PRESIDING CHAIRMEN: Senator Gaffey
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
SENATORS: Fonfara, Herlihy
REPRESENTATIVES: Genga, Hovey, Bartlett, McCrory, Mikutel, Nafis
SENATOR GAFFEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for being here. My name is Senator Tom Gaffey. I'm a Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. I expect my House Chairman, Representative Fleischmann, to be here momentarily.
I didn't want to hold anybody up any longer so we could get started. Of course, today we're here as the Education Committee of the General Assembly to review the proposed settlement under the appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court under the landmark case of Sheff v. O'Neill.
As we move forward in reviewing this proposed settlement, which the General Assembly has been asked to review and either approve or reject. I'm sure Members of this Committee will have many questions in their mind.
Uppermost the questions in my mind will be the, to hear and understand and hopefully have some confidence, after I listen to the folks testifying before us today, that what's proposed in this settlement will produce actual results, because after doing this for a decade, I'm interested in results.
I'm interested in the results of easing racial isolation in the school district of Hartford and raising student achievement.
And I just want to say at the outset that the questions I'm going to have for everyone is how you can convince this Committee, this General Assembly that the model that you have in the settlement agreement will lead us to the results that I just talked about.
I know you have actual percentage goals in this settlement. I can tell you that after doing this for a decade and having far more inter-district experiences available in the Hartford district, we haven't really seen much of a change with regard to the racial isolation.
So it's incumbent upon everyone who's asking this General Assembly to approve this agreement to show us and prove to us how investing another $112 million in essentially the same model we've been following for the last decade will produce real results in easing racial isolation and enhancing student achievement for the school district of the City of Hartford.
With that, I promised that my House Chairman would be here momentarily. He did not let me down. He's right alongside me right now, and I'd like to ask Representative Fleischmann, my Co-Chair, if he has any comments for the group before we proceed. Representative Fleischmann.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thanks, Tom. Just briefly, thank you very much for coming, both those of you who are on this panel presently and those who are going to be testifying shortly.
As I think Tom laid out for you, we're very much interested in getting a sense of how this new settlement relates both to what's happened in the past and to what's hopefully a shared vision for where we want to bring students in the City of Hartford. And with that, I'd like to give you a chance to share with us your wisdom. Thank you.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. We're going to begin with Kathy Guay from the Office of Policy and Management on the first panel. And I see the Commissioner, our great Commissioner of Education, Mark McQuillan, at the table also.
We will then hear from the plaintiff's panel, Attorney Martha Stone is the director of the Center for Children's Advocacy, Dennis Parker, the director for the Racial Justice Project under the ACLU, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Horton-Sheff, who has joined us today, and we're glad to see you here today, Councilwoman.
And then we'll have the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and Regina Hopkins, Attorney Hopkins, from the Hartford Board of Education.
So without further ado, we're going to get out of your way so you can do the PowerPoint presentation. And we'll ask Kathy Guay to start us off with the Commissioner. Thank you.
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: Senator, if I might begin, please, just as by way of introduction, I'd like to, of course, introduce Kathy Guay who is the section director at OPM and she's been working with the Department very closely on arriving at an agreement.
And simply wanted to note that we're very mindful of the significance and importance of this agreement, and to that end, we have taken it upon ourselves to reorganize our organization, that we'll speak in fundamental ways to the, a successful implementation of the expectations of this agreement.
We thought that, we're here to take your questions, and certainly to understand that, we would need, I think, an understanding of the total agreement, and Kathy has kindly agreed to give us an overview of what's there, and then we'll go from there. So thank you.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. We'll hold questions until you're done with your presentation. All the panel members will hold their questions until you're completed, and then we'll get into a question-and-answer period. Okay. Kathy, you can proceed.
KATHY GUAY: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Gaffey, Representative Fleischmann. I put together a PowerPoint that kind of goes over the broad overview of this agreement.
We're very pleased to bring this to you today, and we guarantee you, this is not the same old response to Sheff as it was.
This proposal, again, endorses voluntary programs to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation, but more importantly, the state is going to take a leadership role in creating opportunities for Hartford students.
It sets a desegregation standard. It includes desegregation goals and it is in effect for five years. It includes enforcement provisions, and it requires the state to implement to the extent possible recommendations from Governor Rell's Commission on Education Finance.
I'm not going to go over all of the Sheff timeline, but as you can see, we've gone back and forth with the plaintiff since 1989, but now we have a new five-year agreement, which I think is going to be a successful one.
The first Sheff agreement, which expires in a couple of weeks, was to provide 30% of Hartford students with an educational experience with reduced isolation.
We were going to create eight new magnet schools with 600 students each, expand open choice by 200 students a year to 1,600 students, increase inter-district programs by $250,000, and provide state assistance to ensure that the programs worked.
There is good news from this first agreement. We did create nine new magnet schools. The state initiated a great new program to expand open choice to kindergarten. And we did indeed fund the inter-district programs.
Unfortunately, the 30% goal was not met. We don't need to go over the exact numbers. The plaintiffs pointed out to me that they're a little bit different on the numbers here, but basically we have not met the 30%.
So we're looking for a different way to integrate Hartford schools and provide kids with a reduced, an educational experience in a reduced isolation setting.
The new agreement, the desegregation standard is the minority population in the Sheff region plus 30%, which is about 74%. So in order to be considered a desegregated school, magnet schools will have to include a maximum of about 74% of minority students.
Right now, some or all of the Hartford host and regional magnet schools need to be brought into compliance with this new standard or the existing standard.
These are the goals that we have in the agreement. Starting in school year 2008-2009, 22% of Hartford students need to be in a reduced isolation setting. This increases to 41% by 2012.
There are enforcement provisions in this agreement. The state can be considered to be a material breach if SDE-approved enrollment management plans have not been done for existing magnet schools which do not meet the desegregation standard or SDE-approved enrollment management plans have not been done for new schools which have not met the standard by the third operating year, or the state has not ensured the success of the enrollment management plans for annual benchmarks, which you saw in the previous slide, are missed by more than 1%.
The state has four months to fix the breach. During the four-month period, the plaintiffs can't take depositions and are limited in scope of their discovery. And then we go into the four-month technical period.
I guess the most important thing for us is how the state is going to achieve the desegregation goals. We're looking at a flexible set of options.
We've looked at 2012, and we've made a projection that we hope, we plan on getting 4,265 students in less isolated settings. We can do that by having 3,200 students in new magnet school seats. We can 700 children in charter school seats and 325 students in upgraded Connecticut technical high schools.
What we, we are reserving the right to change this configuration, not to change the 4,265. That's our goal and we plan to meet it. But we may internally realign these if we need to.
If we find things are not working, if we can't get the magnet school seats that we need, we can't get the charter school seats, we may move things around a little bit to make sure that things go as we plan.
From the Commission on Education Finance, we are recommending an increase in magnet school and charter subsidies immediately. For new magnet schools created in this agreement, we'll have the subsidy go from $6,500 to $8,741 for those served by regional education service centers.
For host magnet schools, the subsidy would go from $5,302 to $8,158, and charter school subsidies would increase from $8,000 to $10,600.
We're hoping that by doing this we would create an incentive for folks to want to create magnet schools or to create charter schools.
For open choice, we plan on doing transportation increases from $2,100 to $3,250. The receiving grant would increase to $2,500. The student bonus would increase to $700.
We think an important part of this, in addition to increasing the incentives, the financial inventive part is that we would be providing academic support as well, so that once the children are transported from Hartford to a suburban district, the suburban district would have an opportunity to get academic support for that child if the child needed it.
We're also going to increase state involvement. As Commissioner McQuillan mentioned, he's created in his planning on staffing a Sheff office in SDE. This is a new and really wonderful thing that he's planning to do.
We're going to financially assist the city and CREC with the creation of a magnet school consolidated office.
We're going to consider and plan for a series of choice programs that will reduce racial isolation for Hartford students and implement choice legislation that allows parents to choose magnet schools without their school district's approval.
And we're going to limit the ability of magnet partners from pulling out from a magnet partnership. This is the proposed budget that Senator Gaffey was alluding to. As you can see, in the first couple of years we're only talking about a relatively minor amount of money, $15 million.
And by the end of the agreement, it's going to be up to $43 million as we bring more magnets and more charter schools into the program.
For the biennium, clearly we're going to create and staff the Sheff office, and we're going to help the city and CREC. But we're also going to look at the barriers that impede our success with the host magnet schools.
We realize we haven't done the best job that we could have in helping the city analyze the barriers that exist at each one of these schools. We're going to go school by school and figure out what barriers exist in each and every school and try to fix them.
We're going to try and align early childhood, accountability and Sheff goals to increase academic achievement for all Hartford students. And we're going to assess all of our existing choice options to make sure that we choose the right ones going forward.
And that's the end for me. But I'd be happy to take questions or if you want to wait until later.
SEN. GAFFEY: Why don't we hold off, because some of these questions are intertwined with legal questions. But just one question I'll give you right now, though.
On the task that's been assigned to the Commissioner and his staff, I presume in conjunction with OPM, but the office is going to be housed in the State Department of Education.
What is, what are the staffing plans for that office? What is budgeted for that? And do you feel that that budget is efficacious in order to accomplish this task, to go school by school to align the settlement goals with the work you'll be doing out of this office?
KATHY GUAY: There's about $500,000 and three positions.
SEN. GAFFEY: How many positions?
KATHY GUAY: Three. Three new positions. So these would be people directly involved with Sheff.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. You've got three new. Are there existing positions going into the office?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: Yes.
SEN. GAFFEY: How many?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: We would have, we have two, one full-time person and then a number of people that will be reposed in the Bureau of Choice Programs that manages our charter schools and our magnet schools so that we have access to that full complement of people, as well as people assigned specifically to Sheff.
So there is more capacity, I think, than would be suggested by $500,000 going into the work. We hope to cross-pollinate between the Bureau and the office so that the policy matters are attended to and that the thoughtful work of looking at how we're delivering on our magnet schools and the accountability for them is part of the office, of the Bureau of Choice, I should say.
So it's both the Bureau of Choice, which is a new piece of our reorganization, as well as the Sheff office that are working in tandem with each other.
SEN. GAFFEY: But you, bottom line, have four full-time people assigned to this office whose main tasks on a day-to-day basis will be implementing the settlement agreement, aligning the schools with the goals in the agreement, going school by school to get that accomplished. Do you feel that that is adequate, Commissioner, to accomplish this task?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: At this point, yes, I do. I think the issue with, I hope to, I think time will tell how effective we have become. If we need more staffing, then I would certainly raise the issue.
But right now I think the matter is bringing as much focus to the issues as we can, and I think that the combination of the Bureau of Choice Programs and the Sheff office give us a running start at trying to tackle this issue.
I think it's going to be a lot of community work and going and working with the parent communities, especially that, I think, will be a vital part of the really, the implementation of the agreement.
SEN. GAFFEY: Are you able to draw on any experiences elsewhere in the country where they sought to reduce racial isolation in the manner that is provided in this settlement agreement and what the type, what type of resource allocation was needed to accomplish that?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: I don't know about the resource allocation, but I certainly do know that I can speak to the issue of the program that I was a vital part of in Massachusetts, which was our METCO program, which was a desegregation program that parallels the inter-district choice program.
And again, there the predominant way of I think making that program stand and deliver was the careful outreach and networking between parents in both sending and receiving communities to establish a sense of urgency and civic responsibility around the work.
So the METCO program in Massachusetts was very much dependent on the cooperation and partnerships of the receiving districts from Boston as well as families in Boston who were sending their students in.
And I do think a good part of this is dependent on that form of building a coalition of expectations that this will happen.
And I think the other side of this is, because there's flexibility built into the financing here, I'm hopeful that we can find alternatives that will offer other incentives to parents to participate in this other than those that have been described.
SEN. GAFFEY: And what was your staffing level there?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: Well, the staffing level in the, I was working from this from the point of view of the school districts. Each district had its own staff complement that was assigned to the district to work with the incoming families on the inter-district choice.
There I had three full-time people on the district side. From the central side, which was not within my control, the METCO central, they had, but bear in mind, it was a larger operation.
They, I think, had at least a staff of 10 to 15, but that was throughout many, many different communities and a different set of problems around transportation.
Much of this was all transporting students to and from, and they managed the transportation system in ways that were a big part of their operation.
They struggled for financing too. The State Legislature financed the METCO program to some measure, but the host districts also contributed. And I think because of that contribution, it was able to sustain itself.
I think, therefore, the receiving districts should be offered as many incentives as possible financially to make this an important thing to do as well as the socially responsible thing to do.
SEN. GAFFEY: And when you talked about, Kathy, in your presentation numbers of students to go to charters, magnets and vo-tech high schools, those are numbers in addition to what is in place currently?
KATHY GUAY: Yes.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. And are the subsidies that you outlined in the presentation, are they consistent with what we have in front of us right now in the budget?
KATHY GUAY: No, because what you have in front of you in the budget is a four-year phase-in for charter magnet schools. For the phase-two Sheff schools, they would immediately go to the top range.
During our discussions with the plaintiffs, we have, and it's in the agreement that we would, to the extent possible, adopt the Commission on Education Finance's recommendations, so that's why you find the phase-two schools going to the top of the range.
SEN. GAFFEY: So how far off are we from the Commission's recommendations and what we have in the budget right now?
KATHY GUAY: For existing schools in the budget recommendations, you have the first year of four-year phase-in of the increases. And here you have the top range, so you're talking about probably a couple thousand dollars difference on a per-student basis.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. Representative Fleischmann.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Just a couple of quick follow-ups. And I'm not sure whether, Commissioner, this'll be most appropriately answered by you or by Kathy from OPM, so you make the call, as they say.
When we were budgeting for the Department at the appropriations level, this agreement was not yet firmly in place. And we had discussed adding positions at the Department for purposes of accountability and choice.
As I recall, we had discussed half a dozen new positions overall. Do these three Sheff positions come out of that additional six that we've been contemplating adding for those accountability purposes, or are we going to end up in a place where there are both half a dozen more people for accountability and three more people for Sheff, or is it some other scenario?
COMM. MARK MCQUILLAN: No. I think it's we're looking to get six positions for accountability, which is a very different piece of work around No Child Left Behind.
And I think while they are related, the work in Sheff is a specific project that has to be adequately staffed and united with the rest of the services that we're going to provide in the agency around accountability. So it is nine.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: And in the budget agreement that this Legislature will be contemplating sometime in the next couple of days, those nine positions are now budgeted for?
KATHY GUAY: Well, yes, but you're not seeing the positions for the three Sheff positions in personal services. They would be coming out of the line item which we are tentatively calling the Sheff line item, which would be one other current expense line item into which all of the funding for Sheff would go.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Okay. So that additional line item, which we'll be seeing sometime in the next day or two, would also include these additional dollars for FY '08 and '09 for the various other costs involved with Sheff.
KATHY GUAY: That's correct. Yes.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you very much. Why don't we move to the next panel, the plaintiff panel. Would you each like to make opening comments? Okay, great. If you could just identify yourself as you begin to speak, that would be terrific. Thank you.
MARTHA STONE: Good afternoon, Senator Gaffey, Representative Fleischmann, and Members of the Education Committee. As identified earlier, my name is Martha Stone, and I'm the executive director of the Center for Children's Advocacy.
I'd like to take a moment and introduce other members of the legal team. With me today is Dennis Parker, who's from the ACLU Racial Justice Project, Matthew Colangelo, who's from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Renee Redman from the ACLU.
I would also like to take the opportunity to introduce to you the plaintiffs who are here today, Elizabeth Sheff, who needs no introduction, along with Carol Vinnick and Tom Connelly, who have been plaintiffs from the very beginning of this case.
