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OLR Research Report


February 8, 2011

 

2011-R-0078

COMPARISON OF STATE LAWS AND FUNDING FOR FIVE TYPES OF SPECIALTY SCHOOLS

By: Judith Lohman, Assistant Director

You asked for a table comparing state laws and funding for agricultural science and technology centers and charter, interdistrict magnet, regional vocational-technical (V-T), and innovation schools. This report expands OLR Report 2011-R-0001.

Table 1 compares the statutory provisions governing approval, programs, students, special education, and transportation requirements for each type of school, as well as showing how each type of school is funded.

As the table shows, four of the five types of schools (interdistict magnet, charter, and vocational-technical schools and agricultural science and technology centers) operate regionally, enrolling students from various towns. The schools are either 100% state-funded, as with state charter and V-T schools, or funded partly by the state and partly by districts that send students to the schools. Students attend these schools voluntarily and the state either runs them or approves and oversees them. Innovation schools are different from the others in three major ways: (1) their creation is a strictly local decision, (2) they are funded like regular public schools and receive no special state funding, and (3) the state exercises no special oversight over them.

More detailed information on funding for interdistrict magnet and charter schools and agricultural science and technology centers is available in OLR Reports 2010-R-0399 and 2010-R-0400.

Table 1: Connecticut Specialty Schools

Comparison of Laws and Funding, FY 11

 

Charter Schools

(CGS 10-66aa to ll)

Interdistrict Magnet Schools

(CGS 10-264h to m)

Vocational-Technical Schools

(CGS 10-95 to 10-99g)

Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Centers

(CGS 10-65 and 66)

Innovation Schools

(CGS 10-74h)

Eligible

Operators

Any person, association, corporation, organization, or other entity

Public or independent institution of higher education

Local or regional board of education

Two or more boards of education acting cooperatively

Regional education service center (RESC)

Local and regional board of education

RESC

Cooperative arrangement between two or more school boards

For a school that helps meet the goals of the 2008 settlement of the Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case: (1) boards of trustees of state's higher education constituent units or independent colleges or universities and (2) any other nonprofit corporation approved by the education commissioner

State Board of Education (SBE)

Local or regional boards of education that have entered into agreements with other boards to establish centers in conjunction with their regular school system.

Boards operating centers must have a consulting committee to advise the operating board of education. Each participating district must appoint two representatives to the center advisory board who have a competent knowledge of agriculture or acquaculture, as appropriate.

Local or regional boards of education for priority school districts, by agreement with unions representing their teachers and school administrators

Ineligible

Operators

Nonpublic school

Parent or group of parents providing home instruction

Regional vocational agriculture school

Regional vocational-technical school

Regional special education center

SBE is the only eligible operator.

Local and regional boards of education are the only eligible operators.

Local or regional boards of education for priority school districts are the only eligible operators.

Program Requirements

None

Support racial, ethnic, and economic diversity

Offer a special and high quality curriculum

Require students enrolled to attend at least half-time

Offer full-time, part-time, and evening programs in vocational, technical and technological education and training

SBE may authorize schools to offer trade programs for a maximum of five years, after which the board must evaluate programs (see below).

SBE must base any decision to offer new trade programs on (1) employment demand for graduates, (2) cost of establishing the program, (3) availability of qualified instructors, (4) existence of similar programs at other educational institutions, and (5) student interest.

The director of each V-T school must meet with the local business community to assess local workforce needs and implement curriculum modifications to address them.

Eligible agricultural science and technology education courses must be approved by SBE.

Any local or regional board of education that does not offer such courses must designate a school or schools offering such courses that its students may attend.

Operate under an innovation plan developed either by the school faculty and district leadership or an external partner as determined by the local board of education.

External partner can be a (1) public or private higher education institution; (2) nonprofit charter school operator; (3) educational collaborative; or (4) educational consortium approved by the education commissioner that may include public or private colleges or universities, parents, teacher or administrator

Approval Granted By

SBE for state charter school

Local board of education and SBE for local charter school

Education commissioner

SBE

SBE

Local or regional board of education for the priority school district

Initial Approval Considerations

Effect of school on reducing racial, economic, or ethnic isolation in its region

Regional distribution of charter schools in the state

Potential for over-concentration of charter schools within a school district or contiguous districts

For annual operating grants:

Whether program is likely to increase student achievement

Whether program is likely to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation

Percentage of enrollment from each participating district

The school's proposed operating budget and sources of funding

For Sheff magnets, whether the school is meeting the desegregation goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement

None specified

Program, educational need, location, and area to be served

School's operating plan (“innovation plan”) must be aimed at improving school operations and student performance

Additional Approval Factors

(Applicable to schools meeting initial considerations)

Schools serving children who live in priority districts or in districts where 75% or more of the students are members of racial or ethnic minorities

State charter schools located at work sites or with applicants that are higher education institutions

No non-Sheff magnets may be approved after July 1, 2009 until the education commissioner develops a comprehensive statewide magnet school plan

None

None

None

Approval Process

SBE review for state charter schools; local board of education for local charters

Public hearing in district where school will be located

For state charter school, SBE must solicit and review comments from board of education of district where school will be located and from contiguous districts.

