Location:
EDUCATION - FINANCE; SCHOOLS;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Court Cases; Program Description;

OLR Research Report


October 5, 2010

 

2010-R-0399

OLR BACKGROUNDER: STATE FUNDING FOR INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOLS

By: Judith Lohman, Assistant Director

On July 9, 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the racial, economic, and ethnic isolation in the Hartford school district and those of its surrounding towns violated Connecticut's constitution and ordered the state to remedy that violation (Sheff v. O'Neill, 238 Conn. 1).

Among the strategies the state adopted in response to the Sheff decision was to greatly expand its system of state-funded interdistrict magnet schools. Each of these schools has a specialized educational theme or focus designed to attract students from various districts, who enroll in them voluntarily. Since 1994, the number of state-funded interdistrict magnet schools has increased from five to 65. Magnet school enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year is 24,536 students or 4.4% of the state's total public school enrollment.

The state's system for funding interdistrict magnet schools has become increasingly complex. This report describes the state's magnet school grants and how different types of magnet schools are funded for FY 11. It updates our March 9, 2010 report on this topic (2010-R-0056).

TYPES OF INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOLS

Connecticut's interdistrict magnet schools operate according to two basic models: “host” magnets, which are operated by the school districts where they are located, and “RESC” magnets, which are operated by regional education service centers (RESCs) or other nonprofit entities, such as colleges and universities, approved by the education commissioner.

Host and RESC magnets are divided into two subcategories: Sheff and non-Sheff. Sheff magnets are interdistrict magnet schools in the Hartford region that help the state meet the requirements it and the Sheff plaintiffs agreed to in 2008 and that were incorporated into a stipulated court order in the case. Interdistrict magnet schools located outside the Sheff region such as those in New London, New Haven, and Bridgeport, are called non-Sheff magnets because they are not part of the settlement. 

The Sheff settlement applies to Hartford and 21 other towns in the Hartford region. Under the settlement, which runs from 2008 to 2013, the state must ensure a diverse educational experience for an increasing percentage of Hartford students every year. The settlement requires that at least 41% of Hartford's students be in a “reduced isolation” (desegregated) educational setting by the end of the settlement period. (OLR Report 2008-R-0368 summarizes the 2008 Sheff settlement.) The Hartford area interdistrict magnet schools are a key part of the state's Sheff implementation plan. To ensure its goals are achieved, the state provides higher per-pupil grants for interdistrict magnet schools located in the Hartford region compared to those in other parts of the state.

MAGNET SCHOOL FUNDING

Interdistrict magnet schools, like other public schools in Connecticut, receive a mixture of state and local funding. In addition, towns that send students to such schools continue to receive their regular Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants for those students.

State Magnet School Grants

Interdistrict magnet schools receive state grants for three major expenses: (1) construction and capital costs, (2) operations, and (3) student transportation. The latter two grants are distributed on a per-student basis. Per-student grants are established in statute. They are based on annual appropriations, the number of qualifying schools, the number of students attending the schools and where they are from, and where the schools are located (CGS 2010 Supplement, 10-264l, as amended by PA 10-179, 18).

In addition, the education commissioner can provide supplemental grants to an interdistrict magnet school after conducting a comprehensive financial review of its operating budget, including all revenue and expenditure estimates. These supplemental grants depend on available appropriations.

Construction grants reimburse the magnet school's operator for up to 95% of the eligible cost of its construction.

Starting July 1, 2009, the law prohibits the education commissioner from accepting applications for capital or operating grants for new interdistrict magnet schools unless they will help the state meet the goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement. The moratorium on funding new non-Sheff magnets ends once the commissioner develops a comprehensive state-wide interdistrict magnet school plan. He must submit the plan to the Education Committee by January 1, 2011 (CGS 2010 Supplement, 10-264h and 10-264l).

Tuition from Sending Districts

Local funding for interdistrict magnet schools comes from the per-student tuition many magnet schools charge their students' home districts. All RESC magnets and some host magnets charge tuition. Per-student tuition varies depending on the school. Local districts that send students to magnet schools out of the district pay the tuition from state and local funding appropriated to them, including from local property taxes and state ECS and other education grants. Local school districts that operate interdistrict magnet schools support their own students who attend those schools through local property taxes and state education grants.

