OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 404 (File 645, as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT, THE CARRY-OVER OF EDUCATION COST SHARING ACCOUNTABILITY FUNDS AND THE REPEAL OF AN OBSOLETE PUBLIC ACT SECTION.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes adjustments in various education grants for FY 09, including Education Cost Sharing (ECS), school readiness, and priority school district grants. Starting in FY 10, the bill also raises the minimum proportion of any annual increase in its ECS grant that a town must allocate to education spending in order to meet its minimum budget requirement (MBR).

The bill adopts new grants and transfers funds to implement the 2008 Sheff v. O'Neill settlement the General Assembly approved. Finally, it makes changes in various education laws dealing with enrollment in interdistrict magnet schools and vocational agriculture centers, certification for bilingual education teachers, and school readiness programs.

A section-by-section analysis appears below.

*Senate Amendment “A” replaces the original bill with the provisions summarized below. It retains the original bill's provisions concerning the new MBR, but makes it effective starting in FY 10. It also retains original provisions that (1) establish a special MBR for certain regional school district towns with falling enrollment and (2) carry forward to FY 09 any unspent FY 08 ECS funds transferred to the State Department of Education (SDE) to implement education improvement measures for a district in the third year or more of failing to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in math or reading. It eliminates repeal of an obsolete requirement that SDE, by October 1, 2007, notify each local school board to anticipate its ECS student count will be reduced in FY 10 by 50% of the number of its full-time students who attend interdistrict magnet schools receiving state magnet operating grants.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2008, unless otherwise noted below.

1 — MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT FOR CERTAIN REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS

For FYs 08 and 09, the bill establishes a special MBR for any town that (1) is a member of a grade 7-12 or 9-12 regional school district and (2) compared to the previous fiscal year, has a reduced assessment, excluding debt service, for students enrolled in the regional district (i. e. , where the number of students from the town who attend school in the regional district has dropped).

The bill allows such a district to meet the MBR by appropriating the legal minimum percentage of its ECS increase (15% under current law for FY 08 and FY 09 and 50% under the bill for FY 10) for education.

Note: The same provision appears in 13 but since that section does not take effect until July 1, 2009, this section is also needed to cover FYs 08 and 09. When 13 takes effect, it repeals this provision.

2 — ECS PHASE-IN ADJUSTMENT

By law, increases in ECS grants to towns are being phased up to full funding based on the difference between each town's base aid (its FY 07 grant) and its fully funded grant. PA 07-3, June Special Session, established the phase-in percentages for FY 08 and FY 09. This bill reduces the FY 09 phase-in percentage from 23. 3% to 22. 02% of the difference between each town's base aid and its fully funded grant. It also requires the SDE to adjust the percentage so that, as is already required by current law, each town receives an FY 09 grant that is at least 4. 4% higher than its FY 08 grant.

3 — SUPPLEMENTAL PRIORITY SCHOOL DISTRICT FUNDS DISTRIBUTION

The bill reduces the total funding for a supplemental priority school district (PSD) grant to all priority districts for FY 09 and subsequent years by $ 590,868, from $ 4,750,990 to $ 4,160,122. The law requires the State Board of Education to allocate a share of these supplemental funds to each priority school district in proportion to its regular PSD grant. The money is in addition to all other PSD grants each district receives.

4 — FORMULA FOR DISTRIBUTING SCHOOL READINESS GRANTS TO PRIORITY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Distribution Formula

The bill eliminates the existing formula for distributing PSD school readiness grants and substitutes a temporary distribution formula for FY 09 that is based on each district's school readiness program capacity.

The current formula distributes funds based on each district's average kindergarten enrollment for the three years preceding the grant year adjusted for a ratio of the free and reduced price meals for all the district's severe need schools.

The bill, instead, requires grants for FY 09 to be determined by adding (1) the product of (a) the number of school readiness program slots each district contracted for as of March 30, 2008 and (b) the per-child cost of each slot for FY 09, reduced for less-than-year-round slots, and (2) the product of (a) the additional slots the district requests for FY 09 and (b) the FY 09 per-child cost, reduced for less-than-year-round slots. If the sum is greater than the available appropriation, the education commissioner must reduce the number of additional slots the district requested to stay within the appropriated amount.