For local charter school, the local board must survey teachers and parents in the district to determine if there is enough interest.

SBE must vote on application within 75 days of receiving it; a local board must vote within 60 days of receiving an application and forward an approved application to the SBE within 75 days of receipt.

Approval by majority vote

Approval may be subject to conditions

Charters may be delayed for up to one school year for the applicant to prepare.

Application approved by the education commissioner

Interdistrict magnet schools receiving capital construction grants must comply with regular school construction requirements, including General Assembly approval as part of the annual school construction priority list.

Not applicable. See above for approval process for new trade programs.

None specified.

Approval determined by local or regional board of education

Innovation plan must be developed by an innovation committee of from nine to 11 members.

Members must include the superintendent; a board of education member; two parents with one or more children in the school; the school principal; two certified district; two representing the external partner, if any; and two additional appropriate members as determined by the board of education.

Innovation committee must approve the innovation plan by a majority vote.

Provisions of union agreements may be waived or modified by a two-thirds vote of the bargaining unit members employed or to be employed at the school.

Enrollment Requirements

Each school may enroll no more than the lesser of

250 students or, if a K-8 school, no more than 300 or

25% of the enrollment of the school district where it is located.

If the SBE finds a state charter school has a demonstrated record of achievement, it must waive the enrollment limits.

Schools that begin operating before July 1, 2005 may have no more than 80% of enrolled students from one participating district.

Schools that begin operating on or after July 1, 2005 must (1) have no more than 75% of enrolled students from one participating district and (2) maintain a minority enrollment of at least 25% but no more than 75%.

● Private school students may enroll in public part-time programs so long as they (1) make up no more than 5% of the magnet school's full-time equivalent enrollment and (2) are not counted for purposes of the state magnet school transportation grant.

Students must have completed 8th grade.

Students must have completed 8th grade.

Districts not operating centers must provide student enrollment opportunities in one or more centers run by other districts.

If a district provided opportunities for its students to enroll in more than one center in the school year starting July 1, 2007, it must continue to do so.

Districts not operating a center must (1) allow their students to enroll in another district's center in numbers that are at least equal to the number of its students enrolled in the center during the three previous school years and (2) provide enrollment opportunities for 9th graders in each center it designates that are at least equal to (a) the number of 9th graders specified in its written agreement with each center or (b) the average number of 9th graders that enrolled in each designated center over the preceding three years.

None

Student Admission Criteria

Required:

Provide open access on a space-available basis

If applicants exceed space available, must distribute places by lottery

Promote a diverse student body

Not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, athletic performance, or English proficiency

Optional:

May limit enrollment to particular grade level or specialized educational focus

May give preference to siblings if applicants exceed space available

May not recruit students for purpose of interscholastic athletic competition

After accommodating students from participating districts according to an approved enrollment agreement, may enroll any interested student on a space-available basis.

In enrolling individual students directly, must give preference to a student from a district not participating in the Open Choice interdistrict attendance program.

SBE may adopt regulations to control admission to any V-T school.

Each district operating a center must establish and implement a five-year plan to increase racial and ethnic diversity at the center, so its enrollment reasonably reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the area where it is located.

Any student enrolled in an innovation school when it is established must be allowed to stay if the student and his or her parents choose.

Otherwise, admission criteria are determined by the local or regional board of education.

Student Transportation

District where charter school is located must provide transportation to charter school for students living in district unless charter school makes other arrangements

District has option of providing transportation to its students attending charter schools outside district. If it does, costs are eligible for reimbursement in regular school transportation grant.

Provided by the participating districts

Same kind as provided to children enrolled in other public schools

Districts must provide transportation for any resident student under age 21 who has not graduated from high school to any V-T school located in or outside the district.

Same as V-T school

Same as other district schools

Provision of Special Education and Related Services

School district where student lives must hold the planning and placement team (PPT) meeting.

District must invite representatives of charter school to participate in the meeting.

On a quarterly basis, school district must pay charter school the difference between the reasonable cost of education for the student and the per-student amount the school receives from state, federal, local, or private grants.