By law, starting in FY 11, a RESC magnet school must charge per-pupil tuition equal to the difference between (1) the magnet school's average per-pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and (2) the sum of (a) its per-pupil state subsidy and (b) any revenue from other sources calculated on a per-pupil basis. The education commissioner must conduct a comprehensive financial review of the magnet school's operating budget to verify the tuition rate.

ECS Grants

A student who goes to school full-time at an interdistrict magnet school is counted as a resident student in his home town for purposes of the town's ECS grant. Interdistict magnet school students have no effect on the distribution of ECS grants and the state continues to pay their home towns an ECS grant for them without any reduction.

For each interdistrict magnet school student, the state therefore pays both a state grant to the magnet school operator and an ECS grant to the student's home town. Towns that operate magnet schools receive both a magnet school operating grant and an ECS grant for each of their own students attending the school. Towns that send students to magnet schools in other districts can use their ECS grants for these students to offset the tuition charges.

To illustrate the relationship among the state magnet school operating grants, state ECS grants, and tuition payments for students enrolled in various types of magnet schools, we attach three tables, created jointly by OLR and the Office of Fiscal Analysis, showing examples of state and local per-student payments for students attending magnet schools in three regions: Hartford, New Haven, and New London. For each region, we illustrate the payments for a student from Hartford, New Haven, and New London and for students from a medium-sized suburb and a small town near those cities. The tables also show the combined per-student state magnet and ECS grants payable in each situation.

STATE MAGNET SCHOOL OPERATING GRANTS

Host Magnets

Host Magnets Generally. Host magnet schools (other than those run by the Hartford school district – see below) receive a state grant of $6,730 for each enrolled student from a town other than the one operating the school (the “host town”). For each student from the host town, the state grant is $3,000. All towns, including host towns, also receive an ECS grant for each of their students enrolled in the magnet school. This is because, under the ECS formula, students attending full-time interdistrict magnet schools are counted as if they are attending regular public schools in their home districts.

In some cases, the combination of the state magnet school operating grant and the ECS grant for its own students gives the host town sufficient funding so that it charges no tuition to other school districts for sending their students to the school. In other cases, the host town charges tuition.

 

Hartford Host Magnets. Hartford host magnets are schools operated by the Hartford school district. They are all considered Sheff magnets. Consequently, the state pays a higher per-pupil grant for out-of-district students attending those schools than it does for out-of-district students attending host magnet schools in other regions.

In FY 11, for each student from outside Hartford attending a Hartford host magnet school, the city receives a state per-pupil operating grant of $13,054. For each Hartford student, the city receives $3,000 plus an ECS grant of $8,364 (see Table 1 attached). In return for receiving the higher operating grant for each magnet school student from another town, for FY 10 and FY 11, Hartford is prohibited from charging tuition for any student enrolled in interdistrict magnet schools it operates (CGS 2010 Supp., 10-264l (o)).

RESC Magnets

Non-Sheff RESC Magnets. With two exceptions (see below), non-Sheff RESC magnets are grouped into two categories for purposes of determining their per-student grants: (1) those that enroll less than 55% of their students from a single town and (2) those that enroll 55% or more of their students from a single town. RESC magnets enrolling less than 55% of their students from a single town receive $7,620 annually for each student. RESC magnets enrolling 55% or more of their students from one town (the dominant town) are treated the same as host magnets and receive $3,000 for each student from the dominant town and $6,730 for each student from the other towns.

The higher state grant for RESC magnets enrolling less than 55% of their students from any single town gives RESC-operated magnets an incentive to draw students from many towns and thus have a more diverse student body. Because RESCs do not receive ECS grants, RESC magnets supplement their state operating grants by charging towns tuition for each of their resident students who attends the school. The students' home towns (“sending towns”) receive ECS grants for the magnet school students (see Tables 2 & 3 attached).

 

Non-Sheff RESC Magnets Receiving Special Grants. The General Assembly established a separate, higher per-pupil grant for FY 10 and FY 11 for certain students attending Wintergreen and Edison magnet schools. The special grants apply to students from towns that make up more than 55% but less than 70% of Wintergreen's total enrollment (Hamden) and more than 55% but less than 80% of Edison's total enrollment (Meriden). For FY 11, Wintergreen receives $4,263 and Edison $3,833, rather than $3,000, for each student from Hamden and Meriden, respectively. In addition, the schools receive the standard $6,730 for each student from other towns. Starting in FY 12, these schools will receive the same $3,000 per-student grant as other non-Sheff RESC magnets with more than 55% of their students coming from a single town (CGS 2010 Supplement, 10-264l (c)(3)(C) & (D)), as amended by PA 10-179, 18).