I have been a member of the legal team in the case since we filed the complaint on April 26th, 1989. Milo Sheff was ten years old when we filed this case. In January, Milo will be 29.
I mention this because I want to give a historical context to my remarks and those that will follow.
Dr. David Carter, who was then president of Eastern and now the chancellor of our state university system, was one of the first witnesses that testified in the Sheff trial.
And I remember very vividly Dr. Carter talking about the educational inequities and the segregation that we were facing, and he coined a phrase back then at the trial called dynamic gradualism.
There was much motion about the issue, but no real movement. And we were hopeful after waiting seven years for the Supreme Court ruling that when the ruling finally was put in place in favor of the plaintiffs, that there would be a remedy that was instituted as expeditiously as possible.
And what I'd like to highlight at the outset of our comments are two very important principles from the Supreme Court's decision, which we believe are relevant to the historic context of this case and to actually the hearing that we're having here today.
First Justice Peters issues that famous passage on the very last page of the decisions, and we quote this passage at every trial that we have and every public hearing that we have been asked to testify.
And she indicated, and I think it's really an important point, that the court would not impose any remedy upon the parties, but that was not to take away from the urgency of the matter.
And I underscored the word that she used, which was urgency, because she went on to say, quote, every passing day denies these children their constitutional right to a substantially equal educational opportunity.
Every passing day shortchanges these children in their ability to learn to contribute to their own well being and to that of this state and nation.
And so now we sit here 11 years later, and we would be less than candid with you if we did not say that the state's inability so far to comply with the court's decision of 1996 and the agreement of 2003 is unacceptable.
Thirty percent of Hartford youth were expected to be in desegregated settings by the end of this month. The last figures we looked at, legal compliance was at 16%, actual compliance was at 9%.
We do not believe that this is what the court had in mind when they used the word urgency, especially when we have waiting lists for the Choice Program and waiting lists for the successful CREC magnet schools.
The other important point that I want to emphasize from the original court decision is a point that I made a few minutes ago, that the court did not impose a remedy upon the parties, but it instead, and the language was very clear.
It deferred to the Executive and Legislative Branches, quote, the energy and goodwill to find the appropriate remedies in time to make a difference before another generation of children suffers the consequences of a segregated public school education.
The 2003 agreement, which was approved by this Legislature, attempted to do just that. Unfortunately, the State Department of Education fell woefully short in its efforts for many complex reasons.
We went back to court three times to attempt to address this. Now we are faced with a situation that this agreement will expire at the end of this month.
The 2003 agreement, and I think this is an important point to emphasize today, explicitly stated in Section 5 that the parties would meet and attempt to work out a future agreement prior to its expiration.
That is exactly what we did. We began working on the new agreement last fall. I think I speak for all of us, the plaintiffs and the defendants, when I say that this new agreement before you now is significantly different in at least nine major ways from the one that was in place in 2003.
While that agreement put in place many important underpinnings, we learned from the mistakes of the past, eliminated some of the barriers to implementation, and most importantly, this new agreement does not rely so heavily on the Hartford host magnet concept.
My co-counsel, Dennis Parker, will talk about these details more fully in a moment. But I would like to say in closing that we appreciate the Legislature's commitment to helping us enforce the constitutional rights of the youth in Hartford.
We stand ready to work with the State Department of Education and the Legislature to make sure that the constitutional rights of these youth are enforced. And I'll turn it over to Dennis Parker.
DENNIS PARKER: Thank you, Senator Gaffey and Representative Fleischmann and other Members of the Education Committee.
We're pleased to have the opportunity to speak about this new agreement and to address your concerns, which are shared concerns about the quality of education for the children of Hartford and about the reduction of racial and ethnic isolation in the Hartford metropolitan area.
As Martha has pointed out, we have been in court repeatedly since the time that this case was filed, and I must confess that, unlike Martha, I am a newcomer to the case. I've only been working for 13 years on it.
But over that 13 years, we have been repeatedly frustrated at the pace of implementation of the Supreme Court order.
I would point out that the agreement in 2003 represented a milestone of sorts, that prior to that time, there had been significant disagreement about what needed to be done and how to proceed.
In 2003, the parties agreed that the best solution to dealing to this would be a voluntary desegregation plan.
And as you will recall earlier in the stages of these cases, there were discussions about whether or not a mandatory plan would be necessary, whether that was desirable, and we think that the decision in 2003 to rely on voluntary measures where parents would make choices to participate in the programs would be the best way to proceed, believing then, as we do now, that the greatest probability of success was when all the parties were working together to voluntarily comply with the constitutional mandate.
We anticipated in 2003 that we would be sitting here now trying to determine what the best way to proceed going into the future was.
The explicit terms of the agreement stated that we would renegotiate, as Martha pointed out, and as part of that negotiating team, I can say that the reason for doing that is because we were going in what was relatively uncharted territory and we knew that we had to learn from the process how to best work going into the future.
And I think that we have come up with an agreement which builds on the successes from 2003, but more importantly corrects the many shortcomings that were in the 2003 agreement.
And I want to speak very briefly about the specific ways that we think that this represents substantial improvement on the earlier agreement.
Number one, that this agreement recognizes a host of different solutions. Whereas the earlier agreement relied heavily on host magnet schools that would be created by Hartford, this one relies on host magnet schools, regional schools inter-district choice, inter-district cooperative grants, charter schools, and technical schools, so that the range of available means of reducing racial and ethnic isolation have expanded considerably.
More important, as Martha pointed out, the responsibility for implementing these now rests clearly in the State Department of Education.
There are goals each year that for the first time are enforceable. There are annual benchmarks that there is, as I mentioned before, flexibility by the state and is no longer dependent on one party to implement the solution.
That it permits the Inter-district Cooperative Grant Program to continue, but tightens it up so that there is meaningful opportunity for contact between students of different races and ethnicities and coming from different school districts.
Very significantly, and something that we have believed since the case was filed, there will be an enrollment management plan that is a comprehensive look at all of the parts of the plan and not just separate ones that will permit a level of planning that has not occurred in the past.
The management office, which was the subject of some questioning before, is, we believe, extremely important to coordinate the efforts of the different parts of the plan.
We believe that the quality of education will receive support by school planning, by pairing between magnet schools and non-magnet schools, by training that will be coordinated between the school districts, CREC and Hartford, that there will be regional training, significantly that information will now come from a single source.
We monitored very carefully the implementation of the last plan and heard some complaints repeatedly, such as people didn't know where to go to apply for different programs.
This plan seeks to address that by creating a central information office so that people will get the information in one place about how to participate in any of the constituent parts of the plan.
And significantly, this opens up enrollment to all students, not only students in suburban districts who have partnered in the creation of magnet schools, but it substantially increases choice for students in all of the school districts in the metropolitan area that's part of the Sheff region.
We think that these are significant changes, and we think that there are things that are built in that will permit the state to take measures to reach each of the interim benchmark goals and will assure that the plaintiffs, who do intend to continue their very close observation of how the plan rolls out, to provide input and to monitor what is going on in the case.
We understand and share the frustration of this Committee about the pace of the progress, but we believe, after years of working on this, that this represents a very good opportunity to make significant differences for the quality of education of children in the Hartford metropolitan area. Thank you.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I can't see you. I'm too short. Okay. 1989, George H. Bush was president. Exxon-Valdese crisis occurred. Tiananmen Square saw students rising for democracy.
Colin Powell became the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. P.W. Botha resigned from president of South Africa. The Berlin Wall fell. Sheff v. O'Neill was filed, and I had significantly less gray hair.
I come before you, Senator Gaffey, Representative Fleischmann, Members of the Education Committee, I too am encouraged by this new settlement.
At the same time, I too am frustrated by the pace and, like you, Senator Gaffey, wish to be assured that results happen. It has been a long journey, 18 years for me, so I guess I'm one of the old-timers in the case.
But I pledge to stay at this for 18 years more if necessary, because what's at stake is the education of our children. What's at stake is the economy of our state if we don't educate our children to participate.
What's at stake is the joys and happiness and the future beliefs and the lives of so many that over the past 18 years were shortchanged.
We in this settlement have worked real hard to address egregiouses from the past settlement, and have pledged to work very closely over the implementation of the settlement to ensure that there is significant progress made and that goals are met.
I cannot tell you other than from my heart, from my conviction, that this is something that we have to do. We have to ensure that our children get educated.
We must ensure that they are educated in an environment that prepares them to live in a multicultural, growing, globally economically connected world, where they'll have to be in a workplace with people who look very different from the people in our workplace now.
So I encourage you all to be very supportive of the settlement and then to help us monitor the implementation of the settlement. As I stand here, I sit here not as an elected official.
I sit here as a mother who cares not only for her children, but for all of the children. So I thank you for your time, and I'm glad to answer any questions that you may have of me.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you very much all of you being here and testifying. You talked about the enforceability of this settlement. And during Kathy's PowerPoint presentation, we learned that if there's a breach, there's a four-month cure period. What happens after the four-month cure period if the breach is not remedied?
DENNIS PARKER: Then the plaintiffs have the opportunity to go to court to order, to get, to ask the court to order that a remedy be put into place. This was an opportunity that was not available under the terms of the other prior agreement.
SEN. GAFFEY: And what's the timing typically on filing in court a complaint that there has been a breach, it has not been remedied in the cure period? What's the timing for the court to order whatever they may order?
DENNIS PARKER: I think that the advantage of having clear benchmarks is that you don't have to start every proceeding by proving large, large amounts of facts.
All you would have to show is that there was a failure to meet the benchmarks. The state would have an opportunity to present a case, and then the court could rule.
We believe that this creates a streamlined process that could move quickly enough to order significant changes be made in a timely way.
MARTHA STONE: This case has always been assigned to a particular judge at the Complex Litigation Docket in the Superior Court. It continues to be, and it has never--
SEN. GAFFEY: In Waterbury.
MARTHA STONE: I'm sorry?
SEN. GAFFEY: In Waterbury?
MARTHA STONE: No. It's in Hartford right now. Judge Berger has been assigned to the case, Marshall Berger, for the last six months to a year. So it has never been a problem getting a quick hearing if we need one.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, I guess what I'm trying to resolve in my own mind is, a breach occurs and the goal is not met. You know, you bring that to the judge, and what the judge may order, I mean, let's take, for instance, the Choice Program, okay?
In the last fiscal year, on October 1, we started out with 1,077 kids in the Choice Program. We had 600 applicants. One hundred and seventy children were placed. Two hundred and six were put on a waiting list, and 224 declined placement after applying.
So just taking the Choice Program as an example, the numbers I just recited, if the breach is occurring within the Choice Program, everything is going well on the magnet side, let's say, I'm just at a loss of what the judge orders here.
Does he order the parents who declined placement to place the children in the Choice Program?
And I'm asking this question because I'm just totally at a loss as to how the remedy is going to be employed by the judge at that particular time using my example of just purely the Choice Program under what we've already experienced this year.
MARTHA STONE: Well, I think, first of all, the 224 declined, we would need to know whether they declined because they got into a different magnet school. We don't know the answer to that.
SEN. GAFFEY: Let's say they didn't. Let's say they just declined. Let's say that maybe even, and I think in some cases this occurred, the children started in the program, didn't like it, didn't like the school that they were sent to, for whatever reason.
But let's just accept as a premise here in this little example of mine that the ones that declined, declined because they didn't like the program, not because they were going to another magnet school.
MARTHA STONE: I have a two-part answer to your question. The first part is, is that we have talked to a lot of people about the Choice Program this year and why are the numbers suppressed and why didn't the numbers get up to what we had wanted.
And there were themes that kept getting identified. Number one, transportation, that has been dealt with in this agreement. Number two, the need for academic support, that has been dealt with in this agreement.
So what we tried to do was identify the barriers to implementation the first time around and address them this next time around.
I think if we were still in a period of noncompliance and had to go back to the court, and I will say for the plaintiffs that we do intend to enforce this settlement agreement if it's passed vigorously, then we would do the same thing again.
We would identify what are the barriers, and that would be where the remedial orders would flow.
SEN. GAFFEY: And how would the barriers, you mentioned transportation as one barrier. How is that barrier overcome within this settlement agreement?
DENNIS PARKER: Well, one way of dealing with it, the specific concern about transportation was the amount of time that students have to spend on a bus in order to make it from their homes to the schools that they are going to under the Choice Program.
We believe that some of the steps that are in here will go a long way to addressing reducing that time by increasing coordination between the districts.
It may be necessary to provide more buses or to change the transportation scheme, you know, depending on what the facts show. As we go forward, the court may be in a position to say that you have to provide more transportation or to cut down the transportation time.
Summarily, one of the other reasons for people not choosing to go to the schools is that they were not given the specific choice that was their first choice in terms of wanting to go to a particular school district or a particular school in the district.
It is conceivable that a court might decide after looking at all the evidence that steps have to be taken to assure greater participation by school districts in the program to maximize the number of choices that are available to students.
So that depending, as Martha said, on the reasons for students not electing to participate in the program, we believe there are steps that a court, if necessary, could take that would increase that participation.
I mean, to look at the figures in another way, in spite of the problems that we saw in these four years with the implementation and particularly with choice, there is still a lot of interest in these programs.
And we know that the outreach program for the Choice Program was somewhat limited because there is a recognition that they couldn't provide enough seats.
We believe that a well-constructed program that is marketed to the communities can greatly increase the number of students who are [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1A to Tape 1B.]
SEN. GAFFEY: --seats in those schools. It goes really to the heart of the matter, if, in fact, the outlying districts say that they don't have adequate space for children from Hartford to attend those schools, and in fact, you represented that some of the reasons of children declining acceptance into the program was that they didn't get their first choice of school.
So, you know, therein lies a major obstacle here, because there's nothing in here that says that those school districts are going to have to make room for Hartford schoolchildren to attend those schools.
So in my, again, my example, your plans in going back to court if a breach occurs and a remedy has not been, it has not been cured within the cure period, will it entail your request to the court or a petition to the court that school districts in the outlying areas make available space for children who wish to attend those schools?
DENNIS PARKER: That might be a possible solution. I would also suggest that, because of the flexibility in the plan the way it is now, it is entirely within the authority of the State Department of Education to reexamine the way it determines what the availability is in the suburban districts, what its expectations are for making space available.
And, you know, we're hopeful that that's one of the things that the state considers when it's trying to implement this program.
SEN. GAFFEY: But at the end of the assessment, though, if the assessment bears out that there is limited space available, we're still at, you know, square one as to the problem with the fact that children from Hartford may wish to attend schools in certain school districts in the outlying areas, yet space is not available, according to the outlying areas.
MARTHA STONE: Well, then the state has to use one of their other multiple eggs in the basket, which is charters, magnets, inter-district magnets.
They have the flexibility. I think one of the problems that's happened over the course of this years of litigation is we have had six Commissioners of Education and 12 Superintendent of Schools of Hartford, and we need stable leadership in these two positions, and we need forceful leadership in these two positions to get the Sheff job done.
And I'm hopeful the people that are occupying those two positions now will put this at the top of the agenda. The Sheff decision, Justice Peters said to the Legislature, put it at the top of your agenda.
And these two individuals have to put at the top of their agenda. I think it's encouraging that they've established a Sheff office to try to do that.
But they have the flexibility. They asked for the flexibility. They got the flexibility, and now we have to be sure that the percentage goals are met.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, I'm encouraged by Commissioner McQuillan's work on this, his attendance here. I must say, though, that after being informed that the Superintendent could not make his schedule available to be here today.
I personally e-mailed him a request to please free up his schedule to be here today. So on that note, I am not encouraged by the fact that he is not here today.
But be that as it may, one other legal question that I have is you're familiar with the cases pending in the United States Supreme Court that come from Seattle and also from Kentucky.