Charter school is responsible for ensuring the student receives services mandated by his individualized education program.

Same as charter school requirements except:

Payments from districts do not have to be quarterly.

Magnet school is only responsible for providing special education services if student attends magnet program full-time.

Provided and paid by SBE. Services are the same as those a local or regional school district must provide.

If a student's PPT determines that he or she requires services that preclude him or her from participating in the vocational education program offered at the V-T school, the student must be referred to the local or regional board of education in the town where the student lives for development of an individualized education program at the expense of the local or regional board of education (CGS 10-76q).

Any costs for special education students that exceed state grants (see below) must be reimbursed by the student's home district.

Districts may apply for state reimbursement for qualifying special education payments to a center that exceed tuition paid for non-special education students in the same manner as other excess special education costs.

Same as other district schools

School Construction Funding

From FY 06 to FY 09 each was eligible (one time) for up to $500,000 in funds for school improvements or refinancing previous debt through state bond funds.

Money remains from a state bond authorization to continue these grants but the legislature did not extend the education commissioner's authority to administer them.

Before July 1, 2003, eligible for 100% funding of construction projects through the state's school construction grant program.

Starting July 1, 2003, eligible for 95% funding of construction projects through the state's school construction grant program.

For FY 11, up to $4.6 million is available for capital start-up costs for new Sheff magnet schools.

State pays 100% of the cost of V-T school capital projects through general obligation bonds.

V-T school projects must, after review by the Department of Public Works, be included on the annual school construction priority list in the same manner as local school projects (CGS 10-283b)

District operating a center receives a state grant equal to 95% of the eligible cost of construction and equipment for the center through the state's school construction grant program.

Same as the district's other schools. State school construction grants reimburse local school districts for 20% to 80% of their eligible school construction costs, depending on district wealth.

Operating Expense Funding

For state charter schools, basic state grant of $9,300 per student per year plus a maximum supplemental grant of $70 per student per year if state appropriation exceeds actual enrollment.

For local charter schools, the local board of education must pay the amount specified in the school's charter, including reasonable costs for special education.

Students enrolled in a local charter school are counted in the ECS formula in the district in which they reside.

The state pays no ECS grants for students attending state charter schools, either to the school or to the student's home district.

Within appropriations, the state may provide a grant of up to $75,000 for start-up costs for any new charter school that assists the state to meet the goals of the 2008 settlement of the Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case.

At the end of any year, a charter school may (1) use up to 10% of any unspent grant funds for expenses in the following year and (2) deposit up to 5% in a reserve fund to finance a specific capital or equipment purchase. The school must return any other unspent funds to the state.

State operating grants depend on whether or not (1) a school is run by a local school district (“host magnet”) or a regional education service center or other entity (RESC magnet) and (2) whether it helps the state achieve the goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement (“Sheff magnet”) or not (“non-Sheff magnet”). Grants for FY 11 are:

Host magnet generally: $6,730 for each student from outside the host district; $3,000 for each student from the host district

Hartford host magnet: $13,054 for each student from outside Hartford; $3,000 for each Hartford student

Non-Sheff RESC magnet with 55% or less enrollment from a single town: $7,620 per student

Non-Sheff RESC magnet with 55% or more of enrollment from a single town: $6,730 for each student from outside the dominant district; $3,000 for each student from the dominant district (two of these magnets receive higher grants for students from their dominant districts)

RESC- run Sheff magnet: $10,443 per student for a school enrolling less than 60% of its students from Hartford. For a magnet enrolling 60% or more of its students from Hartford, $6,730 for each student from outside Hartford; $3,000 for each student from Hartford.

Part-time magnet school programs receive 65% of the above amounts if they operate at least half-time.

Many magnet schools receive per-student tuition from sending districts. Amounts vary based on the state grants the schools receive. Tuition cannot exceed certain limits.

For ECS grants, magnet school students are counted as attending school in their home districts.

V-T school operations are funded by the state through the regular state budget process.

Preparatory and supplemental programs, including apprenticeship programs, are funded from the nonlapsing Vocational Education Extension Fund., which is funded by all proceeds from the operation of the programs and from rental fees for V-T facilities ( 10-95e).

V-T students are not counted for purposes of ECS grants.

State Grants:

Annual operating grant of $1,355 for each student enrolled in the center as of October 1 of the preceding year.

For centers with more than 150 out-of-district students, an additional $500 per student.

A center that no longer qualifies for the $500 supplemental grant receives a gradually decreasing phase-out grant for four successive years after it ceases to qualify.