Higher state grants for students from Hamden and Meriden enable the Wintergreen and Edison schools to charge lower tuition to those sending districts.

RESC-Operated Sheff Magnets. If a RESC-operated Sheff magnet enrolls less than 60% of its students from Hartford, its grant for each student is $10,443 for FY 11. If 60% or more of its students come from Hartford, its grants for those students are the same as the grants for any other RESC magnet enrolling more than 55% of its students from one town, namely $6,730 for each student from outside of Hartford and $3,000 for each student from Hartford. These schools also charge tuition to sending towns.

Part-Time Programs

An interdistrict magnet program that operates less than full-time, but at least half time, receives 65% of the above amounts.

TRANSPORTATION

The state, through its normal public school transportation grant program, provides funding for students transported to magnet schools within their home districts. These grants reimburse local school districts for zero to 60% of their eligible school transportation costs. The actual percentage reimbursement depends on the school district's wealth, with poorer districts receiving a higher percentage.

School districts may, but are not required to, provide transportation for their students attending magnet school schools outside the district. Such transportation is usually provided by the RESC for that region. The state gives a separate grant for magnet school students transported out-of-district. That grant reimburses the transportation provider for the reasonable costs of the transportation up to a maximum of $1,300 per student for those attending non-Sheff magnets and $2,000 per student for those attending Sheff magnets. Expenditures over these limits may be submitted for reimbursement in the following year through the normal school transportation grant (CGS 2010 Supplement, 10-264i).

CAPITAL COSTS

The state reimburses up to 95% of the eligible capital costs for an interdistrict magnet school. Reimbursements are made through the state's regular school construction grant program and can cover the cost of purchasing, constructing, extending, replacing, leasing, or performing major alterations in interdistrict magnet school facilities. The state funds these grants through general obligation (GO) bonds (CGS 10-264h).

In addition, for FY 11, the state authorized $4.6 million in GO bond funding for capital start-up cost grants for new interdistrict Sheff magnet schools. These grants may be used for (1) purchasing buildings; (2) leasing portable classrooms; (3) leasing space; and (4) buying equipment, including computers and classroom furniture (PA 10-108, 2). The State Bond Commission allocated the funds at its August 17, 2010 meeting.

INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL FUNDING FY 11

Table 1: Hartford Region - Per-Student Grants

SENDING TOWN

RESC-OPERATED SHEFF MAGNET

> 60% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT FROM HARTFORD

RESC-OPERATED SHEFF MAGNET

< 60% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT FROM HARTFORD

HARTFORD HOST MAGNET

State

Sending Town

State

Sending Town

State

Sending Town

Magnet Grant1

ECS1

Total State Payment

Tuition

Magnet Grant1

ECS1

Total State Payment

Tuition

Magnet Grant2

ECS

Total State Payment

Tuition

Hartford

$3,000

$8,634

$11,634

Varies3

$10,443

$8,634

$19,077

Varies3

$3,000

$8,634

$11,634

0

West Hartford

6,730

1,590

8,320

Varies3

10,443

1,590

12,033

Varies3

13,054

1,590

14,644

04

Granby

6,730

2,448

9,178

Varies3

10,443

2,448

12,891

Varies3

13,054

2,448

15,502

04

Source: Tables created jointly by the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Legislative Research.

Notes:

1 The magnet operating grant is payable to the RESC, while the ECS is grant payable to the sending town. The sum of the two represents the state aid for each student attending an interdistrict magnet school.

2 Hartford receives a magnet operating and an ECS grant for each of its students, plus a magnet grant for each student from outside Hartford who attends a Hartford host magnet. Sending towns receive ECS grants for their students attending Hartford host magnets.

3 Starting with FY 11, RESCs must charge tuition equal to the difference between the school's average per pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and the sum of (1) the state magnet school operating grant and (2) any revenue the school receives from other sources, calculated on a per-pupil basis. Because per-pupil expenditures vary from school-to-school, tuition charged to sending districts also varies.

4 State law prohibits Hartford from charging tuition for students enrolled in interdistrict magnet schools it operates. The prohibition applies to the 2010 and 2011 school years (CGS Supplement, 10-264l (o)).