SDE Administrative Set-Aside

The bill eliminates SDE's authority to retain up to 0. 5% of the PSD school readiness appropriation for coordination, program evaluation, and administration. However, the law still allows SDE to retain $ 198,200 of the appropriation for these purposes for FY 09.

5 — SCHOOL READINESS

Per-Child Grant for FY 09

The bill increases the maximum per-child cost of the state Department of Education's (SDE's) school readiness program for FY 09 to $ 8,346. This amount represents a 4% increase over the FY 08 grant. The maximum FY 08 cost was $ 6,925 per child for the first half of FY 08 (July 1 through December 31, 2007) and a maximum of $ 8,266 per child for the second half (January 1 to June 30, 2008).

Program Accreditation Deadline

PA 08-85 allows SDE to continue to provide funding to school readiness programs that do not meet accreditation requirements by deadlines established in the law as long as, among other things, the program is licensed by the Department of Public Health (DPH). This bill specifies that the DPH licensure requirement applies only if the public health statutes already require the program to be licensed by DPH.

6 — OPEN CHOICE PROGRAM

Preschool Program Grants for Hartford Students

The bill allows the education commissioner to provide grants for Hartford students to participate in preschool programs in addition to the all-day kindergarten programs under the Open Choice interdistrict school attendance program between Hartford and other districts. As with the kindergarten program grants, the preschool grants can be used to pay for before and after-school care and remedial services for preschool students in the program as well as for subsidies to receiving districts.

The bill eliminates an existing, more general authorization for the commissioner, within available appropriations, to make grants for preschool and kindergarten programs in the Sheff region that the commissioner approves for students participating in Open Choice.

Academic Support Grants

The bill restricts the commissioner's authority to make grants, within available appropriations, for academic support programs for Open Choice participants. Under the bill, the grants are limited to academic support programs that help the state meet the goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement agreement. Under current law, the authorization applies generally to such programs in the Sheff region.

Sheff Region

The bill eliminates the statutory list of the school districts that make up the Sheff region. The same districts are listed in the settlement agreement. They are: Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartford, Manchester, Newington, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, South Windsor, Suffield, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.

7 — SHEFF MAGNET SCHOOLS

Operating Entities

The bill expands the entities that may establish and operate interdistrict magnet schools and receive state grants for doing so in order to help the state to meet the goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement (“Sheff magnets”). Under current law, state-supported interdistrict magnet schools may be operated only by (1) a local and regional board of education, (2) two or more boards of education operating under a cooperative arrangement, (3) regional educational service centers (RESCs), and (4) the community technical college board of trustees on behalf of Manchester Community College.

The bill allows the following additional entities to establish and operate Sheff magnets:

1. the community-technical colleges board of trustees on behalf of any community college;

2. the UConn, Connecticut State University, or any independent college's board of trustees on behalf of their respective institutions; and

3. any other nonprofit corporation the education commissioner approves.

Operating Grant Approval

The bill expands the criteria the education commissioner must consider before approving annual magnet school operating grants for Sheff magnets to include whether the school is meeting the desegregation standard of the Sheff agreement. It bars the commissioner from approving an operating grant for any Sheff magnet that does not meet the standard by its second year of operation unless he determines that, to comply with the Sheff agreement, it is appropriate to continue the grant for an additional year or years. If the commissioner makes this determination, the bill exempts a Sheff magnet from the requirements that interdistrict magnet schools enroll no more than 80% if it began operating before July 1, 2005, or 75% if it began operating on or after that date, of its students from a single district.

Under current law, before approving a state operating grant for any interdistrict magnet school, the commissioner must already consider (1) whether the program is likely to increase student achievement; (2) whether it is likely to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation; (3) the percentage of the student enrollment from each participating district; and (4) the school's proposed budget and funding sources.

Per-Student Grants for RESC-Operated Sheff Magnets

The bill increases per-student operating grants for certain Sheff magnet schools run by RESCs. By law, RESC-operated magnet schools receive higher per-student operating grants from the state for enrolling students from many districts.

Under current law, any RESC-operated magnet school that enrolls less than 55% of its students from a single town receives a per-student grant of $ 7,620 for FY 09, $ 8,180, and for FY 10, and $ 8,741 for FY 11. The bill gives these grants to RESC-operated Sheff magnet schools if they enroll less than 60% of their students from Hartford.

