January 6, 2011





By: Judith Lohman, Assistant Director



You asked for a table comparing state laws and funding for charter schools, interdistrict magnet schools, and innovation schools. This report has been expanded by OLR Report 2011-R-0078. This report has been updated by OLR Report 2014-R-0218.


Table 1 compares the statutory provisions governing approval, programs, students, special education, and transportation requirements for each type of school.  It also shows how each type is funded. As the table shows, innovation schools differ from charter and magnet schools in three major ways: (1) their creation is a strictly local decision, (2) they are funded like regular public schools and receive no special state funding, and (3) the state exercises no special oversight over them.


More detailed information on funding for interdistrict magnet and charter schools is available in OLR Report numbers 2010-R-0399 and 2010-R-0400.






Charter Schools

(CGS §§ 10-66aa to ll)

Interdistrict Magnet School

(CGS §§ 10-264h-m)

Innovation Schools

(CGS § 10-74h)



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

·         Public or independent institution of higher education

·         Local or regional board of education

·         Two or more boards of education acting cooperatively

·         Regional education service center (RESC)

·         Local and regional board of education

·         RESC

·         Cooperative arrangement between two or more school boards

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

Local or regional board of education for a priority school district by agreement with unions representing its teachers and school administrators




·         Nonpublic school

·         Parent or group of parents providing home instruction

·         Regional vocational agriculture school

·         Regional vocational-technical school

·         Regional special education center

Entities that are not local or regional boards of education for priority school districts

Program Requirements


·         Support racial, ethnic, and economic diversity

·         Offer a special and high quality curriculum

·         Require students enrolled to attend at least half-time

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

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

·         Innovation plan must have specified elements of autonomy and flexibility, including plans for curriculum, budget, school schedule, staffing, policies and procedures, professional development, and specified measurable annual goals for school performance and student success.

Approval Granted By

·         State Board of Education (SBE) for state charter school

·         Local board of education and SBE for local charter school

Education commissioner

Local or regional board of education for the priority school district

Initial Approval Considerations

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

·         Regional distribution of charter schools in the state

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

For annual operating grants:

·         Whether program is likely to increase student achievement

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

·         Percentage of enrollment from each participating district

·         The school’s proposed operating budget and sources of funding

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

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

Additional Approval Factors

(Applicable to schools meeting initial considerations)

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

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

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


Approval Process

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

·         Public hearing in district where school will be located

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

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

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

·         Approval by majority vote

·         Approval may be subject to conditions

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

·         Application approved by the education commissioner

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

·         Approval determined by local or regional board of education

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

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

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

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

Enrollment Limits

Each school may enroll no more than the lesser of

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

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

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

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

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

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


Student Admission Criteria


·         Provide open access on a space-available basis

·         If applicants exceed space available, must distribute places by lottery

·         Promote a diverse student body

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


·         May limit enrollment to particular grade level or specialized educational focus

·         May give preference to siblings if applicants exceed space available

·         May not recruit students for purpose of interscholastic athletic competition

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

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


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

Student Transportation

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

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

·         Provided by the participating districts

·         Same kind as provided to children enrolled in other public schools


Same as the district’s other schools

Special Education

·         School district where student lives must hold the planning and placement team meeting.

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

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

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

Same as charter school requirements except:

·         Payments from districts do not have to be quarterly.

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

Same as the district’s other schools

School Construction Funding

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

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



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

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

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

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

Operating Expense Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

School Transportation Funding

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

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

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

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

o    Sheff Magnets: up to $2,000 per student

Same as the district’s other schools.  State school transportation grants reimburse local school districts for 0% to 60% of their eligible public school transportation costs, depending on district wealth.


·         Charters must be renewed every five years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         Local or regional school board may take action if superintendent finds that the school has substantially failed to meet its goals.

·         Action may be to terminate the school or amend one or more parts of the innovation plan.