What is the impact on the Sheff case if, in fact, the courts decide, the Court decides that in one or both of those cases that race-based assignment of children to particular schools is violative of the Constitution?
DENNIS PARKER: Those two cases keep me up nights, but not because of Sheff. I think that there are significant differences between this case and those cases that I think will insulate them from being affected by the decisions in those cases.
And of course, it's hard to comment on a decision that hasn't come out yet. But the things that I'm speaking about are, first, Sheff is a remedial case.
There has been a determination by the highest court of the State of Connecticut that the State Constitution was violated
And unlike in both Louisville and Seattle, which are voluntary cases, where there was no court compulsion to comply with the constitution, so that, that right away sets these cases apart from this case and I think puts us in a different stance in terms of what the Supreme Court may say.
The other thing is that the nature of these programs are completely different, that although there are goals, there are no specific admissions requirements, that there's flexibility in the way that these goals are reached, that there's no specific program that says that you have to achieve these goals by denying students the opportunity to go to individual schools on the basis of their race, that all of the measures that the court looks at when determining whether or not a plan such as this is acceptable are present here, that there is the flexibility that the agreement provides for revisiting the results on a regular basis, that it provides different means for achieving these results and includes alternatives that might include race-neutral alternatives.
So because of these differences, which I think are significant, I'm confident that we will be able to proceed and meet the goals of this litigation without running afoul of whatever the Supreme Court decides in the Louisville and the Seattle cases.
SEN. GAFFEY: Just one last question before I turn it over to my Co-Chair. Councilwoman Sheff, I know you're here as a plaintiff and as a mom who has struggled with this mightily for too many years.
But I'm informed that the City of Hartford has not signed off on this agreement. And I wonder why, and if in fact they are not approving this settlement agreement, how that figures into the mix of the district that this affects, not approving this settlement agreement and how we can have an efficacious carrying forward of the parameters of the agreement if the very school district it impacts has not signed off on it.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I can't speak for the school district, Sir, but I can speak in my capacity as a councilwoman.
This agreement never came before council, nor was the decision to intervene. That was done strictly from the Mayor's Office without council input or without council vote.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Councilwoman Sheff, for that clarification. Representative Fleischmann.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Thank you very much for your testimony and for all the work and years and toil that you've put into this case.
It's not lost on me or anyone who's sitting here that this has been an incredible labor for you all, and we appreciate the work that you're doing on behalf of the affected children.
I consider myself an optimist, but I also try and be a realist, and looking at the history of the implementation of the last agreement, I find it hard to imagine that there will not come a time in the not-too-distant future that the goals that are laid out in this new agreement are not going to be reached.
It's a pretty quick trigger that you've set up in the agreement, which I think, from your perspective, makes a lot of sense. You know, a goal is missed by 1%, and that's considered a failure.
And my concerns travel exactly the same direction as my Co-Chair's. It's hard for me to envision how a court fixes a failure. So let me just put another hypothetical out there that relates to past experience and ask you what fix you would envision.
Let's imagine that the biggest challenge relates to construction delays. We know that those have tended to happen when we have efforts to build magnets in Hartford, be they host magnets or inter-district magnets.
And let's imagine that we've got a bunch of great new schools that are on the drawing boards, but we're getting a bunch of construction delays.
And based on the allocation of students that the State Department has come up with, there's no way that the Open Choice Program or other elements of your settlement can remedy, you know, the construction delay problem. What can a court do to fix that?
MARTHA STONE: I think that's an interesting question, and I don't know what a court can do to fix a construction problem. I think that the court has at its disposal other options to fix the failure to meet the goal that we set.
And so I would say, I mean, pathways to technology has been in temporary corners. Sometimes you're going to have to put a school in temporary quarters if there are construction delays, or you're going to have to go to one of the other options that are in the basket.
And I keep coming back to that answer because I think it's an important answer and probably is the most important difference of this agreement versus the last one.
And the last agreement, we put all our eggs into the Hartford host magnets, and it did not work. And nobody is here testifying, saying, oh, yes, give it more time, it might work. It did not work.
And the question mark is still out whether it will work. So I would say that you have to quickly abandon options that are running into difficulties and switch to the next option to meet the goal.
DENNIS PARKER: And I agree with that, and again, would urge that this could maybe consider the relative success of some of the magnet programs, and that, in fact, you know, one of the things that we are as a team proud of is the role that this litigation may have played in starting really some of the most excellent, innovative schools in the country.
And we're hopeful that with the increased planning that there will be the opportunity to replicate that success.
The other option that a court always has is to determine whether or not, you know, compliance in a particular year is truly impossible and then make adjustments. You know, that is within its discretion.
But the important thing is that it involves the court as an outside, as someone with the enforcement power to consider all of the facts and then make a determination about how to achieve the goals of what's in the agreement.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Fair point. And I do appreciate also your remarks about some of the excellent magnet schools that have been created pursuant to the current agreement.
I've had the pleasure of sitting in some of those classrooms, and they really are wonderful and remarkable schools.
Let me ask a question about demography. For reasons that are known to you, the plaintiffs, in filing the original suit, you chose to focus on the greater Hartford area.
I mean, one could imagine a case that focused on the state as a whole since the problems that the problems the Sheff case has underscored really stretch across the State of Connecticut.
But for whatever reasons, your litigation focused on Hartford and surrounding communities and, you know, a list of communities, and the demography of those communities has been changing.
And as the Hartford Courant recently illustrated in a story, the changing demography of the inner ring suburbs has had major implications for how inter-district magnets or host magnets affect racial isolation.
And it's harder now to change the diversity of a school or a classroom with magnets because of those changes of demography. What in this new agreement addresses that challenge?
DENNIS PARKER: And I think there are a couple of things. Number one is that the agreement is tied to the demographics in terms of what the overall desegregation standard is. So that it will change along with changes in the region as a whole.
But as Martha has mentioned, what we consider most important to the agreement is the flexibility and that there are now means that don't rely on, for example, placing schools only in the City of Hartford, that the possibility of creating magnet schools that are outside of Hartford can be used as a tool, the use of technical schools, which may also be a significant opportunity to reduce racial isolation in a way that would not have been recognized in the earlier order.
The development of charter schools that have reduction of racial and ethnic isolation as one of their goals, and then the placement of those schools in areas recognizing the demographic shifts that you've talked about all create the possibility of, in ways that couldn't have been done before, meeting these goals.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: And just for clarification, so under the 2003 agreement, an inter-district magnet had to be built within Hartford's city limits to comport with that agreement?
DENNIS PARKER: No, but the--
MARTHA STONE: What we were referring to is that most of the money and efforts went into the Hartford host magnets, which were located in Hartford and run by Hartford. And this agreement is getting away from that now.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, let me say I do think it's helpful to have inter-district magnets that may not necessarily be in Hartford's city limits as part of this.
It's troubling and unfortunate but true that for various families that contemplate participating in a magnet, you know, which town it's located in assumes greater importance than maybe it ought to, and so I would agree with you that that can be helpful in addressing that challenge. Those are all my questions for now. Thanks.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Chairman Fleischmann. Hold on a second because Representative McCrory wanted to ask a question. Before I recognize him, and Senator Fonfara also, but before I recognize them, I understand that the magnets were the major thrust of the previous settlement.
However, when Judge Aurigemma looked at this, Judge Aurigemma looked at the whole menu of options that were put in place by this General Assembly way back when, it seems, and looked at everything including the Choice Program. So she looked at it from, did she not, Attorney Stone?
MARTHA STONE: Originally she did look at the options and said basically there had not been enough time that had elapsed to see whether they were going to work.
So when we first went back to court very early on, she rules against the plaintiffs because she said that we needed more time to see if the different options were going to work.
What was not before her were the charters. What was not before her were any integrated efforts with state technical schools. So there were some options back then that were not before her.
SEN. GAFFEY: But I believe she also found in her decision that the state had acted, quote, unquote, very expeditiously to comply with the Supreme Court orders that legislation and [inaudible] response to the order, Public Act 97-290, among others, embodied a comprehensive, carefully drafted and well-funded plan. I believe she stated that in her decision.
And the only reason I point that out is, I'll go right back to my major concern. I mean, those options are the same options that are in this plan today.
Vo-tech schools have been, Prince has been in Hartford for a long time. Inter-district choice project, formerly project concern has been up and running for a long time.
I think you make a point that how that program is marketed and made accessible to Hartford parents is a very valid point. You know, quite possibly there hasn't been a good job done at that.
I think CREC has done, the Capital Region Education Council, has done a pretty good job, though, with both the magnets and the Open Choice Program.
So I'm interested to hear about how the new marketing of the program may enhance the participation therein.
But I still go back to my main point being that all of these options have been being worked on for the last decade, yet we still have as much racial isolation in the City of Hartford, or actually a little bit more, thank you, Senator Fonfara, than we did ten years ago.
I look at the Choice Plan. I mean, 1,049 kids out of 22,326 is about 4.5% of the total student enrollment in Hartford.
So I'm going to keep listening, but I still have a ways to go in becoming convinced that this settlement and the resources that it will require will produce any different result than we have today. And you're more than welcome to comment on that because I truly would like to be convinced.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I, Senator, you know, I said I'm from the Missouri state. You've got to show me. You know, born and bred in Connecticut, but I'm still a Missourian.
I think what I see, and this is not a legal opinion. This is me. What I see differently is a sincere, stated, documented commitment between the Sheff plaintiffs, this state, and the state to actually make this real.
The options that have been placed before the state, I think, widens the possibilities. But really in my heart, you know, I'm a skeptic too. You know, I've been at this for a long time, and I am not a happy camper.
But in this settlement, I see a real commitment, and I'm, and a commitment not only to do it, but to be aggressive about making sure that the goals are reached.
So, you know, I, sometimes you have to walk on faith, and I think that's what I've been doing for the past 18 years, walking on faith.
And I am going to put some faith in this, because I see a difference in the structure of how the goals will be met and also in the posture of both the plaintiffs and the state in working together to meet the goals.
MARTHA STONE: The one thing that I'd just like to add is, you know, we've been talking a lot about is the glass half empty or is the glass half full, and we've concentrated a lot on the glass half empty.
But we do have to come back to Dennis's point about the success of the CREC magnets. Nine out of the 11 magnets run by CREC are meeting the desegregation standard, so something is working right.
And if we go forward with that nugget and that concept and those schools and add on to that, that is working, and I really don't want to take away from that success while we're emphasizing all the negative not meeting the goals.
SEN. GAFFEY: Yeah, I don't want to take away from the success either. I think I was just complimenting CREC on the fine job they do on the Choice Plan and the magnet plan.
However, you know, there's law and there's reality. There are court settlements, and there's reality. Reality right now is things haven't changed all that much with regard to racial isolation, which is the whole entire underpinning of this case--
DENNIS PARKER: And the one thing that I would like to add is that following the decision that you cited, there was another hearing in 2002 and that this agreement came as a result of that hearing.
In the course of that hearing, we raised some of the objections we had to the way that the plans were implemented. In hindsight, in the 2003 agreement, we did not include many things that we felt were important.
We've been yelled at by our clients for four years because of that. But I think that the reason that we have confidence in this agreement is because it contains so many things that we believed early on were necessary to the success of these programs, and things like the management office and the training and the coordinated activities between CREC and Hartford.
We've always believed that these things would work. They were not in the prior agreement. We're pleased that they're in the new agreement, and that's one of the important reasons why we feel that this can work now. This is the first time these things are in there.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you. Representative McCrory and Senator Fonfara, and then we have to bring on the Deputy Attorney General and also the attorney from the Hartford Board of Education. So Representative McCrory, you have the floor.
REP. MCCRORY: Thank you. Just a couple questions mixed in with probably commentary, but I'll limit it. Besides the fact I use my personal experience as an educator in Hartford and a student in Hartford, I didn't want to just make that the only basis of my understanding of the case.
So what I did is I went back and did some research, and in the research I noticed that one of the lead attorneys was a personal friend of mine, someone who I looked up to for opinions and as a role model. It was Attorney John Brittain.
Initially when this case was, quote, unquote, so-called settled, he refused to sign onto it because he didn't feel as though it met what, it met the goals of Sheff v. O'Neill, so he didn't sign on as, for whatever reason.
It may be he saw, he foreseen some of the things that we're talking about right now happening, he knew that was going to happen for whatever reasons. I'm not blaming anyone, but he just refused to sign on.
So with that said, my question is, we focus a lot on the desegregation part, but one part we refuse to talk about is the academic achievement of children, whether in Hartford magnet schools, public schools, they're in the Choice Program or whatever the case may be, charter schools, it does, in my opinion, the community, the state, our society no good if our children are just going to schools where they are so-called, quote, unquote, desegregated but yet they're not learning anything, because you can do just as poorly in city A as you can do it city B, but yet feel as though that you accomplished something just because you, quote, unquote, desegregated the school. That's my commentary.
In the old view of the proposal, it states that the state will take a leadership role in creating opportunities for Hartford students. Who took the leadership role prior to this new agreement that we're discussing right now?
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I'm sorry. Would you repeat the question, Sir?
REP. MCCRORY: It says that now the state will take a leadership role in creating opportunities for Hartford students, and I'm saying who was supposed to take the leadership role previously before this document was created.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: The state.
REP. MCCRORY: The state was supposed to take the role.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: And I want to back up a little bit because John Brittain, at the time of the 2003 settlement, was dead of Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He was not--
REP. MCCRORY: I know. I'm talking about before that.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: --and he has supported us all along the way. As a matter of fact, I spoke to Judge Brittain yesterday, and he is supportive of what we're doing here today.
So I think it's a misnomer that, to place out there that John Brittain is not supportive of quality integrated education.
One of the things that you talk about, though, Representative McCrory, is addressed also in this lawsuit, I mean this phase of the settlement, and that is looking at the best practices in the public schools, I mean the magnet schools and the charter schools and the choice schools and trying to figure out how we can work to implement some of those practices in the traditional school.
So Sheff has always been about all of the children. The State of Connecticut has chosen to answer the Supreme Court decision by, by and around magnet schools in Project Choice, and now we've added other layers to it.
But it's never been and it should not be construed that we have forgotten the children that are in any of the schools. What we are striving for is to raise the quality of education for all our children, and ultimately that achievement will be in an integrated setting.
REP. MCCRORY: My other comment or question, and besides the John Brittain issue, and I'm sure he supports integrated schooling, but I also know he supports quality education and academic achievement.
It seems as though all of the entities are still in play, your magnet schools, Hartford host magnets, what CREC is doing. The only new caveat is now the charter schools, and they're going to play a role in helping desegregate our school systems.
However, I think there was a total of, I thought I saw a number of 700 slots, 700 charter school slots going forward.
If we're trying to reach the number of 4,000, over 4,000-some odd students being integrated in a, in an integrated school system, if we're only looking to put in 700 slots of charter schools, how, and with that only 74% of, 74% of the student body could be of color, then we're really not getting those numbers that we're looking for, looking to accomplish in the future, considering if we say what my colleagues have always been mentioning, the fact that slots are not available in the suburban schools.
Let's say, for example, the enrollment is increasing in the suburban school districts and the slots are just not there.
Then we look at our magnets, and we already said that right now, on paper we're at, what, 17%, but in reality we're at 9%. How are we actually going to move those numbers forward if we're only looking for 700 slots in a charter school?
DENNIS PARKER: Again, I would stress that the charter schools are really just one part of the solution and that we built in flexibility so that you could try to find things that would be most effective and rely heavily on those things.
The other thing that I would stress, and it just reiterates what Elizabeth and Martha have said, that this case was started out of a concern about the quality of education, particularly for children of color in the Hartford school system.
We continue our concern for that. We would not suggest that we believe that these programs are the only answers to increasing the quality of education in Connecticut.
