kids have had to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation due to remote learning and not being able to socialize with their peers in in-person school. Prevention is the best strategy to tackle an epidemic.”
According to testimony from the Connecticut School Counselor Association, today fewer than 25% of Connecticut’s elementary school children have access to school counselors and comprehensive school counseling programming; that means that 75% of students are not receiving the attention, care, and proactive interventions of a school counselor and a comprehensive school counseling program.
Additionally, Connecticut ranks 37th in the nation for average school counselor to student ratios. Due to these high caseloads (an average of 1:457), students at the middle school and high school levels also do not always have access to their school counselor.
Both pieces of legislation were overwhelming approved in the Education committee and now move forward for further General Assembly debate.