Also under current law, a RESC-operated magnet school that enrolls 55% or more of its students from a single town receives a state per-student grant for each student from outside that district of $ 6,730 for FY 09, $ 7,440 for FY 10, and $ 8,158 for FY 11. The bill gives these grants to RESC-operated magnet schools that enroll 60% or more of their students from Hartford, for each student from outside Hartford.

Academic Support and Summer School Grants

The bill makes several changes in grants for summer school educational programs offered to students attending interdistrict magnet school programs. Current law allows the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to make grants to RESCs that offer such programs. The bill:

1. expands the types of programs eligible for grants to include academic support as well as summer school programs;

2. limits grant-eligible programs to those that serve students attending Sheff magnets,

3. expands the entities that can receive the grants to any of the entities listed above authorized to operate Sheff magnets.

Start-Up Grants

The bill authorizes the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to provide grants of up to $ 75,000 for start-up costs for developing new Sheff magnet programs. It allows any authorized Sheff magnet operating entity to receive the grants. It exempts these grants from the payment schedule for other magnet operating grants, which requires the state to pay 50% by September 1 and the balance by January 1.

8 — Transportation Grants FOR SHEFF MAGNETS

The bill allows any authorized Sheff magnet operating entity to receive state transportation grants for transporting students to interdistrict magnet programs. The grants reimburse operating entities for the reasonable costs of such transportation up to $ 1,300 per student. The bill eliminates the authorization for the SDE to retain up to 1% of the total magnet school transportation appropriation for program evaluation and administration.

7 & 8 — QUINEBAUG VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

The bill makes the community-technical colleges board of governors, on behalf of Quinebaug Valley Community College, eligible for interdistrict magnet school, operating, and transportation grants for any interdistrict magnet school, not just a Sheff magnet.

9 — Asylum Hill Charter School Admissions

The bill allows the Asylum Hill Charter School, if the education commissioner approves it as a state charter school and during its first year of operation, to enroll students directly from its pre-kindergarten program without operating a lottery for those students. The rest of the school's students must be admitted through a lottery.

By law, except for a giving a preference for siblings, charter schools are required to determine admissions by lottery when they do not have enough places for all applicants.

10 — CHARTER SCHOOL Start-Up Grants

The bill authorizes the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to provide grants of up to $ 75,000 for start-up costs for newly approved state charter schools that the commissioner determines help the state the meet the goals of the Sheff agreement.

11 — FUND TRANSFERS

The bill authorizes the education commissioner to transfer FY 09 funds appropriated for the Sheff settlement in the state budget adopted in 2007 (PA 07-1, June Special Session) to the following programs:

1. grants for interdistrict cooperative programs,

2. per-student grants for state charter schools,

3. Open Choice Program grants,

4. interdistrict magnet school grants, and

5. regional vocational-technical schools for programs to help meet Sheff goals.

12 — TRANSPORTATION TO VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL SCHOOLS AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTERS

The bill allows the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to reimburse local and regional boards of education and RESCs up to $ 2,000 per student for the cost of transporting Hartford students to vocational-technical schools or agricultural science and technology centers outside Hartford to help meet Sheff goals. Under current law, the state reimburses local boards of education that transport students to such schools for from 0 to 65% of the cost, depending on town wealth.

13 — ECS MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT

Starting with FY 10, this bill raises the minimum proportion of any annual increase in its Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant that a town must allocate to education spending in order to meet its minimum budget requirement (MBR) and establishes a special MBR for certain regional school district towns with falling enrollment.

All Towns

Current law requires each town to spend for education at least its budgeted appropriation for the prior year plus from 15% to 65% of any ECS grant increase it receives. The bill generally increases this MBR percentage range to 50% to 80%, thus requiring all towns to allocate at least half of any annual ECS grant increase to increased education spending.

As under current law, each town's exact MBR within the range is determined by the average of the relationships between it and the state's highest-ranked town in the following categories: (1) current program expenditures per student, (2) per capita wealth (equalized net grand list adjusted for income), and (3) percentage of students who score below proficiency on state mastery tests. The bigger the average of the differences in these categories between a particular town and the highest-ranked town, the more of its ECS increase the town must devote to its education budget (i. e. , the closer to 80%).