We think that it is still the obligation of the state to consider everything within its power to improve the quality of education.
And we believe that these programs, particularly the training programs, the pairing of charter schools, or of magnet schools with non-magnet schools, that all of these things will contribute to increasing the quality of education.
But that does not mean that it will be the sole cure for every educational problem in Connecticut, and we urge and we're completely behind every effort to include, to increase the quality of all of the schools for all of the students in the state.
REP. MCCRORY: My last comment, and this is a question that was asked of me many a times by people who live in Hartford but also by people who don't live in Hartford.
And it hits to a core for some people, and I don't want to offend anyone, but many people are starting to say this is more of a class issue.
And many people have told me they move out of the City of Hartford and into the suburbs because of their school system. We know that happens.
Many people who are not of color said they chose to move out of Hartford into a suburban school district for whatever reasons.
What are we going to do to convince those people who made a financial, social, economic choice to leave an opportunity to attend a magnet school or a better opportunity or a quicker opportunity to choose a magnet school or a choice school?
And besides that, you know, for my family, it's best that I just go to school in the suburbs, how do we convince them to come back and send their children to a school, maybe not just in Hartford, but now we're talking about, which I think is a great idea, to open up magnet schools out in the suburbs, how do we convince them to do that?
DENNIS PARKER: I think we have to convince those people that there are things that are available at these schools that are not available in the schools in their districts.
One thing that I would point out, and I think that it was one of the most interesting things during the testimony for that hearing for which there was no decision in 2002, was that we had testimony from suburban superintendents who came into testify about why they supported the Choice Program in their school systems.
And what these suburban superintendents from Simsbury, Farmington, and there was a third district, I'm getting old, but what they said was they believed that their students were not getting an adequate education because it was being conducted in an all-white school district.
And I think it's important that people, people always talk about this in terms of the quality of education and only talk about the advantages to Hartford students. We have always maintained that the advantages of desegregated education are realized by all students in these systems.
And I think that part of the struggle that we all have is to convince all of these parents that there is an advantage, the advantage that Elizabeth talked about, a functioning in society now to be in a desegregated--
REP. MCCRORY: And I concur with you 100%, and I know the superintendents understand that, but I'm talking about the parents who have to make that choice.
All the superintendents understand that you need to have an integrated educational system for our children to succeed in society today. But, and I know they will all fight to have more slots, more people of color in their school districts. I talk to them all the time.
But I'm talking about those parents who make that decision. It's going to be a struggle. Thank you.
SEN. GAFFEY: And I hearken back to what Councilwoman Sheff said, show me. It's great to hear superintendents say that, but there's more and more evidence as the years go by that the availability as far as seats in those schools and those surrounding towns shrink.
And if people are genuine about this in the outlying areas, then they ought to be making a concerted effort to make certain that there is space available for the children in Hartford that would like to attend those schools. Senator Fonfara.
SEN. FONFARA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for your testimony today. I'd like to follow up on some of the, Representative McCrory's comments, and I think he's really hit on something here.
In one of the handouts that we've received, this Missing the Goal handout, on page 3 they have a chart that shows a table that shows the Hartford area towns and the percentage of minority enrollment in the schools, 1989, '88, 89, and then now.
And I did a quick look at this, and if you weren't even to consider Hartford and Bloomfield, every single town has at least doubled, in some cases tripled their minority enrollment.
And I would assume in reading the footnote that some of that has to do with the activity of the settlement, but I can't believe that all of it and maybe not even much of it has been the reason.
But more to the point of Representative McCrory that people have decided on their own to essentially vote with their feet, if you will, and put their, move and put their children in other school systems.
What's missing from this is what, well, in Hartford, the percentage has unfortunately gone from 92% to 94%. What isn't there is what the overall numbers of enrollment there is.
And I would, just living in Hartford and representing the city, I think it's a fair bet to say that that number has gone down considerably, and at least in part those numbers have gone down in Hartford and up in suburban towns.
So some of those same people who have moved from Hartford have moved to these towns, which are reflective in these numbers.
As we've always said, that government will always take a backseat to decisions of people and their private lives and what they feel is best for them and their families, and I think this is evidence of that.
That's a very quick look at these numbers and a judgment on my part. I could be wrong, but I think it does speak to the issue, though, of whether or not the focus, and I think Mr. Parker's last point about the case started as a concern about the quality of education in Hartford.
And I wonder if we could not be very successful in what the goals of this settlement is in the original efforts and still not affect the quality of education.
And before you comment, I'd like to finish and then I will certainly listen. With respect to Hartford, and the Chairman asked a question earlier why, his disappointment that the new superintendent is not here.
But I think you could ask that question or make that comment regarding the last several superintendents in Hartford, who have been under tremendous pressure by the very people who now will lead this fight, as has been stated here, to bring up CMT scores in the City of Hartford and to address the woeful performance of Hartford's kids on average on the myriad of tests and other measurements.
I have not seen that same kind of pressure as it relates to Sheff, as it relates to desegregation.
I remember having several conversations with the former Superintendent Amato about this and seeing Sheff as, and telling him that I thought Sheff was a vehicle for him in which to build new schools and to be more along the lines of New Haven, which has been very successful in building magnet schools, and we've brought up the rear unfortunately in that regard. It never seemed to resonate. It never seemed to resonate.
And I think that what I'm getting at is there seems to be two paths here. One is the objectives of the plaintiffs and the state to the extent that it's a partnership, and then whether it be parents, whether it be the school system in Hartford, on a totally different path, whereby either parents deciding to leave Hartford or the school system seeing its objectives being different than racial isolation but rather academic performance. I'd like to hear your comments to the extent you care to--
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I'm going to try to start this and then I'm quite sure that others will chime in. Let's start with the leaving Hartford part.
There are many reasons why people would leave Hartford. But that to me makes it more, much more imperative for us to stay in Hartford and work with the children that are left behind.
And we have noted that Sheff is not the panacea. It's particularly interesting to me that the roles of the Hartford school system clearly predate Sheff.
We've come in and tried to do what we could do, and we have been successful. And it always is of interest to me when all of a sudden now Sheff seems to be the bad guy in the situation, when, in fact, we are moving forward.
I think the superintendents have other worries on their minds, basically put forth by testing, high-stakes testing, and by No Child Left Behind.
But I don't think that my engagement with them has been that negative or adverse to Sheff. I know that Superintendent Adamowski, although he's not here, believes in the magnet school process and is supportive of that.
I haven't had, I didn't have much interaction with Superintendent Amato. But I'm going to tell you what I hear from parents, just like Representative McCrory hears, I hear too, so anecdotally I can tell you that the parents in the City of Hartford are looking for an education for their kids.
And I think sometimes that because of the length of the distress, of the realities in the Hartford school system, things like EAI and state takeover and even Sheff v. O'Neill becomes an out for them in their minds.
And I think of those three, Sheff has proven itself to be an advantage that the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut can use to raise the educational outcomes of children in the City of Hartford.
And again, under this agreement, there is a new companionship, a new arrangement, a new agreement, a new ethos that we will work very, very hard to ensure that that happens.
DENNIS PARKER: I would just like to add that we very much share the frustration you described about the failure to realize that there was potential to create something that would both improve the quality of education and reduce racial isolation.
I think one of our biggest frustrations at this point four years after the agreement, and Martha had mentioned how basically all of the eggs were put in the basket of the host magnet schools.
We were hopeful that now we would be sitting here with a group of state-of-the-art host magnet schools in Hartford that would make Hartford the centerpiece of quality education and reduced racial isolation in the region.
For whatever reason, and I don't want to place blame, that did not happen. And I think that one of the lessons we learned is that you can't put all your eggs in that one basket.
But I think that this agreement still holds out the possibility that in collaboration with the state and with CREC that Hartford still can achieve those goals. We are fully behind improving the quality of education in Hartford.
MARTHA STONE: And the only thing that I'd like to emphasize is that there is a provision in here with the joint CREC/Hartford office, that they are charged with improving the educational outcomes for the Hartford host magnets. So that really is a key underpinning here that was not in the first agreement.
SEN. FONFARA: If I could, Mr. Chairman, just one more minute. I guess fundamentally what we may be talking past each other about here is let's say we fast forward four years and these numbers increase another 10% or 20% in the suburbs.
Hartford continues to be at 90%-plus. Have we achieved anything in terms of what you've sought to do, Councilwoman Sheff?
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: I believe it depends on several factors, one being where the schools are and how well the state uses the tools that have already been noted, the charter schools, the technical schools, the magnet schools.
I think we can meet the goal, and so I, you know, I'm a woman that looks at a glass half full. I'm not going to sit here and sign off on an agreement and say we're not going to make it.
If we're going to, if I'm going to sign off and put my faith into it, then I'm pushing for it to be real. And so I believe that there are, there is opportunity in this settlement to meet the goal using all of the flexibility that is in the document.
SEN. FONFARA: I guess what I really wanted to ask you was, unless Hartford schools, unless the percentage of minority enrollment in Hartford declines, I don't know if that's success simply because we're seeing continual increases in minority enrollment in suburban towns.
And, Mr. Parker, if I could say, your comment, that I don't think we should point fingers or lay blame, I think we should point fingers and lay blame.
I think we need to know where we failed, because this Committee in particular takes this very seriously that we continue to have the capital city having a failed school system.
And I want you to know, Elizabeth, that I have been a strong supporter of Sheff from the beginning, and I continue to be that.
My only point is, is that we direct your almost limitless energies towards a result and an outcome that, you know, before your son is much older or you are or we are that we'll be proud of and be happy about.
And I, if I could just editorialize for one second, I happen to believe, and I've spoken to this with the Chairman for some time now, that efforts that may not appear on its face to be directed towards leading to further desegregation but ultimately do, such as requiring every youngster entering Hartford schools to have a preschool education, universal preschool in Hartford, that those types of things, that type of thing will leave to desegregating Hartford schools quicker, I believe, than a lot of other things that we might be undertaking. Thank you very much.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Senator. And I can't agree more. I really believe that the focus needs to be far more on improving achievement within the Hartford school district.
I understand probably more so than most the underpinning of this case, but the fact remains we have gone nowhere with regard to improving achievement within the Hartford school district on an overall basis.
And I believe the Senator is correct, that if we focused on putting this type of money into kids in preschool through third grade and implement models like Dr. Komer's model, which was proven successful down in New Haven and elsewhere [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1B to Tape 2A.]
--future of the Hartford school district. I look at a glass half full every day of my life, but I also have to be a realist, and in looking at this model, it seems to me that this is the same model we've been pursuing.
There are little differences, little nuances here and there as far as marketing the Choice Program and trying to build on the excellent work that CREC has done on the magnet schools.
But still, there's schools in Hartford that are sort of left behind in this agreement and I'm not hearing anything as to what's going to be done to improve the educational achievement within those schools and the kids that are left behind, and the fact remains that there is nothing in this settlement agreement nor in law in Connecticut that requires any suburban school district in the outlying areas to make seats available for schoolchildren from the City of Hartford to attend those schools that may be their first choice, as you said. Representative Hovey.
REP. HOVEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am one of the relatively new people to this Committee with regards to Sheff v. O'Neill. I've been here, this is going on my fifth year, trying to get up-to-speed.
One thing that I do know is that I personally work under another mandate, PL 94-142, which is the Special Education Law, and I do advocacy under that law.
And under that law, which has, you know, a lot of options that the court could enforce, part of what I believe to have been the success of the children that I've worked with is that I have worked to keep them educated in what I call their natural environment, which is the environment where their parents are able to come in and out of schools.
And that as an advocate for that population, I viewed it as my role to improve the education within the context of that natural environment for them instead of this idea that maybe a private school or an alternative school has the answer to their needs.
And so to that end, I agree with my colleagues. In looking at this situation, my concern has increasingly grown around this idea of children being moved and kind of shuffled in some ways like cards.
And I would much more prefer to see the improvement of their programs in their natural environments, where we have a holistic perspective on not only educating the children, but including the families so that we have a six-hour program that is cohesive and tight and people are truly committed to and we actually do see significant changes and improvement in their achievement.
And to that end, I have, you know, grave concerns about even the new plan. And while I would love to be optimistic about it, I think the focus needs to be on providing children with the best possible education they can, the state can give them in their most natural environment where everyone benefits from their enthusiasm and achievements.
ELIZABETH HORTON-SHEFF: Representative Hovey, this is a volunteer agreement. People participate voluntarily, and so in that respect, I would say where they go is their natural environment if they choose to go there.
I'm really concerned that we're kind of flipping the script here a little bit from what Sheff is and what the school system is.
Sheff, again, is an effort, one effort, but there have been, we need to look at what historically has been going on in the City of Hartford around educational outcomes.
So I'm really, I don't want us to be in the position to say Sheff isn't doing this, because Sheff isn't meant to do this. The [inaudible] of the Hartford school system, again, solely predate Sheff v. O'Neill.
And, but Sheff has worked to address those inadequacies in a certain way. We must remember, it's already been noted that there have been 12 superintendents, EAI, the state takeover.
And so I think we need to analyze what that means and place that as one question that is not necessarily attached to Sheff v. O'Neill. Dennis, you wanted to say something.
DENNIS PARKER: I would just add along the same lines, I think we are wholly in agreement about the desirability of preschool education, of improving the quality of education. Those are all things that were part of the original complaint that was filed back in 1989.
Well, what we have to deal with is that the decision held that the racial and ethnic isolation in the City of Hartford violated the Connecticut Constitution.
So if at the end of the day, with whatever is implemented, if there is no reduction of racial and ethnic isolation, then we are still operating outside of the Constitution.
And again, I agree that having the percentage, with what Senator Fonfara said, that having a high percentage of minority students in Hartford is problematic.
And we think that that one of the goals of this is to change that. At the very least, though, the things that we're talking about here will create opportunities for students who want to attend schools and reduce racial and ethnic isolation settings to do that.
And I think that we are required to do that. I agree wholly with Elizabeth. You know, there are a lot of things we would like to do, but there is one thing that we have to do, and that's what we are trying to deal with in this agreement.
SEN. FONFARA: Mr. Parker, could I ask you or anyone that wants to answer, with respect to the settlement, this does not address the overall issue of racial isolation in Hartford, but at least with respect to the magnet schools, the host magnet schools in seeking to attract more non-minority students into those schools from the suburbs, is any part of the settlement to look at the quality of education in those schools?
The whole concept, as I understood it, in creating these schools was that they'd be an attraction to parents and to students from the suburbs that those schools would provide that maybe their own neighborhood school in the suburban town did not have, in addition to parents who wanted their children to be educated in a more racially diverse environment, but they weren't going to sacrifice the quality of their education, their child's education to achieve that diversity and that experience.
If it's found or if it's, if the case is that the quality in those schools is not such to attract the student, is there a remedy here to address that?
MARTHA STONE: Well, there are a couple of provisions in the agreement that do address that directly. Number one is the joint management office between CREC and Hartford to deal with the issues of themes and attracting more suburban parents to the Hartford host magnets. So that is explicit in the agreement.
The second thing that is explicit in the agreement that deals with your question, Senator, is that if a particular school, Hartford host magnet, does not meet the desegregative standard, then they will be subject to enrollment management plan and tighter oversight by the state.
So we did address that in two different ways in the agreement. Because we were cognizant of the fact that some of the themes from the present Hartford host magnets were not attracting suburban parents.
SEN. FONFARA: I would hope that it wouldn't be a reactive process, that you wait until they don't meet the goal and then you react as opposed to starting from the beginning.
I mean, if it's happening right now, if there have been any, if there's been an analysis done, if there hasn't been, there should be as to why, beyond transportation issues, why these students are not coming to Hartford, if it's academically based. That ought to be addressed as soon as possible.