For a center that is not eligible for either a full $500-per-student supplemental grant or a phase-out grant, a supplemental grant of $60 per enrolled student.

If any funds remain after the above distributions, all centers receive an additional $100 per enrolled student.

Any remaining funds are distributed to districts operating centers with more than 150 out-of-district students. Allocations are based on the ratio of the number of out-of district students over 150 in each center to the total number of out-of-district students over 150 in all centers in the state.

For ECS grants, students are counted as attending school in their home districts.

Sending District Tuition:

Centers may charge sending districts annual tuition for each student they send to a center, up to a maximum tuition of 82.5% of the ECS foundation amount, or $7,992 per student per year based on the ECS foundation of $9,687 per student.

Tuition for students enrolled in shared-time programs is prorated. (In a shared time program, students take their regular high school academic courses at their home high school and their agriculture training at the agricultural center.)

Same as the district's other schools. Local schools are funded by local property taxpayers with support from state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) and other state grants.

School Transportation Funding

Provided to local and regional school districts through the normal school transportation grant program for students transported within district (mandated) and out-of-district (voluntary).

Provided through the normal school transportation grant program for students transported within the district.

Provided through a separate state grant for students transported out-of-district (expenditures over the state grant limits may be submitted for reimbursement in the following year in the normal school transportation grant):

Non-Sheff magnets: up to $1,300 per student

Sheff Magnets: up to $2,000 per student

Local school boards are eligible for state reimbursement of reasonable transportation costs at its regular rate (0 to 65% depending on wealth) plus 20 percentage points for any costs exceeding $800 per pupil, per year.

If the cost of providing out-of-town transportation for any student exceeds $200 per year, the town may opt to maintain the student in the town where he or she attends V-T school.

The education commissioner may reimburse local and regional boards of education and RESCs up to $2,000 per student for the cost of transporting Hartford students to V-T schools outside Hartford to help meet Sheff goals.

Sending districts are eligible for state reimbursement of reasonable transportation costs at its regular rate (0 to 65% depending on wealth) plus 20 percentage points for any costs exceeding $800 per pupil, per year.

The education commissioner may reimburse districts and RESCs up to $2,000 per student for the cost of transporting Hartford students to centers outside Hartford to help meet Sheff goals.

Same as other district schools. State school transportation grants reimburse local school districts for 0% to 60% of their eligible public school

Evaluation

Charters must be renewed every five years.

After receiving an application for a charter renewal, SBE may commission an independent appraisal of the school's performance.

SBE must consider the results of the appraisal in determining whether to renew the charter.

SBE or the education commissioner may deny renewal, place a charter school on probation, or revoke its charter if it finds the school has failed to: (1) adequately demonstrate student progress; (2) abide by its charter or state regulations; (3) make measurable progress in reducing racial, ethnic, and economic isolation; or (4) maintain its nonsectarian status.

The commissioner can also act if he or she finds the school's governing council (1) is unable to provide effective leadership to oversee the school's operations or (2) has not assured prudent and legal expenditure of public funds.

Education commissioner may conduct a comprehensive review of a magnet school's operating budget to verify its tuition rate.

RESC-operated magnet schools must submit an annual financial audit to the education commissioner.

Each year, the commissioner must randomly select one interdistrict magnet school to for a comprehensive financial audit by an auditor the commissioner selects.

SBE must establish specific achievement goals for V-T students and measure school performance based on quantifiable measures including 10th grade mastery test performance, trade-related assessment tests, and drop-out and graduation rates.

SBE must evaluate each school trade program every five years on the basis of (1) projected employment demand, including employment of graduates in the preceding five years; (2) availability of qualified instructors; (3) existence of similar programs at other educational institutions; and (4) student interest. SBE must also consider geographic differences that may make a trade program feasible at one school but not another and consult the craft committees for the program.

Every five years, SBE must adopt a long-range plan of priorities and goals for the V-T system.

V-T system superintendent must report at an annual hearing held by the Education, Higher Education, and Labor committees on information (1) to ensure the V-T curriculum is incorporating workforce skills to be needed over the coming 30 years as identified by the Labor commissioner and the Office of Workforce Competitiveness director; (2) the employment status of system graduates; and (3) the adequacy of system resources.

The district operating each center must conduct and submit to SBE, an annual study of the educational and vocational activities of its graduates five year after graduation.

Annual, by district superintendent, to determine if the school has annual goals outlined in the innovation plan.

Evaluations must be submitted to local board of education and education commissioner.

Local or regional school board may take action if superintendent finds that the school has substantially failed to meet its goals. Action may be to terminate the school or amend one or more parts of the innovation plan.