School Districts in Need of Improvement

Under current law, a town whose school district is in the third year or more of failing, as a district, to make adequate yearly progress in math or reading must add 20 percentage points to the share of its ECS increase that it must spend on education. The bill eliminates the permanent requirement that such districts spend this extra amount and instead applies it only to FY 09. (This change has no effect since it does not take effect until July 1, 2009. )

In FY 10, the bill requires such a town to spend at least its new MBR percentage plus 20 percentage points or 80% of its increase, whichever is greater. Thus, for FY 10 only, the bill requires districts in need of improvement to spend from 80% to 100% of any ECS increase on education, instead of the 35% to 85% required by current law.

Regional School Districts

The bill establishes a special MBR for any town that (1) is a member of a grade 7-12 or 9-12 regional school district and (2) compared to the previous fiscal year, has a reduced assessment, excluding debt service, for students enrolled in the regional district (i. e. , where the number of students from the town who attend school in the regional district has dropped).

The bill allows such a district to meet the MBR by appropriating the legal minimum percentage of its ECS increase (15% under current law for FY 08 and 50% under the bill for FY 10) for education.

The bill applies to all fiscal years starting with FY 08 and repeals an identical temporary provision in 1 that covers FY 08 and FY 09.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2009

14 — DIRECT ENROLLMENT IN SHEFF MAGNETS

The bill allows Sheff magnets that begin operations between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 to enroll students directly from any district without participation agreements. In general, interdistrict magnet schools may enroll student directly only if they have unused capacity after accommodating students from participating districts in accordance with their enrollment agreements.

If a RESC operates the school, any tuition it charges to local or regional boards of education (presumably, boards otherwise responsible for educating a student enrolling directly in the school) must equal at least 75% of the difference between the magnet school's estimated per-pupil expenditure and the sum of (1) its state per-pupil grant and (2) any other revenue available to it as determined by the school's operator. If a board of education fails to pay the tuition, the education commissioner can withhold ECS funds from the town, up to the amount of the unpaid tuition, and transfer it to the fiscal agent for the magnet school as a supplementary operating grant.

The bill requires each Sheff magnet operating under the direct enrollment exception for the 2008-09 school year to establish district participation agreements before operating the school for the 2009-10 school year.

15 — BILINGUAL EDUCATOR CERTIFICATION

This bill extends temporary certification requirements for bilingual education teachers for an additional year. The temporary requirements have been in effect since July 1, 2005 and are scheduled to expire on July 1, 2008. The bill extends them until July 1, 2009. The extension affects both the subject and language competency requirements for such teachers.

Under the temporary certification requirements, bilingual education teachers (1) do not have to hold a dual certification in both bilingual education and either elementary education, if they wish to teach at the elementary level, or a subject area if they wish to teach a subject at the secondary level and (2) must demonstrate oral and written competency in both English and their other teaching language.

When the temporary requirements expire, the previous law's requirements will once again apply.

16 — TECHNOLOGY PILOT PROGRAM

Current law allows the SDE, within available appropriations, to establish a pilot program to use technology in providing computer-assisted writing, instruction, and testing for 9th and 10th grade public school students. The bill expands the program to cover students in grades six to 12.

By law, grants go to boards of education and regional vocational-technical schools for demonstration projects. Grant funds may be used for computer hardware and software, professional development, technical consulting assistance, and other related activities. The commissioner must select a diverse group of pilot program participants based on population, geographic location, and school or district economic characteristics.

17 — INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL STUDENTS FROM NONPARTICIPATING DISTRICTS

Students from Nonparticipating Districts

The bill limits the law requiring districts not participating in an interdistrict magnet school to pay for students to attend that school. Under current law, after accommodating students from participating districts in accordance with enrollment agreements, an interdistrict magnet school with unused capacity can directly enroll interested students. Students from districts that are not participating in the school must be given preference. The bill specifies that preference must instead be given to students from districts that are not participating in any interdistrict magnet schools or the Open Choice interdistrict student attendance program, to an extent determined by the education commissioner.