MARTHA STONE: I think that's an important point, and we would urge the state to do that. I think they've started to look at demagnetizing potential schools anyway.
SEN. FONFARA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. GAFFEY: Senator, Representative McCrory, real quick, and then we're going to bring up the other panel.
REP. MCCRORY: Just real quickly, I don't want anyone to think that I'm not a supporter of Sheff, because I'm thinking back on my elementary/middle days, and all the people I know who I grew up with that went on to college, many of them, many of them stepped outside of, well, I'll tell you the truth.
Honestly, all of them that I can think of had an opportunity to step outside of the Hartford Public School System and be a part of either a Catholic school or Project Concern at that, what it was called. So I understand.
I support what you guys are doing. I don't think you should have to take on the, be defensive about what your plans are and what your plans were from the beginning.
But I also want to say this also. And when you look at charter schools, and one of the most successful ones, the one, the most successful one in New Haven has a 95% or 96% minority enrollment.
And I think our parents should have an option. If we can develop some schools in the Hartford region that's 95% minority and those kids are kicking butt on CMTs and the academic levels are high and they're going to college, I think our children should be in those schools.
And if they don't want to, if their parents don't want to send them [inaudible], if they want to give them an opportunity to go to a suburban school district, they should have the opportunity to.
If we start building some great schools where all are, the majority of people look like me and speak a different language, then our children should have that opportunity too.
So I don't think when we start looking forward to building charter schools, sure, let's build some to satisfy Sheff, but let's [inaudible] some good ones where our kids can get an opportunity.
Morehouse College is doing very well. They graduated 500 young men this year. And Spellman is doing very well too. And I think those opportunities should be available for our kids. Thank you.
DENNIS PARKER: And if I could just briefly address that and distinguish this plan from many other plans, I come from a school desegregation background where I've litigated cases basically throughout the South.
And unlike the plans in those cases that required that every single school in the district be within a certain percentage of the district-wide average, this doesn't do this.
This creates, the aim is to create the opportunity for people to elect, to go to schools that have reduced racial isolation. We cannot drag the school district into court or the state into court because there are racially isolated schools.
We want ultimately for every child to get an adequate education, more than an adequate education, an excellent education in whatever the setting is.
We think that there are advantages to having reduced racial and ethnic isolation, and we want to be sure that at the end of the day that there are no students who want to take advantage of that who are turned away because there are insufficient seats, either in a magnet school or in a Choice school.
So that we think that there's room under this agreement to develop excellent schools for all of the students.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you very much all three of you for being here today. And I'd like to call Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Querijero to testify.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Thank you. Good afternoon, Senator Gaffey, Representative Fleischmann, Members of the Committee. My name is Carolyn Querijero. I'm the Deputy Attorney General.
I'm here today pursuant to Section 3-125a to recommend this settlement in the Sheff v. O'Neill case. I think everybody involved in this is disappointed and I'm sure frustrated that the goals that were set forth originally haven't been met sooner.
And, you know, it's fair to have concerns right now with this settlement that the goals set forth in this settlement may not be reached.
But the hope is that with the changes that have been made in the context of this settlement, from the way the original settlement was, that they will be.
And it appears to us that there's a good chance that they will be under the modifications that are contained here. You've heard mainly most of the elements of this.
I'll mention a few of them, but I'll also say that in anything like this, this is a major, major, major undertaking. The Connecticut Supreme Court rules that diversity in, racial diversity in our schools is a fundamental right under the State Constitution.
And, you know, given the makeup of the Hartford school system, you know, racial makeup of the Hartford school system, it's a big task to come up with programs, voluntary programs that will substantially reduce that isolation and be in accord with the Supreme Court's ruling.
And I think you learn from the experiences that you have in attempting to reach the goals, and I think that's what this settlement has done.
And, you know, I'll mention a few of the components of it that I know you've heard, so I won't spend much time on it, but I'll just say that the, I think the best features of it are, and this is repeating, but this is how it struck me when I first read it, is the flexibility to look at what's being done and say if something's working then we want to continue it and expand it.
And if something isn't working, then we're going to stop. We're going to shift to something else instead of continuing along a path that isn't really working.
And so I think that's the most, probably the most important part of this. And the second is really, I don't think you can overestimate the impact of having this central office for magnet schools.
At least this is how it struck me, where people, it's like a one-stop place. Here you are asking parents to sign up for magnet schools and, you know, outside of their region and have their children move and, you know, take a bus and everything, and, you know, people may not even know where to go.
Previously I guess you had to apply to each individual magnet school. There might have been different applications. This is going to be one place that will counsel people and provide the information and take the applications and help the parents get the children settled.
All, it comes down to really an effort of persuasion, though, in the end, where you're trying to persuade parents that it's in the best interest of their children to have their children enter into programs in other schools.
And education of children is, as you all know and I know as a parent and as a grandparent, is one of the most emotional issues that there is for parents.
I live in a town in the western part of the state that's in a two-town region, two small towns, and there's no racial or social, economic differences between the towns, but right now we're embroiled in an educational proposal where children, small children from one town will attend the elementary school in the next town.
And the concern is the length of the bus trip. So, you know, that's one of the things that's probably going on here with persuading people to have their children sign up for magnet schools, etc.
But I think the better the school, I've come around to think that it's a good plan, and this involves my little grandson. That's why I mention it, who just finished kindergarten.
Even though it's a busing, a lengthy busing, because I think the educational benefits outweigh the bus trip.
I think that's how you have to sell the magnet schools and any of these programs to people in other towns, that the benefits of the education you're going to get outweigh the reluctance to maybe bring your child into a different town.
So it seems that the factors that were put into this agreement lead to a better likelihood that the goals can be met.
And I think, you know, so I would encourage the Committee, although I know obviously there's going to be skepticism about, because they are ambitious goals, whether they will be met.
But it's always better to reach an agreement rather than try to have a court impose a remedy. But speaking of that, I know you, Senator Gaffey, you were asking before what might a court do.
And I was thinking about that as I was listening. A court might be able to do a few things, but in general, I would say, at least, I would have concerns of separation of powers if a court really got mandated certain things that would have to come from the Legislature.
So, you know, in the end, perhaps a court would, I hate to suggest it, but, you know, rely on holding the state in contempt and asking the Legislature to come up with some method of addressing the issues that haven't been able to be resolved.
So, I mean, that may be where it comes, how it ends up, but I hope not. I hope that this can be done in a voluntary way. And, you know, no one thing is going to solve the, you know, the diversity spread.
But by opening this up more, I think that the likelihood is increased that a combination of all of these, with the good faith of the parties involved and I think that clearly there's good faith on everybody's part, that this settlement promises, you know, offers a good promise that this will succeed ultimately.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, I certainly believe that there is good faith amongst the parties here and everybody is striving toward the same goal and is hopeful that this plan works.
But you mentioned that a, you didn't think a court would order specific remedies, and you mentioned separation of powers.
A question, which leads me back to my original question, well, if that leads us to stalemate, because certainly Justice Peters didn't order any specific remedy. She punted it over across the street to us and to the Governor, who was the Governor at the time, to enact a remedy.
And if in fact that, if Judge Berger does the same thing, does not order a specific remedy at the time that the plaintiffs go back, if in fact there is a breach and it is not cured in the period allowed, if Judge Berger doesn't order a specific remedy but just orders the state in contempt and says, Legislature and Governor, do something, and there aren't the votes to do something that satisfies everybody, we're at stalemate. And that's my point here.
We are looking at spending $112 million more of the state taxpayers' money, and if I'm going to spend $112 million more, I want to achieve something. I want results, because for a decade now we don't have results with regard to easing racial isolation that the court ordered.
So that, therein lies my major concern here with this stipulated agreement, that in effect, what we have, quite possibly, is the past remains prologue. I'm hopeful it doesn't.
But based on ten years of experience of sitting in this chair and watching things happen, I certainly have a grave concern when it comes to that.
So hopefully we don't get to a stalemate, but I could certainly envision that occurring. What, who, which party ultimately is accountable for progress under this settlement?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Well, you know, always the defendant is, you know, accountable, I would say, because--
SEN. GAFFEY: So with the defendants being the, quote, unquote, state, who is accountable? Is it the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Education, the Governor, the State of Connecticut, who is, who's going to be held accountable here for showing progress?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Well, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, but, you know, ultimately, frankly, I would say it's the Legislature. In the end, it's the Legislature.
But I think in this, as far as being called into court, it's I think the State Department of Education who is trying to craft with the, you know, the Governor and all, but it's just that the Legislature makes the laws and it may require changes in the law.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, we only make laws that are signed off by the Governor, as you well know.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Oh, well, right.
SEN. GAFFEY: So, you know, there's two legs to that school.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Right. Well, of course, of course.
SEN. GAFFEY: You know, so, I mean, I don't agree that the Legislature would be the one ultimately held accountable. I mean, somebody has the task under this settlement to implement the settlement goals, to do the work.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Oh, well, that's certainly the Executive Branch.
SEN. GAFFEY: Correct.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: So the State Department of Education and, you know, obviously the Governor is the head--
SEN. GAFFEY: Don't you feel that everyone's sort of handcuffed here a little bit in that the district itself, the City of Hartford has not signed off on this agreement.
So if the district itself doesn't believe in the agreement, I mean, what does that say to the efficacy of the agreement?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: I'm told that they do not have an objection to it. They did not participate in it in terms of signing it, but I'm told that they're not objecting--
SEN. GAFFEY: Did they participate in the negotiations of the agreement?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: They did.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. And that would be Attorney Rose?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: I believe so.
SEN. GAFFEY: Attorney Rose participated in the negotiations of the agreement, yet we don't have the city agreeing in concurrence that this settlement agreement is the way to go as of yet, as of today.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Correct.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. And if that were to go, if that were to be the case on a going-forward basis, would you agree that it's a little bit difficult from the state's perspective, although we'll give it our almighty try.
I'm sure Commissioner McQuillan will, but it's a little difficult if we don't have an equal partner concurring with the efficacy of this agreement.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Well, they haven't signed it. And, you know, I'm told that they will not object to it and will participate in trying to implement it.
SEN. GAFFEY: Yeah, I guess, that, you know--
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: --they have decided, for whatever reason, not to sign it.
SEN. GAFFEY: You know, you go to a party with somebody and they don't object to going, but they're not going to dance with you, it makes it a little difficult to have a good time.
So with that, Senator McDonald, oh, I'm sorry. Representative Fleischmann wanted to ask a question first, then Senator McDonald.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you very much for your testimony. I wanted to come back to the outlines of the agreement and the tools that are included.
We've heard testimony from others representing the state or others who are part of the defendant team and from the plaintiffs that you've got a broad range of solutions and you have flexibility for use of those different solutions. What process did you use to put together this menu of options?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Well, it was input from the State Board of Ed, you know, the experts, obviously, there, educational experts, which we're not, the plaintiffs and, you know, input from their experts, and OPM, you know, was really quite involved in the negotiations.
And a combination of all of those came to the conclusion that these were the best options and most, you know, most promising options.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: And in putting together options, did the experts for the state look to other states, other regions in trying to see solutions that have worked elsewhere?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: I believe they did.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: It's just, the reason why I ask this is that in looking at the list, these are all approaches that have been used in the State of Connecticut.
They all have merit, but none has to date gotten us to the places that the parties to this agreement want us to go.
And so I just find myself wondering why it is that there aren't options here that go beyond the things that we've seen before, since what we have seen before in the State of Connecticut has not worked as we've wanted it to.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Well, I think and, you know, I'm sure you know, there's not ever going to be one, you know, one thing that will solve it and will deal with all of the numbers that are required.
And, you know, all of these options were available, but I don't think all were focused on as strongly.
You know, they were all kind of there in the mix, but the real focus has been on the magnet schools and, as the plaintiffs had said, the Hartford host magnet schools have gotten the most attention and the most resources, etc.
And, you know, and not to say that they haven't, you know, been successful. Some of them have been, you know, successful and all, but that's really I think only one, they've come to the conclusion that that's really only one component of it.
And some of these others that they're focusing on right now, you know, the vo-techs and the charters and the inter-district cooperative programs, and then more focus on the open choice inter-district transfers, you know, by adding and focusing more of their resources on it, that that will enhance the success of the whole program.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Representative McCrory observed earlier that there are issues here that don't just involve race or ethnicity, but that also involve class.
And I certainly don't have any problem talking about that because I think that's just reality. And we live in an area and a state and a society that has still a pretty high degree of economic segregation, as well as racial.
And that clearly has its impacts on how our school systems operate, particularly since here in New England, here in Connecticut, we still have the approach from centuries ago where each community essentially runs its own schools.
Did you or Attorney Urban or others involved in this litigation put any thought into remedies that weren't so exclusively focused on what the education system is doing, but that looked a bit more broadly to what's happening with regard to how we decide, you know, what we define as a school community, how we, you know, how we decide to divide students among school districts and schools? Is that something that ever was part of the discussion?
RALPH URBAN: Yeah, I would say--
REP. FLEISCHMANN: If you wouldn't mind just coming to the microphone and identifying yourself for the purpose of the record.
RALPH URBAN: Thank you, Representative. I'm Ralph Urban from the Attorney General's Office. I've been working on this case for the state since the early '90s.
A lot of things were discussed in terms of possible options during the settlement discussions, and there was some attempt to look at other cities and their experiences.
But I would say the emphasis was on looking at what's been a success here in Connecticut. And I think when you talk about, you know, failure or success with respect to what's been done before, I think one thing that I would respectfully say we're losing sight of a little bit is you've got to understand that to succeed in these programs, it's a building-by-building process of success or failure.
So there are Hartford host magnets that have done quite well. Some of them started as charter schools and did well and were turned into inter-district magnet schools and are very close to meeting the desegregation standard.
The effort of the agreement is to put our efforts and our resources into those that are close to get them over the hump. And of course many of the CREC, as been noted, the CREC inter-district magnets have worked very well and do meet the desegregation standard.
So I think the effort, although we looked at other cities and other approaches, the effort was to try to analyze what parents and students and school professionals in Connecticut want and meet that market demand, what are the schools that are working doing right and how can we replicate them.
I mean, we were down to the point of how many Montessori schools do we have, maybe we should open more Montessori magnets. We discussed themes. All of this was on the table.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: My final question for now relates to choices among these options. I think it makes all the sense in the world that the state should have some flexibility as we move forward to try and flex to what seems to be working and to try and direct resources to those programs that are actually doing the most so far as we can tell.
And I'm just wondering if there's anything in this agreement or in the state's plans that allows policymakers to assess how much bang for the buck we're getting out of the regional magnets versus the inter-district choice program versus the tech high schools and to try and calibrate what we're doing to reflect that, to allow us to get the most done the most effectively.
RALPH URBAN: Yeah. I mean, I think that one of the things that's in the current agreement and was in the last agreement was the mandatory meetings between the plaintiffs and the defendants periodically during the course of the life of the agreement to reassess.
Once again, we're paying some modest fees to help pay for an expert for the plaintiffs to provide that perspective. So I would say yes, that is an ongoing thing that was in both the prior agreement and the current agreement.
But I would also say the emphasis throughout, and I would say especially with the leadership of Secretary Genuario in this, in the negotiations was I am a consumer here.
This is the state's money and we're going to use it where it can be most effectively used, and I want the flexibility to shift during the course of the five-year agreement towards what's working and away from what isn't working.
And you'll note that in the first year of the agreement, we don't promise to open new schools. We promise to focus our efforts on getting those Hartford host magnets and other inter-district magnets that are very close to meeting the desegregation standard over the hump to meet the desegregation standard.
And then we talk about phasing in new schools after that. So we have a planning year for new schools and a year to try to bring the schools that are close into the desegregation standard.
