Overhaul of state vo-tech schools heads for governor’s desk

A bill aimed at improving the state’s vocational-technical schools is headed for Gov. M. Jodi Rell‘s desk.

Rep. Andrew W. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the Education Committee said, the bill “addresses all of the shortcomings” at the state’s vo-tech schools.

The bill passed unanimously in the House today and in the Senate last week.

During a public hearing last month, numerous people testified on the deteriorating conditions at the 15 state-funded schools. There are 10,200 high school students and 5,500 part-time adult students currently enrolled at the schools.

The bill does several things, including requiring the State Board of Education to hold a hearing and develop a plan if a vo-tech school is to be closed and to transport students from the closed school to another school. It also adds two members with backgrounds in vocational-technical education or manufacturing to the board.

The bill also requires the State Bond Commission to vote twice a year on whether to allocate money for maintenance and equipment at the vo-tech schools and it requires the vo-tech superintendent compile an annual report on the adequacy of funding and resources.

Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, ranking Republican on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, expressed concern with requiring the bond commission to vote on additional funding twice a year.

“They are in need of funding, but I do have concerns with how this is done,” he said, worried that it could set a dangerous precedent in requiring what the commission votes on.

The final requirement would retire all school buses 12 years and older, spurred from a Hartford Courant article that reported the majority of vo-tech school buses have major safety violations.

Last month, Patricia Ciccone, superintendent of the vo-tech schools, said about half of the school’s 90 buses are 10 years or older. The Bond Commission responded by giving the schools $2 million to help replace the aging buses.

Rell’s office would not comment if she will sign the bill, but during public hearings several agency officials testified against the bill.

Robert L. Genuario, Office of Policy and Management Secretary testified against the bill, saying it creates a bureaucratic system and would “alter the executive power” of the bonding commission.