Table 2: New Haven Region – Per-Student Grants

SENDING TOWN

RESC-OPERATED

> 55% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT

FROM NEW HAVEN1

RESC-OPERATED

< 55% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT FROM A SINGLE TOWN

NEW HAVEN HOST MAGNET

State

Sending Town

State

Sending Town

State

Sending Town

Magnet Grant 2

ECS 2

Total State Payment2

Tuition

Magnet Grant 2

ECS 2

Total State Payment2

Tuition

Magnet Grant3

ECS 3

Total

State Payment3

Tuition

New Haven

$3,000

$7,848

$10,848

Varies 4

$7,620

$7,848

$15,468

Varies 4

$3,000

$7,848

$10,848

0

Hamden

6,730

3,300

10,030

Varies 4

7,620

3,300

10,090

Varies 4

6,730

3,300

10,030

05

Oxford

6,730

2,090

8,820

Varies 4

7,620

2,090

9,710

Varies 4

6,730

2,090

8,820

05

Source: Tables created jointly by the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Legislative Research.

Notes:

1 To simplify the table, we assumed that the town with more than 55% enrollment in the magnet school is New Haven, but by law any non-Sheff RESC magnet school that has more than 55% of its enrollment from one town gets $3,000 for each of those students. One exception is the Wintergreen Magnet School in Hamden, which, for FY 11 only, receives $4,263 for each Hamden student, even though those students make up more than 55% of its total enrollment.

2 The magnet operating grant is payable to the RESC, while the ECS grant is payable to the sending town. The sum of the two represents the total state aid for each student attending an interdistrict magnet school.

3 A host town receives both a magnet operating and an ECS grant for each of its students, plus a magnet grant for each student from outside the host town who attends the host magnet. Sending towns receive ECS grants for their students attending host magnets. To simplify the table, we assumed that the host magnet is operated by the New Haven school district.

4 Starting with FY 11, RESCs must charge tuition equal to the difference between the school's average per pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and the sum of (1) the state magnet school operating grant and (2) any revenue the school receives from other sources, calculated on a per-pupil basis. Because per-pupil expenditures vary from school-to-school, tuition charged to sending districts also varies.

5 Although, unlike Hartford, New Haven is not prohibited by law from charging sending towns tuition to attend a New Haven host magnet, it has traditionally not done so.

Table 3: New London Region – Per-Student Grants

SENDING TOWN

RESC-OPERATED

> 55% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT

FROM NEW LONDON1

RESC-OPERATED

< 55% OF TOTAL ENROLLMENT

FROM A SINGLE TOWN

NEW LONDON HOST MAGNET

State

Sending

Town

State

Sending Town

State

Sending Town

Magnet Grant2

ECS 2

Total State Payment2

Tuition

Magnet Grant2

ECS 2

Total

State

Payment2

Tuition

Magnet Grant3

ECS 3

Total

State

Payment3

Tuition

New London

$3,000

$6,612

$9,612

Varies 4

$7,620

$6,612

$14,232

Varies 4

$3,000

$6,612

$9,612

0

Waterford

6,730

3,524

10,254

Varies 4

7,620

3,524

10,254

Varies 4

6,730

3,524

10,254

Varies 5

Salem

6,730

3,836

10,566

Varies 4

7,620

3,836

10,566

Varies 4

6,730

3,836

10,566

Varies 5

Source: Tables created jointly by the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Legislative Research.

Notes:

1 To simplify the table, we assumed that the town with more than 55% enrollment in the magnet school is New London, but by law any non-Sheff RESC magnet school that has more than 55% of its enrollment from one town gets $3,000 for each of those students.

2 The magnet operating grant is payable to the RESC, while the ECS grant is payable to the sending town. The sum of the two represents the total state aid for each student attending an interdistrict magnet school.

3 A host town receives a magnet operating and an ECS grant for each of its students, plus a magnet grant for each student from outside the host town who attends the host magnet. Sending towns receive ECS grants for their students attending host magnets. To simplify the table, we assumed that the host magnet is operated by the New London school district.

4 Starting with FY 11, RESCs must charge tuition equal to the difference between the school's average per pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and the sum of (1) the state magnet school operating grant and (2) any revenue the school receives from other sources, calculated on a per-pupil basis. Because per-pupil expenditures vary from school-to-school, tuition charged to sending districts also varies.

5 Unlike Hartford, other host towns are not prohibited by law from charging sending towns tuition to attend their host magnets. The tuition is set by the host town.

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