Because remember, you have a large number of Hartford minority students in an inter-district magnet school, if it doesn't meet the desegregation standard, we can't count them, any of those kids towards the goal.
Once we get that school to meet the standard, all those kids count towards the goal, so your numbers go up hopefully almost exponentially if you can get those particular buildings in line with the standard.
And that was one of the big battles, frankly, in the negotiation, in all candor, was to keep that desegregation standard where it is at the Hartford region plus 30 percentage points, and that was a very hotly contested issue in the negotiations because we, that was key to us being convinced that we have a good shot at making this work, because with that standard and these number of schools that are that close, we think we can do it.
And there are other schools that we can't, we don't think will make it, and we're probably going to put those, demagnetize those schools.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you for that explanation. Let me just close with this observation. From the testimony we've heard, it seems evident that if it turns out after a couple of years that the state is failing to meet its goals, things may come back in some way to the Legislature for us to try and redress that failure.
And so as we're moving forward, from this Legislator's perspective, the system that you use for evaluating the effectiveness of these different modalities should include obviously reducing racial isolation and also how students are performing in the schools, and finally, how those two measures relate to the cost to the state.
I think what we want to be doing as a state is the most that we possibly can for all the children involved.
And to do that, we really have to have that kind of results-based accountability, where we're paying attention to those key indicators and really attuning the policies we fund according to those indicators.
So some of that already may have been on the radar screen for you and OPM and the State Department of Education, but I just wanted to make it very clear that I think that it's just critical for us to keep our eyes focused on those factors so that a few years from now, the greatest share of dollars have gone to the schools that are the most effective in reducing racial isolation and providing a really good education for these kids.
And if we're getting in that direction, then, you know, I think for all parties we've got something that's a success.
RALPH URBAN: I would just say that that's very true, and there's no question accountability has an always will be an important goal of the State Department of Education.
But remember also that really what's sort of unique about the situation here in Connecticut and what we're doing under this particular state constitutional case. It's not a federal constitutional case. We are, in some ways, unique in the country in that this is truly a market-driven thing.
So if we're not creating inter-district magnet schools, be they host magnet schools or CREC-run or run by some other third party or a consortium of other districts, if they're not providing a good education and they're not in decent facilities or renovated facilities, the market says that they don't work, they won't meet the standard.
So that the good thing about it is you have market forces that are also moving towards the things that you're talking about. You've got to have decent schools. They've got to be attractive, and they've got to produce good outcomes.
And if you don't do that, your inter-district magnets aren't going to work and we're not going to meet the goals.
So the effort is to make that work hand in glove and to assign the State Department of Education people to work on curriculum development, planning, pairing that with Hartford schools otherwise to help bring up other Hartford schools so that this is not just about desegregation, but we're also getting a little more bang for our buck in terms of improving education throughout the Hartford schools.
That's what the pairing is about. That's what the joint office is about. And that's what the joint marketing and development of magnet teams is about.
SEN. GAFFEY: Do you see any nexus between the two cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court right now in the Sheff v. O'Neill case?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: I'll answer that. A nexus, I mean, they're both dealing with, obviously with attempts to reduce the, you know, racial isolation and all.
But whether, depending on the rulings in these two cases, whether it would affect the Sheff settlement and all, you know, obviously it depends on what the Supreme Court says, and I don't mean just whether they uphold or reverse. I mean, the very specifics of what they say.
SEN. GAFFEY: So there's potential that it may affect this case.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: There's some potential, but as I read the two cases that are before the court right now, I would say that there are differences in them and the program before, that we have.
And so although there's a potential, probably it's a limited potential and it might require some modifications, but I don't think it would like throw out the whole concept.
SEN. GAFFEY: Attorney Urban.
RALPH URBAN: Yeah, I would just add to that that remember also Sheff, it doesn't get talked about enough, but Sheff also addressed racial, ethnic and economic isolation.
So, you know, there are ways that you work with your lotteries and your planning and how you populate the magnet schools that can, if need be, we might be able to tweak things around, and economic isolation is one of the factors that goes into our population of these magnet schools also. And those, I don't think, are really addressed in the Supreme Court decisions.
SEN. GAFFEY: Were briefs filed with Judge Berger?
RALPH URBAN: Briefs with respect to the pending U.S. Supreme Court cases?
SEN. GAFFEY: No, no, no. When the plaintiffs went back to court that produced this settlement, were briefs filed by the state?
RALPH URBAN: No. We had a dispute under the old agreement about one term of the old agreement. We had briefing on that issue. We had oral argument.
At that point, I think it was clear how the court was going to rule, and so the motion was withdrawn and it's basically, there's been no court action since that time.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you. Senator McDonald.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to focus on a couple of not policy issues, but procedural ones, because it struck me that, I don't think anybody's talked about it.
Is this before the Education Committee and the Legislature under the general provision that a settlement that is referred to us for approval takes effect if we take no action within 30 days from the receipt of the proposed settlement?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: I don't think it is because you don't have the 30, I mean, the Session has ended.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, that's, and I don't know, I'm trying to figure out what the procedural framework is that we're dealing with.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, if I may, because I asked the Office of Legislative Research, and their opinion was that we actually would not have to consider this until the beginning of the next Session in January of 2008 because it didn't arrive to the Legislature in this Session in a timely manner for us to consider it within this Session. That's our understanding from the Office of Legislative Research right now.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So I guess the question I have, based on that, is do we actually have to affirmatively approve the settlement at the beginning of the next Legislative Session?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Okay. Two options apparently. One would be to approve it affirmatively but put notwithstanding the provisions of 3-125 that, you know, require the 30 days. Or it could go over into the beginning of the next Session, and then start the 30 days running then.
SEN. MCDONALD: Do both the plaintiffs and the defendants concur in that view of how the settlement would be implemented? That's why I asked the question.
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: It was our understanding that it was going to get, go into it, because this present agreement expires in two weeks.
And our understanding was it was going to come before the Legislature for approval with the first option maybe, but we need something in effect immediately or the plaintiffs are in a position of needing to go back to court at the expiration of the--
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, that's, I mean, and I came in a little bit late so I may have missed it at the beginning, but this has not been teed up to me in a way that I understand what our role is.
And it doesn't appear that the plaintiffs and the defendants agree what the role is and what the timeline is. So can somebody help clarify it?
MATTHEW COLANGELO: Sure, if I may. I'm Matthew Colangelo with the Legal Defense Fund, and I'm one of the plaintiff's attorneys [inaudible - microphone not on]
SEN. GAFFEY: Please proceed to the microphone.
MATTHEW COLANGELO: Our reading of the legislative provision is that if the, of 3-125a, is that if the settlement had been submitted with more than 30 days remaining in the term, then it was either approved through an affirmative vote or could be approved through inaction, as you mentioned, at the expiration of 30 days.
SEN. MCDONALD: And as I understand, it was clocked in on June 4th.
MATTHEW COLANGELO: That's correct. So it was submitted to the General Assembly with less than 30 days remaining of the term.
Now 3-125a combined with a joint rule of the General Assembly provide that when a settlement of this kind is submitted with less than 30 days remaining in the term, unless it is affirmatively approved, it is deemed to be submitted on the first day of the next term, which as Senator Gaffey mentioned, is in 2008.
So our understanding, the plaintiff's understanding, is not that this lapses and no action should be taken on it until 200, because that leaves us, essentially we understand it, with no recourse other than to return to court for a court order to implement a remedy to the unconstitutional condition that persists.
Our understanding is that the General Assembly needs to take an affirmative vote to approve the agreement and can do that, as we understand it, before the start of the 2008 term.
SEN. MCDONALD: So we would have to be called into Special Session for that purpose? Is that your understanding?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: Yes, that's right.
SEN. MCDONALD: Has anybody told the leadership about that?
DEP. ATTY. GEN. CAROLYN QUERIJERO: The current Special Session--
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, that's not within the call of the current Special Session.
RALPH URBAN: If I can, my understanding is that in this, this occurred two years ago, 2005, when we similarly had a settlement that came about before, or after the 30 days before the end of the Session started, so we would not have the general opportunity as we do in most settlements to submit it.
And the Legislature would have the option of just simply allowing it to be approved by having it go through the process and, in essence, having it sit on the calendar for 30 days. We had two of those settlements that occurred in that fashion already this Session.
Because the 30 days that this came about prior to the end of the 30-day period, we have filed it, and in 2005, the option before the Legislature, which they took, was to include in the implementer language that said notwithstanding Section 3-, the provisions of Section 3-125a, the settlement of such-and-such is hereby approved.
The Legislature always has the opportunity to waive any procedural requirements or any requirements in the statute, and they could do so as part of an implementer.
And that is my understanding that there has been some discussion at some level over here as a potential way of resolving this particular settlement [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 2A to Tape 2B.]
SEN. GAFFEY: --Senate leadership and Representative Fleischmann as House leadership either, I mean, the Secretary may have had these discussions with you, but we have not had those discussions.
An [inaudible] and implementer, at our next meeting this afternoon, is scheduled to be on implementer. It's not on the list to be included as of yet.
And so we're going to have to proceed very carefully here, but we were under the, we are operating under the rules of the statute, in that if it wasn't filed within the 30-day period, it gets kicked over to the next Session.
Then there's our own joint rules on how this agreement gets handled. I agree with Attorney Kehoe that in the past there have been stipulated agreements or proposed settlements that have been approved through notwithstandings and implementers, but that just hasn't been broached yet, not that it won't.
We have a meeting in the next hour. But, you know, certainly that is a potential option. I'm not sure about the Call of the Session and how that plays into this. Settlement agreements were not included in the Call expressly.
Certainly the State Budget is included in the Call, and this requires, you know, running over the biennium to implement this. So we'll have to consider that further.
SEN. MCDONALD: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I concur. I mean, there's obviously a budget expenditure for at least the biennium. This would extend financial obligations well beyond the biennium. So I guess this is a procedural issue or morass that needs to be resolved shortly.
But, so let me put that aside for a second. And I wanted to follow up on something that Senator Gaffey mentioned with respect to the City of Hartford not being a signatory to this stipulation. I'm just confused why, they are a party to the litigation, right?
RALPH URBAN: They are now, yes.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So if they are, if they have affirmatively chosen not to be a signatory to the stipulation, they are not bound by its provisions, correct?
RALPH URBAN: I think that's correct.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So yet we as a state implementing our educational priorities do so through the conduit of the municipality as a district.
So we are taking on extraordinary responsibilities under this stipulation with no practical way of ensuring its implementation if the district of Hartford chooses not to implement it, correct?
RALPH URBAN: I think the only answer I can give to that is that Hartford has told us that they do not object to the settlement, that they intend to cooperate--
SEN. MCDONALD: Then why weren't they a signatory?
RALPH URBAN: That's a question you will have to ask them. In response to the last series of questions, the reason you did not get this settlement with 30 days that you would have normally gotten under 3-125 is that we were continuing to try to get the City of Hartford to sign on to this agreement or at least to clarify what exactly were the issues that were preventing them from doing so, but--
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, we don't have the, I mean, with all due respect, we don't have the City of Hartford before us, and the Attorney General's Office is recommending to us that we agree to this.
So the state is taking on obligations at the recommendation of the Attorney General's Office, and I need to understand what the state's exposure is.
I mean, just flipping through this, there are provisions in here defining what happens with material breaches in the stipulation, what happens if there's a significant failure deemed to have occurred.
If we have a material breach, there's a whole host of remedies available, and yet our ability to, as a state to actually fulfill the obligations here is left unmet. We don't have the real methodology by which to fulfill the obligations that we are being asked to take on.
RALPH URBAN: I guess I would say we have as much assurance as we can attain. I mean, Hartford is monetarily receives a tremendous amount of money in magnet school operating funds and magnet school construction funds.
And realistically, they have, I don't believe they have any interest in losing those funds by pulling out prematurely of host magnet schools that we intend to try to get to meet the desegregation standard, for example.
The enrollment management plans that we develop will be developed by the State Department of Education, and we certainly hope with the cooperation and participation of Hartford for dealing with any magnet, inter-district magnet schools that don't meet the desegregation standard.
Again, there's a number of financial and other incentives, but it is true. They are not a signatory to the agreement. And Judge Berger is, in fact, aware of this, and we did have a brief meeting with Judge Berger and we discussed this very issue.
And again, I don't mean to downplay your concerns, but financially I think Hartford is committed to these magnet schools.
They're committed to them programmatically. There are more things that they would like to see in the agreement, and they're not willing to sign onto it as it is right now.
SEN. GAFFEY: Just to point out, Senator [inaudible] we do have a representative from the City of Hartford coming in for the next panel.
Their corporation counsel is in the audience, so he might be so kind as to avail himself to us for questioning on this matter so we can ask the city directly as to what their stance currently is on the disposition of them being inclined to accept and be a signatory to this agreement.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, but I just want to be clear here. If there is a material breach found, only the State of Connecticut could be found in contempt or found liable for that breach.
RALPH URBAN: That is true, and I would say Hartford is, has been admitted as a party, but they have not filed an intervening complaint. They have not indicated whether they are a defendant or a plaintiff in the case, and the court has not forced them to make that choice.
So, you know, I think they've been allowed to intervene so as to be heard as to any appropriate remedy, and they have been so heard.
SEN. MCDONALD: I'll hold the rest of my questions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Senator. Further? Representative Mikutel.
REP. MIKUTEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Is it, I'm going to ask this question to you sort of. I want to get clarification. Is it our intent to bring this stipulated agreement before the full Legislature for an open debate and vote?
SEN. GAFFEY: It is definitely the intent of the Chairs that, if I can speak for Andy right now, along with me, that this stipulated agreement is so important to the State of Connecticut that this should be brought forward absolutely before the General Assembly for a vote.
And I do not believe that because of the ramifications, the wide ramifications of this agreement, that this should be, you know, inserted into an implementer bill.
It ought to stand on its own and be voted up or down on its own, because once it's inserted in an implementer, it becomes a whole different animal, because folks in the General Assembly are going to be not inclined to vote against an implementer if that implementer is also rewarding their districts with all sorts of education funding and other funding that they, you know, really can't vote against.
So I don't want to have Members handcuffed. I think this matter should be decided up or down on its own.
REP. MIKUTEL: I agree with you, absolutely. This is worthy of a full debate so the full Legislature can know what exactly we're trying to do here and what the stakes are.
And I'm glad to hear that because I was a little troubled by the idea this might be stuck in a budget implementer, and for the same reasons you mentioned, it shouldn't be there. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. GAFFEY: Representative Fleischmann.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. Just to add my two cents to that. This is a really vitally important issue, and I have concerns about it being handled sort of quickly and quietly in an implementer for process reasons.
What my Co-Chair said about the way that implementers garner support because of things that affect districts around the state is accurate, but it's also the case, as you know, that it's just impossible for them to get the same kind of attention that something that stands on its own gets.
And I am, I'm supportive of the thrust of this agreement personally, and I think that it's deserving of full consideration in its own right, not as a single line in an implementer that most people aren't aware of.
And now it may be that there's a possibility for us to achieve all of these ends, to make sure that we get down the path of funding some of the key solutions that are outlined while also fully discussing the rest of the agreement.
And so that's one possibility that I think in my mind is very much open to consideration and may be one path that we take.
SEN. GAFFEY: Any further questions? Thank you very much. Regina Hopkins, Attorney Hopkins. Attorney Rose, you're more than welcome to join Attorney Hopkins from the City of Hartford. Good afternoon. Thank you for attending.
REGINA HOPKINS: Good afternoon. I need to share with you that I was a bit surprised to see my name on the agenda, and so I sit before you feeling a little like someone who was invited to visit a church and then, upon arrival, called upon to preach the sermon, knowing full well that she's not the preferred preacher of the hour.