Tuition Payments for Students from Nonparticipating Districts

The bill limits current law's tuition formula for students from nonparticipating districts to tuition charged by interdistrict magnet schools operated by RESCs. By law, the nonparticipating board of education otherwise responsible for educating these students must contribute funds to support the magnet school's operation in an amount equal to the per-student tuition, if any, the school charges participating districts. For FY 09, this tuition must equal at least 75% of the difference between the school's average per-pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and its magnet school per-pupil state grant plus any other revenue available to the school, calculated on a per-pupil basis. However, the bill limits the annual increase in the per-student tuition to no more than 10%.

If the board fails to pay the tuition, the education commissioner can withhold ECS funds from the district, up to the amount of the unpaid tuition, and transfer it to the fiscal agent for the magnet school as a supplementary operating grant.

The bill limits this payment to tuition a RESC-operated magnet school charges a board and, for tuition calculation purposes, requires adding any revenue from other sources, calculated on a per-pupil basis, to the state subsidy. It also removes a reference to participating districts to conform to a 2007 change.

Enrollment Opportunities for Students from Participating Districts

The bill also requires participating districts to provide opportunities for their students to attend an interdistrict magnet school in a number at least equal to (1) the number specified in any written agreement with an interdistrict magnet school operator or (2) the average number of students that the participating district enrolled in the magnet school during the previous three school years.

18 — BLOOMFIELD MAGNET SCHOOL

For FYs 08 and 09, the bill exempts the Bloomfield interdistrict magnet school from existing statutory provisions (1) limiting the number of students from a participating town to 75% and (2) requiring racial minorities to comprise between 25% and 75% of the student body. However, for FY 08, it reduces the school's grant by half.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

19-33 — AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION

The bill changes the statutory name for the education offered at vocational agriculture (vo ag) centers from “vocational agriculture education” to “agricultural science and technology education” and changes the name of the centers to conform.

20 — VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE EDUCATION ENROLLMENT OPPORTUNITIES

This bill expands the enrollment opportunities school districts that do not operate vo ag centers must offer to students who wish to attend a center in another district.

By law, school districts that do not furnish vo ag training must designate where their students can receive such training. The bill requires districts not operating vo ag centers to provide enrollment opportunities in one or more centers, not just one center, run by other districts. And if a district provided opportunities for its students to enroll in more than one center in the school year starting July 1, 2007, the bill requires it to continue to do so in the numbers required by the current law and the bill.

Current law requires a school district that does not maintain a center to allow its students to enroll in another district's center in numbers that are at least equal to (1) the number specified in any written agreement it has with a center or (2) if there is no written agreement, the average number of its students enrolled in the center during the three previous school years. The bill requires districts to, in addition, provide enrollment opportunities for 9th graders in each center it designates that are at least equal to (1) the number of 9th graders specified in its written agreement with each center or (2) the average number of 9th graders that enrolled in each designated center or centers over the preceding three years.

34 — ECS FUNDS TRANSFERRED TO SDE FOR EDUCATIONAL IMPROVEMENT

As noted above, any town whose school district is in the third year or more of failing, as a district, to make AYP in math or reading, must add 20 percentage points to the share of its ECS increase that it must spend on education pursuant to the MBR. By law, the comptroller must withhold these funds and transfer them to SDE. The education commissioner must spend the money on the school district's behalf to implement any of the educational improvement measures that the State Board of Education requires and to offset any other local education costs that the education commissioner deems appropriate to achieve school improvement. The commissioner must award the funds to the board of education for the identified school district on the condition that it spends the funds in accordance with the commissioner's directives.

Instead of lapsing, the bill requires any funds transferred to SDE under this provision that remain unspent on June 30, 2008 to carry forward to, and remain available for spending in, FY 09 for the same purpose.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

35 — SCHOOL READINESS FUNDING ALLOCATIONS

Special Allocation for Certain Towns

The bill eliminates a special allocation of $ 3,483,750 of the school readiness appropriation to be shared among the following districts: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Waterbury, and Windham.

Competitive Grants

The bill allows up to 2% of the school readiness grant appropriation to be allocated for competitive school readiness grants. The actual allocation amount must be determined by August 1 annually.

By law, competitive grants of up to $ 107,000 annually are available to eligible towns and regional school readiness councils to purchase spaces in school readiness programs for eligible children who live in an area served by a priority school or in any of the 50 poorest towns in the state.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

29

Nay

1

(03/17/2008)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

52

Nay

0

(03/28/2008)