PA 08-170—sSB 404

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING VARIOUS EDUCATION GRANTS AND CHANGES TO THE STATUTES CONCERNING MAGNET SCHOOLS, VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE CENTERS AND THE CERTIFICATION OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION TEACHERS

SUMMARY: This act 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 act 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 act 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.

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

1 — MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT FOR CERTAIN REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS

For FYs 08 and 09, the act 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 there has been a drop in the number of students from the town who attend school in the regional district).

The act allows such a district to meet the MBR by appropriating the legal minimum percentage of its ECS increase (15% for FYs 08 and 09 and 50% under the act for FY 10) for education. (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 act 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 State Department of Education (SDE) to adjust the percentage so that, as prior law already required, 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 act 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. By law, the State Board of Education must 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 act eliminates the existing permanent 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 prior formula distributed funds each fiscal year 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 act, 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 result 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 act 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 act increases the maximum per-child cost of the SDE's school readiness program for FY 09 to $8,346. This amount represents a 4% increase over the FY 08 amount. 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 act specifies that the DPH licensure requirement applies only if the public health statutes require the program to be licensed by DPH.

6 — OPEN CHOICE PROGRAM

Preschool Program Grants for Hartford Students

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

Academic Support Grants

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

Sheff Region

The act eliminates the statutory list of the school districts that make up the Sheff region. The same districts are listed in the 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 act expands the entities that may establish and operate interdistrict magnet schools and receive state grants for doing so in order to help the state meet the goals of the 2008 Sheff settlement (“Sheff magnets”). Under prior law, state-supported interdistrict magnet schools could be operated only by (1) a local or 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 act 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 act expands the criteria the education commissioner must consider before approving annual operating grants for Sheff magnets to include whether the school is meeting the Sheff agreement's desegregation standard. 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 act exempts a Sheff magnet (1) that began operating before July 1, 2005 from the requirement that an interdistrict magnet school enroll no more than 80% of its students from a single district and (2) that began operating on or after July 1, 2005 from requirements that (a) it enroll no more than 75% of its students from a single district and (b) its total enrollment be at least 25% but no more than 75% minority.

By law, before approving a state operating grant for any interdistrict magnet school, the commissioner must 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 student enrollment from each participating district; and (4) the school's proposed budget and funding sources.

Per-Student Grants for RESC-Operated Sheff Magnets

By law, RESC-operated magnet schools receive higher per-student operating grants for enrolling students from many districts. A RESC-operated magnet 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 for FY 10, and $8,741 for FY 11. The act gives these grants to RESC-operated Sheff magnets that enroll less than 60% of their students from Hartford.

A RESC-operated magnet school that enrolls 55% or more of its students from a single town receives a state grant for each student from any other town of $6,730 for FY 09, $7,440 for FY 10, and $8,158 for FY 11. The act 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 act makes several changes in grants for summer school educational programs offered to students attending interdistrict magnet school programs. Prior law allowed the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to make grants to RESCs that offer such programs. The act:

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, and

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

Start-Up Grants

The act 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 act 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 act eliminates the SDE's authority to retain up to 1% of the total magnet school transportation appropriation for program evaluation and administration.

7 & 8 — QUINEBAUG VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

The act 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 act 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 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 act 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 meet the goals of the Sheff agreement.

11 — FUND TRANSFERS

The act 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 EDUCATION CENTERS

The act 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 education centers outside Hartford to help meet Sheff goals. Under prior law, the state reimbursement for any local board of education that transports students to such schools was between zero and 65% of the cost, depending on town wealth.

13 — ECS MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT

Starting with FY 10, this act 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 MBR and establishes a special MBR for certain regional school district towns with falling enrollment.

All Towns

Prior law required 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 received. Starting in 2010, the act 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 prior 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 prior law, a town whose school district was in the third year or more of failing, as a district, to make adequate yearly progress in math or reading had to add 20 percentage points to the share of its ECS increase that it must spend on education. The act 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 act 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 act 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 prior law.

Regional School Districts

The act 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).

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

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

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2009

14 — DIRECT ENROLLMENT IN SHEFF MAGNETS

The act allows Sheff magnets that begin operating 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 students 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 act 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

The act extends temporary certification requirements for bilingual education teachers for an additional year. The temporary requirements have been in effect since July 1, 2005 and were scheduled to expire on July 1, 2008. The act 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.

16 — TECHNOLOGY PILOT PROGRAM

Prior law allowed 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 act expands the program to cover students in grades six through 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

Under prior law, after accommodating students from participating districts in accordance with enrollment agreements, an interdistrict magnet school with unused capacity could directly enroll interested students. Students from districts that were not participating in the school had to be given preference. The act 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

By law, any board of education not participating in an interdistrict magnet school whose student attends the school on a space-available basis must contribute funds to support the school's operation in an amount equal to the per-student tuition, if any, the school charges participating districts. Prior law set the minimum tuition for students from nonparticipating districts at 75% of the difference between the magnet school's average per-pupil expenditure for the prior year and the state operating grant payable to the magnet school for the student. The act modifies this statutory tuition formula and applies it only to RESC-operated magnets schools and only for FY 09. It also limits the annual increase in the per-student tuition to no more than 10%.

Under the act, for FY 09, tuition at RESC-operated interdistrict magnet schools for students from nonparticipating districts must be at least 75% of the difference between (1) the school's average per-pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year and (2) its per-pupil state grant plus any other revenue available to it, calculated on a per-pupil basis. As under prior law, if a school 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 act also removes a reference to participating districts to conform to a 2007 change.

Enrollment Opportunities for Students from Participating Districts

The act 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 act exempts the Bloomfield interdistrict magnet school from 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 act 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 — AGRICULTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION ENROLLMENT OPPORTUNITIES

The act expands the enrollment opportunities school districts that do not operate agriculture science and technology education centers must offer to students who wish to attend a center in another district.

By law, school districts that do not furnish such education must designate where their students can receive it. The act requires districts not operating 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 act requires it to continue to do so in the numbers required by law and the act.

Prior law required 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. This act 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 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 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 spend the funds in accordance with the commissioner's directives.

Instead of lapsing, the act 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 act eliminates a special allocation of $3,483,750 of the school readiness appropriation for the following districts: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Waterbury, and Windham.

Competitive Grants

The act 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.

BACKGROUND

Related Act

PA 08-152 is identical to the agriculture science and technology education provisions of 19-33 of this act.

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