Notwithstanding that, I do appear before you at the request of and on behalf of Superintendent Adamowski and--
SEN. GAFFEY: And that's why your name is on the agenda. We were informed by the Superintendent's Office that you would be appearing today on that office's behalf to offer your insights as to this settlement agreement.
REGINA HOPKINS: Okay. And that wasn't communicated to me, but it's fine. I'm happy to provide any information or guidance that I can as it relates to this effort and inquiry. And in particular I requested that Attorney John Rose also join me here.
SEN. GAFFEY: And we did invite Attorney Rose also, I might add.
JOHN ROSE: Yesterday. Yesterday.
SEN. GAFFEY: It's a very important issue, Attorney Rose. You're the corporation counsel for the City of Hartford. You participated in the negotiations of this agreement.
It became quite clear that Superintendent Adamowski was not going to change his schedule and appear, so I think it's very warranted that you're here, regardless of how tardy the invite to you personally might have been.
JOHN ROSE: May I just, I don't mean to be contentious, but it is imperative for everyone in this audience to know that I had no idea of this forum, that it was going to happen, until yesterday morning.
I don't come with prepared remarks. I'm sitting here trying to decide how I'm going to get a brief filed in the State Supreme Court before 5:00 today. So this is a significant imposition on me. I have no problems with appearing to discuss the issues.
I think they were ferociously, incredibly important, as I know all of you do. But I think, with all due respect, that it is incredible to me that I only learned about this yesterday.
SEN. GAFFEY: Again, Attorney Rose, the Superintendent was invited to attend. He chose not to. That's why we referred to Miss Hopkins that she was going to attend.
You were invited when we found out that the Superintendent was not going to be here. You were a party to the negotiations of this lawsuit. I think your attendance is important.
I apologize for the tardiness of the invite. However, we're sitting here also having to go into meetings about resolving the State Budget, which is equally as important as I presume as your filing your brief.
JOHN ROSE: At least as important, and I don't envy you today, but it is worth noting that, for purposes of the city, the city is the party. The Board of Education is not the party.
I filed the motion to intervene in August of 2006. We were admitted in January of 2007 because the plaintiffs objected to our being parties. So we're here.
And you suggested earlier something about a dance. We intend to dance with respect to this issue at every opportunity. We intend to be present at every negotiation and have the city's position heard, held, upheld appropriately, appropriate in whatever forum the city has to go to.
We're here to cooperate. And I will state for the record right now, Sir, you can ask me questions about it later, but I went in front of a judge, a judge I have an enormous amount of respect for in Judge Berger, and met with him and I and, in fact, I insisted that everybody be at that sit-down, because I'm not sure the plaintiffs were actually going to show up there.
And we said to the judge, we the city do not object to the plaintiff and the defendant signing this document. We will not sign it. I can tell you why as we get into this some more, but we will not sign it.
There are lots of interesting issues about it that concern me. There is significant input in this document, especially by my, the city as a negotiating committee. Regina Hopkins is a part of that committee.
Frank Algeri is a part of that committee, a name that I am sure is familiar to many of you, as is Lee Erdman who is the chief financial officer, chief operating officer of the city, and [inaudible] and I'm sorry, a gentleman from the Mayor's Office is also a part of our committee.
But we have issues. We didn't get to participate in, with all due respect, the negotiations that began, my understanding, it was long ago, it was July of 2006 until January of 2007.
This document was in very large measure written when I came to the table, when we came to the table. I'm sorry, you were talking.
REGINA HOPKINS: What I wanted to share with you is that, as Attorney Rose has indicated, I have been on the negotiation team as the designee for the Superintendent.
And I think that the fact that the Hartford Public Schools and the city were at the table is indeed reflected, clearly reflected in the joint magnet office proposal, the enrollment management plan provision of the proposed Sheff 2 agreement, as well as discussions that were had concerning issues related to transportation, specifically the length of the ride and the cost of transporting students, suburban students from second-, third- and fourth-tier outer-ring suburban towns into Hartford.
And so I have played a role and have continued, and will continue to play a role in terms of implementing Sheff.
I think one of the concerns that's been expressed is the reality that Hartford as the intervening party, because the board participates at the invitation of the city. Hartford as an intervening party has declined to sign the agreement.
Notwithstanding that, the Hartford Public School System is a system that currently has 12 Hartford host magnet schools that we are interested in making sure are successful, notwithstanding the challenges that have been proposed and the, you know, the clear reality that many of them have failed to comply with Sheff.
And so in that regard, the Superintendent and I have had at least one preliminary meeting with Deputy Commissioner Coleman to talk about the Superintendent's plan for the school district of Hartford, which he intends to make an all-choice district.
And a significant part of that obviously is tied to the success of the existing host magnet schools.
I have worked with members of the State Department of Education, starting to talk about what the enrollment management plans look like or ought to look like for some of the existing host magnet schools that are currently struggling.
So while I understand that there is some concern about the will or the intent of Hartford to move forward as it relates to Sheff 1 and now the proposed Sheff 2 agreement.
I can assure you that there is a commitment to doing the kinds of things that would beneficially impact the currently proposed Sheff agreement.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, and I understand the distinction, the legal distinction between the Board of Education and the city, but in reality, the mayor of the city sits as the president of the Board of Education, correct?
REGINA HOPKINS: Correct.
SEN. GAFFEY: Okay. So it's pretty, that's about as close a nexus you can get between the city and a board in this state. So are you recommending that the General Assembly approve this agreement?
And that question goes to both of you as you sit before us today. I mean, are you recommending we approve this agreement or disapprove this agreement?
JOHN ROSE: Let me take it on and give you a lawyerly answer as opposed to a yes or no, which may wind up being more yes certainly because I believe it is more a yes than a no even as I speak.
The last contact that I had with anyone from the plaintiffs or the defendants in regard to this matter was May 8.
Now I think you all can see that that is, since I understood at that point, in fact, I understood from a meeting maybe eight or ten days before that, that we sat with Judge Berger, that the two parties to the agreement were going to sign it, the stipulation, were going to sign it at that point. That's why we went to see the judge.
That would have obviously given lots of time for the document to have been submitted to this Legislature for purposes of action before the June 30 expiration date.
The last contact I had with anyone other than Wes Horton telling me there was going to be some manner of court appearance that might happen in, while he was away on vacation. You note he's not here.
It was at a mediation that we had on May 8 in Middletown to try and persuade the city, I suppose, that it ought join in and sign the document.
No one at all has asked me anything about the city's position since that date. And so I'd have to correct Mr. Urban with regard to that issue.
As far as I am concerned, there needs to be a stipulation. I think that this stipulation is the best stipulation that we have at the moment. That stipulation will be signed by the two parties.
The judge, in fact, did allow the city to intervene in the case, and we are not on a plaintiff or a defendant side.
It's actually kind of an interesting position to be in because we're in a position to take the matter to court on our own issues, issues like what is this agreement costing the City of Hartford, which has nothing to do with all of the money that we're getting.
That's one of our big deals. We know we're getting lots of money from the state for magnet schools. But guess what? We're going into our pockets to the extent of millions of dollars every year to facilitate an agreement that we had nothing to do with creating.
With all due respect, the numbers, the percentages that are in front of you that cause you consternation cause us significant consternation, because I'm not an educator, but I have some reason to believe that the educators who talk to me about this know what they're talking about.
You can't implement a real magnet school operation in less than five years. Or if you've got an agreement that expires from 2003 to 2007 and you haven't reached your goals, of course you haven't reached your goals.
You're not expected to. You shouldn't have been expected to. That stipulation, with all due regard, was, in my opinion, not well founded.
But that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be done something in accordance with the judge's decision or the judge's decision in Sheff in 1996, which coming back to the Legislature, the first line of that decision by Chief Justice Peters is to the effect that there are 107 school districts in the State of Connecticut by a 1909 or 1907 statute.
Repeal that statute. Start from there. That's a good place to start, Legislature. Anyway, I believe that you should endorse this stipulation. I believe that we need to go forward.
I believe that the City of Hartford's issues with the plaintiffs and the defendants are issues that competent lawyers, and I want you to know that I believe that the state has competent counsel.
I respect Ralph Urban, known him a long time, will continue to do that. Mr. Colangelo, I respect him. I don't know him anywhere near as long. We can work out our differences.
SEN. GAFFEY: So ostensibly then, the purpose of Hartford [inaudible] for party status in this case was your concern with regard to the fiscal impact to the City of Hartford, what could come out of the case or any agreement thereto.
JOHN ROSE: Obviously not only that. That's the rationale involving the Superintendent, the Superintendent's Office, and everyone who is in the situation where we are, which is literally where the rubber meets the road.
We run the systems. We pick where the schools are going to go. We worry about transportation contracts. We get the complaints from parents about a child not being picked up at his door from Avon to be delivered to Hartford.
We worry about what happens if there are a certain number of school seats set aside and, oh, we had 25 children left behind. Well, what do you do with them?
So we're in because we have lots of education concerns, fiscal concerns that affect the city directly.
We don't believe that it was appropriate, with all due respect, for the Legislature to have taken the 100% financing position in the legislation out and then put us into a situation where we have a court order that says you've got to do this, and, oh, by the way, we're going to reduce your funding.
And by the way, if you look at the way funding is approved under the system, 100% means 85%. Well, guess where the 15% is coming from?
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, that's a whole different issue with regard to some may opine that the local district should have buy-in into the schools that are serving their schoolchildren, and thus have a concomitant fiscal obligation themselves in funding that school.
But, you know, we'll leave that aside for a moment. I guess there's, I'm failing to understand why you were part of the negotiation of this.
You applied or received party status, yet at some point along the road, after January, you weren't in participation with the plaintiffs and the defendants on this settlement agreement?
JOHN ROSE: I certainly did not say that. We participated. I suggest to you that a couple of very significant additions to the document that existed when we came to the table in January are only as a result of our participation.
You've heard people talk today about the wonderful joint magnet program with the Hartford schools and CREC. That didn't come from the parties, plaintiff or defendant. That came from this young woman who's sitting by my, to my right.
SEN. GAFFEY: But you emphasized that May 8th was the last contact you had with regard to any, you know, formation of an agreement, that it was being agreed to.
JOHN ROSE: I don't remember when the last negotiations were had, but they were well before May 8.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, no, you mentioned the May 8th date.
JOHN ROSE: Right, I understand that. And I mean to tell you that because there was a statement made to the effect that there has been an effort to get the city to come to the table since the negotiations ended. Nobody's talked to me since May 8.
SEN. GAFFEY: I understand that, Sir. Okay. Did you inquire to any of the other attorneys, whether it be Attorney Urban or the plaintiff's attorneys as to what the status of the case was?
JOHN ROSE: We had a mediation on May 8. When I left that mediation, my understanding was what it was, some six or eight or ten days before with Judge Berger, that the plaintiffs and the defendants were going to sign the document.
I have assumed since then that that was done, that the document would have been before the Legislature in a timely basis.
I am learning literally for the first day today that the document was submitted to you on June 4th. I did not know that.
SEN. GAFFEY: Representative Fleischmann.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. So I'm just trying to understand the situation here. The City of Hartford sought and achieved intervener status in this case, was able to be seated at the table of the negotiations, managed to get inserted into the agreement before us in provisions that the city views as improvements to the agreement. Why is the city not signing the agreement?
JOHN ROSE: Because there are significant other issues that the city put on the table that have not been addressed or resolved. Take that back. They have all been addressed.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: So does that imply that even if this agreement were to be adopted by this General Assembly, that the City of Hartford may in some way continue to dissent and seek modifications to the agreement?
JOHN ROSE: I don't know that that's the case. We would certainly continue to operate on the notion that there is a pending piece of litigation that the city is now a party to.
And if the continuing negotiations, which I think will go on in good faith, if the continuing negotiations broke down in such a way or meandered in such a way that the city thought it needed to go to court for relief, we would reserve, not unlike the plaintiffs having reserved, the right to do that.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: I'm not an attorney, but it's my understanding that there's a pretty big difference between being a party to a negotiation and being a signatory to a final agreement, that the act of signing brings with it an array of responsibilities and obligations.
And typically when one's party to a negotiation, one enters into it with the understanding that if you're bargaining in good faith, at the end you buy into the final result.
Why would, having participated in good faith in these negotiations, why would the city now not buy in?
JOHN ROSE: Because as I mentioned earlier, a very substantial portion of this document was created before we had any input. We have issues about that. You all have issues about that.
I don't know where you get, how you get from, go crazy, 14% to 41%. I don't, and I'm told that I shouldn't be concerned about this, but I don't want to be in the position ever to have my city or the Board of Education in Hartford somehow held liable for something that it could never have conceived as being an appropriate number because it had no input into the number. That's one.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, that's fair. And I give you credit for mentioning liability, because I have a sense that that was probably an important component of the city's decision, and I appreciate your clarifications.
JOHN ROSE: And I don't mean to suggest that there is liability, but I don't mean to suggest that there isn't either.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Representative. Senator McDonald.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you both for being here. Even if it's on short notice, your participation is very important to these proceedings.
I just wanted to be clear from, I think it was something that Attorney Urban mentioned in answer to one of my prior questions. The City of Hartford has intervened as a party, but you have not intervened as a party defendant. Is that correct?
JOHN ROSE: Or plaintiff. That's correct.
SEN. MCDONALD: Or plaintiff. Okay. So you have never filed any type of responsive pleading you're not on the hook for anything as a party to the litigation, is that correct?
JOHN ROSE: That's correct. We have not been compelled to, and we have not filed. I brought a motion in August of last year simply to join the litigation.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. And, I mean, that's an odd quirk in our law that would allow that to happen, but, so you have a seat at the table but no skin in the game. Fair enough?
JOHN ROSE: We have lots of skins in the game.
SEN. MCDONALD: But you're not subject to any of the potential remedial measures that the lawsuit seeks to achieve, because you're not a party defendant.
JOHN ROSE: A goodly portion of the stipulation, if you read it, has to do with what, quote, unquote, Hartford will do.
SEN. MCDONALD: And I'm getting to that. But as a litigant, as a litigant to the case, you don't face any exposure vis-à-vis the plaintiff's actions against the State of Connecticut as a defendant.
JOHN ROSE: That's true.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Now, and I want to be clear that the party that intervened was the City of Hartford, not the Hartford Public Schools.
JOHN ROSE: That's also true.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So we've got this--
JOHN ROSE: There's a definition of what's called the Hartford School District. The law provides that the Hartford School District is the City of Hartford.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, and I was the corporation counsel to the City of Stamford in another life. I fully understand it.
So I just want to be clear that when you're speaking, you're speaking on behalf of the City of Hartford, not on behalf of the school district.
JOHN ROSE: No, we are the school district. I'm not speaking on behalf of the Board of Education.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Now, but when you intervened as a party, you didn't intervene on behalf of the school district. You intervened on behalf of the city, right?
JOHN ROSE: We intervened only for the city, and I guess the distinction that I make is the Board of Education versus the, because if the Hartford School District is the City of Hartford, the other entity is the state entity situated in the city, i.e., the Board of Education.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Now you don't, you said, if I recall your testimony correctly, that you commended the stipulation to us. Did you commend the stipulation to the City of Hartford or the school district?
JOHN ROSE: If you mean did I go to the city council and say that we should sign, I have to go to the city council to see if we can sign it, but it has not been, the Mayor's Office, my office continue to have reservations about the document that caused us, me and the members of our committee, not to want to sign it.
SEN. MCDONALD: I guess my question is, who, and I don't understand your charter, so I rely on your answer to this. Who has the legal authority to bind the Board of Education in its legal contracts?
JOHN ROSE: Only the Board of Education, assuming that, as I do, that the Board of Education is a state entity, it is not a city entity. Who has the obligation to bind the entity that got sought and got intervention in this case? The Mayor.
SEN. MCDONALD: The Mayor. And does the Mayor need council approval to enter into such a contract or a stipulation?
JOHN ROSE: Without knowing specifically, I can tell you the chances of our not getting it first would be practically nonexistent. We would do that.
We would go to the council with the resolution, advising the Mayor that he, the Mayor ought enter into this, quote, unquote, document.
SEN. MCDONALD: And does the council have to--
JOHN ROSE: And the only reason I have hesitation about that is because it's litigation. That's the only reason that I have a hesitation about that.
SEN. MCDONALD: And under your charter, does the council have to grant that authority to the Mayor?
JOHN ROSE: I suppose. I don't know that the council has to do anything. But I believe that if we took a resolution that said that the council ought, the council directs the Mayor to enter into this contract, the council would do that.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Was this stipulation ever provided to the council for its consideration?
JOHN ROSE: No, no.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Now I guess I'll, I understand lawyerly answers, but I think this one can be answered with a yes or no. And if you can, I'd appreciate it.
Does the City of, will the City of Hartford be bound by the terms and conditions and obligations of this stipulation?
JOHN ROSE: Yes.
SEN. MCDONALD: How?
JOHN ROSE: Because we are directed to do certain things, and the city will do those things. We get a lot of money with respect to the magnet schools, and we have obligations to find and site and complete construction of magnet schools that were put in place even before we were party.
So we're going to be doing the things that we're supposed to do, plus the Mayor and the school district are interested in making sure that there are the best possible facilities under the existing system available to the students of the school system.
SEN. MCDONALD: I understand that, but this stipulation requires certain affirmative acts by the Hartford School District, right?
JOHN ROSE: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: And yet, and you're telling me that it is going to be bound by it, even though it's not a signatory to it.
JOHN ROSE: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: How can that be?
JOHN ROSE: Well, because I believe that we are, we've been in this thing, because this, remember, this is stipulation number two, tracking stipulation number one, which put us in the game in the first place.
And we are going to do what is best for the schools that we have caused to come into existence.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. But, I mean, I guess where we're drawing this distinction is the difference between being bound de facto and being bound de jure.
I mean, you're saying by the force of the whole process, you would get rolled up into it, but that you wouldn't actually be assuming the legal obligation in the, by signing the stipulation. I mean, a stipulation is, in fact, a contract entered into before a court, right?
JOHN ROSE: Yes, it is.
SEN. MCDONALD: And you wouldn't be bound by any of that. So I'm trying to understand--
JOHN ROSE: Having not signed it, we would not be bound, I'm not sure that if I'm a judge looking at what has happened in the City of Hartford and looking at what's happened in this litigation, that I would not say to the City of Hartford, you were there, you refused to sign, for reasons that are, in my opinion, completely appropriate because there are issues in and not in the stipulation that we would have in that would have caused us to be in a position to absolutely endorse it and sign it.
Those are negotiating kinds of issues that will be resolved, because I think that the people who are attempting to resolve them all come to the table in good faith.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. And just one final question for Attorney Hopkins, if you know, and I know that you might not have been prepared for some of these questions. Is there a reason why the Board of Education didn't intervene as a party in the litigation?
REGINA HOPKINS: I don't know why they didn't intervene, no.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you. Attorney Rose, what are the changes to this stipulated agreement that would make this approve-able under your opinion by the City of Hartford and allow you to be a signatory?
JOHN ROSE: Some of them are the kinds of concerns that you expressed today. We don't have any real notion where the 41, since at one point it was 46, came from.
I mean, I haven't seen educational documentation, which I suppose is the appropriate thing, expert testimony, witnesses who can establish to me that somehow we're going to go from 14 to 41.
The Superintendent has expressed a significant concern about that. His position at a very important meeting that we had when he did come to a meeting with the negotiating committee was I will take, he picked a school. I won't tell you which one it was. It doesn't matter.
And I will make that school meet all of the criteria of No Child Left Behind, CMT, bang, bang, bang, but I am not going to give you any guarantee, warranty, evidence that you can make me sign up to that people who may want, are going to send their children to that school. Those are the kinds of concerns that affect us.
The dollar concerns are always going to affect us. One of the things that drove our getting involved here was the monies that are available or are not available for operations with respect to facilities.
We have not been able to locate a school, which as you probably know is still in, at least facilities in Windsor. There are lots and lots of issues as to why that school is still in leased facilities in Windsor.
But guess what? It's going to be in leased facilities in Windsor again. There was a budget approved for the construction of that school, 100%, quote, unquote financing. What's going to happen to that budget?
Is the city going to have to pick up some of that budget? Is the Legislature ever going to, or is somebody going to grant additional monies in that budget to get to a point where all of the money that we've had to roll away in an exorbitant lease, what happens there?
Those are the kinds of concerns that we have to talk about with the Board of Education, that we do talk about.
Again, I don't ever mean to leave the table and suggest to you that there haven't been genuine, honest, decent people sitting at a table trying to work this out. We are still going to do that. We haven't had a lot of time to do it, but we're still going to do it.
SEN. GAFFEY: Well, I guess from where we sit, knowing that a large percentage, more so than, I mean, you lead the league. You get more money for people than any other municipality in the State of Connecticut.
You have gotten more school construction dollars than any municipality in the State of Connecticut. So you lead the league in getting money from the state.
And you mentioned the school in South Windsor, but, you know, we're also looking at the fact that for a decade the reconstruction project at Hartford Public High School is still not completed.
So, I mean, where we sit, we look at that and say what's going on with the management of the Hartford School District where we can't get a school built in ten years, that Hartford High.
JOHN ROSE: I have all kinds of sympathy with that point of view, and I think we all should be more concerned about that. I think that it's, in all honesty, I came to this job in 2004.
Do I think that the City of Hartford should have been a party in this case in 1988? Sure. I had no control over it then. I only had control over it when I was advised to do what I was advised to do.
SEN. GAFFEY: Senator Fonfara.
SEN. FONFARA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Attorney Rose, I'd be less than candid with you if I were not to say that I'm concerned about some of the statements you've made here today regarding your role.
And to hear you make several statements as the legal representative of the city, but statement such as that you're, that the city is bound by the terms, that you're bound by the terms, that the city will be bound by the terms of the agreement, that the settlement was not brought before the council, the city council.
And these are, I'm paraphrasing, but essentially, we are going to do what is in the best interest of the schools, that it was your decision not to sign off on the settlement.
You've spoken about the appropriateness of the reimbursement level by the state for magnet schools in Hartford. Have you spoken to the Mayor about this here today, that you coming here today, are these his positions? Are they your positions?
JOHN ROSE: They are not my position, Sir.
SEN. FONFARA: Have you spoken to the Mayor?
JOHN ROSE: I speak to the Mayor about all of this all of the time. And as I indicated earlier, not only is the Mayor aware of it. We have a committee that is the negotiating committee for the city with respect to the Sheff matters.
SEN. FONFARA: But when you make the representations you have today, are those his words? Are those his positions? Are those your positions? When something was decided not to be brought before the city council for action, was that his decision? Was that your decision?
JOHN ROSE: There was no discussion by me with the Mayor that we should take this to the council.
SEN. FONFARA: So it was your decision not to bring it to the council.
JOHN ROSE: There was no agreement, so there was nothing to take to the council. That's right.
SEN. FONFARA: And have you, since you've learned that there's an agreement, have you discussed it with the Mayor regarding bringing it to the council?
JOHN ROSE: Is there an agreement, Sir? I've seen a document with plaintiffs' signatures on it. That's all. That's what you've got--
SEN. FONFARA: You've asked this Body to endorse and support this document.
JOHN ROSE: And I think you should do that.
SEN. FONFARA: So that's not an agreement?
JOHN ROSE: Okay. This is a document that is, once it gets signed by the Attorney General, who is the representative of the defendants, would be an agreement by the parties, yes.
SEN. FONFARA: But something that you've said will, that you've represented, that the City of Hartford will be bound by the terms of, you have decided, I don't know, individually or otherwise not to bring this to the city council for action.
JOHN ROSE: It has not been brought to the city council for action. That's correct. And I think it's, with all due respect. I don't know what your line of questioning is leading to.
Read the stipulation. The City of Hartford is going to do what the City of Hartford is supposed to do by that stipulation. We buy into that much of it at least.
But there are significant issues with it that caused us concern. We raised those concerns with the people with whom we were negotiating. They know them. It's not like we're hiding any ball here.
We made a determination that we would not sign the document. The lawyers determined and spoke to a judge about the notion whether the city would be required to sign it for it to be effective.
We concluded with the judge that that was not the case. We then went to a mediation for purposes of attempting to get our situations closer together. That took a day.
We are, I hope, somewhat closer together. We have more things to talk about. The city is not backing away from its commitments.
SEN. FONFARA: Well, when you say we made the decision to not sign the document, who is we?
JOHN ROSE: The members of, I thought I answered that question. The members of the negotiating committee with the administration.
SEN. FONFARA: And so you've had personal discussions with the Mayor on this.
JOHN ROSE: I thought I answered that question too. The answer is yes.
SEN. FONFARA: As recent as when?
JOHN ROSE: Not today and not yesterday [inaudible] probably going back to May. I mean, remember, my understanding was this document was to be signed in May.
So since I haven't been told that it wasn't signed in May, I assume, in fact, it was signed in May. We've had no discussion since then.
SEN. FONFARA: Well, I would just say, Mr. Rose, that as a representative of the City of Hartford, I'm concerned that the representations that you've made here, whether that be as the legal representative of the city or as, somehow as a policymaker [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 2B to Tape 3A.]
--that's your formal role, by any means.
JOHN ROSE: I'm not a policymaker.
SEN. FONFARA: I understand that.
JOHN ROSE: I'm the city's counsel. That's all.
SEN. FONFARA: Well, your remarks here today, unless you are prepared to say that you are speaking for the Mayor, who is both the mayor of our city and the council, or the Board of Ed leader, that it concerns me that the representations you've made seem to be coming from you, unless you will say that you are representing the Mayor and that your remarks today are his.
JOHN ROSE: I don't intend to help you with that question, if that is a question. And I don't even, I'm not sure I know what the question is.
I don't know why you haven't understood me when I've said quite simply there was an agreement between the parties, all three, that two parties would sign the document. That agreement was endorsed by a court.
I don't know why there isn't a signed document in front of you presented in time for this Legislature to have acted. I don't know that. I have no control over that.
SEN. FONFARA: I'm speaking to that and more broadly your remarks here today in representing the City of Hartford.
And as I've said, Mr. Chairman, that as a representative of the City of Hartford, I'm concerned by that. I'll leave it at that. Thank you, Sir.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you, Senator. And I think the next step for this Committee is to call the Mayor of the City of Hartford forward and to get his opinion so we hear it right from the horse's mouth as to what his opinion is with regard to this settlement, this proposed settlement, and why the city is not signing onto it.
And the other questions that you asked Attorney Rose you can ask the Mayor, but we'll do that as a next step. We'll call the Mayor over here and ask him to explain why the city is not signing onto this stipulated agreement. Representative Bartlett.
REP. BARTLETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Attorney Rose, good to see you again.
JOHN ROSE: You too.
REP. BARTLETT: You said May 8th, that you thought that that was the agreement. Has there been any changes to the document that you've seen since May 8th today? Is it the same agreement, in essence?
JOHN ROSE: Without having looked at it line for line, I believe that it is the same document that we had on, whenever it was, before May 8th, the last negotiation took place, which was fairly substantially before May 8.
REP. BARTLETT: But for the most part, it's the same document.
JOHN ROSE: I believe that to be the case.
REP. BARTLETT: Okay. Earlier in your testimony you said that the fiscal piece of this was a concern to the city.
JOHN ROSE: Right.
REP. BARTLETT: And you didn't, I don't know if you said you didn't know, or I haven't heard what you consider or what the city considers the fiscal cost is.
And you kind of left it hanging out there, so I, first, has the city looked at that and come up with figures to go along with the agreement, what they expect their costs to be?
And if not, why wouldn't they have since we had this agreement in May, which has not really changed? Why wouldn't you have those numbers?
JOHN ROSE: The point of the fiscal obligations that are evident from the document has to do with the city's concern that the, A, the law change with respect to reimbursement for magnet schools.
It went from 100% financing, which as I indicated earlier, according to our documentation information within the city with respect to what happens when you make application to the state for purposes of getting your 100% is substantially less than 100%.
What the law changed, to go from 100% to 95%. So 100%, we were actually only getting 85%. At 95%, we're getting less.
There are significant issues of operations costs, whether those in fact are covered by the applications we make to the state at all, can we get that kind of documentation into the agreement or recognition by the State Board of Education that that's a significant issue. We haven't gotten it in yet.
There's a very significant issue about the cost of transportation. I'm actually hearing, I think for the first time tonight, today, that there are increases in the transportation allotment that we have, we proposed a specific dollar number at one point.
That was in. Then it was out. Whether it's, I haven't even checked to see whether it's in again. That's another issue, because the transportation costs to the city for kids coming from the suburbs to the city is a lot of money.
We have in existence a not terribly satisfactory bus contract that goes back to 2003. It will expire in 2008. That monster is hamstringing us in very substantial measure.
We can't afford to have additional un-reimbursed transportation expenses imposed on the city. Those are the kinds of concerns that we've had.
REP. BARTLETT: But most of what you're saying, I mean, a lot of these, aren't they fixed costs between May and today? I mean, the, unless the Chairs can tell me different, I mean, it's been 95% since May to today.
So it seems to me that if you had a fiscal analysis within the Mayor's Office, you should have been able to identify a cost there. It seems to me that on operations that you should be able to come up with an estimate to the city.
It seems to me that your transportation costs, that you can come up with a number based on an old contract, and then therefore, you'll have to have a differential when you renegotiate a contract with a new bus company. I mean--
JOHN ROSE: We can get you all those numbers. We have those numbers. I don't have them with me.
REP. BARTLETT: But that's my question then, is, you're saying a major objection to signing the agreement is the cost to the city.
JOHN ROSE: That's right.
REP. BARTLETT: But you're not giving me anyway, or I haven't heard what that cost is when you at the same time are willing to say the state, it's good enough for the state to sign onto it, and I recommend that, but it's not, I'm not comfortable signing onto it for the city. And I have issues with that.
JOHN ROSE: Well, I think that you well might, but I did not come here prepared to answer that question. If you want an answer to that question, I'll get it for you.
REP. BARTLETT: I'd appreciate a follow-up on that, if that's possible. The other part I just wanted to follow up was you said you had significant objections to the stipulations.
I think a number of questioners have asked you to elucidate on that in a couple of different ways.
The one that I heard was 14% to 41%, which, you know, again, you can follow up in writing for me if you're not prepared to say, but the 14% to 41%, is there anything else that you can tell me very quickly, broad strokes, of what your major objections are?
JOHN ROSE: I have given to the other sides, quote, sides, a document which I will provide to you and to every Member of the Committee that talks about the, quote, unquote, city's input issues so that you'll see where we were and where we were not.
REP. BARTLETT: I'd appreciate it.
SEN. GAFFEY: That's terrific. Attorney Rose, if you could just have that sent over to the Education Committee, and you can address it to my aide, Robin Havelin, H-a-v-e-l-i-n. And then we'll distribute that to all the Members of the Education Committee.
JOHN ROSE: So her last name is, not D, no D at the end.
SEN. GAFFEY: No. Havelin, correct.
JOHN ROSE: Thank you.
SEN. GAFFEY: Thank you very much. Now with that, we will adjourn this hearing today with the intent of returning and inviting the Mayor over to have his opinion. Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, the hearing was adjourned.]