OLR Research Report


COMPARISON OF CHARTER, MAGNET, AGRICULTURE SCIENCE CENTERS, AND TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOLS

By: John Moran, Principal Analyst

ISSUE

Compare the state laws and funding for four types of schools: charter schools, interdistrict magnet schools, regional agricultural science and technology education centers (“agri-science centers”), and technical high schools.

SUMMARY

Table 1 compares the statutory provisions (and select regulations and state policy) governing approval, programs, students, special education, and transportation requirements for each type of school. It also shows how each school is funded. The definition for each type follows.

1. A charter school is a public, nonsectarian, nonprofit school established under a charter that operates independently of any local or regional board of education, provided no member or employee of a governing council of a charter school shall have a personal or financial interest in the assets, real or personal, of the school (charters are granted by the State Board of Education (SBE) or by a local board and SBE) (CGS 10-66aa).

2. An interdistrict magnet school is a public school designed to promote racial, ethnic, and economic diversity that draws students from more than one school district, offers a special or high-quality curriculum, and requires students to attend at least half time (magnets are operated by school districts, regional education service centers (RESCs), or other entities) (CGS 10-264l(a)).

3. An regional agri-science center is usually embedded in an existing public high school and offers a curriculum of agricultural science and technology that may include vocational aquaculture and marine-related employment courses in addition to the standard high school curriculum. It serves a region of multiple local school districts (CGS 10-64 to -66).

4. A technical high school is a state-operated, regional public high school that provides vocational education and hands-on experience in specific career areas in addition to the standard high school curriculum. It serves a region of multiple local school districts (CGS 10-95 to -99g).

Table 1: Charter Schools, Interdistrict Magnet Schools, Agricultural Science and Technology Centers and Technical High Schools Comparison of Laws and FY 15 Funding

 

Charter Schools

(CGS 10-66aa to -66nn)

Interdistrict Magnet School

(CGS 10-264h to -264o)

Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Education Centers

(CGS 10-64 to -66)

Technical High Schools

(formerly the Vocational-Technical Schools)

(CGS 10-95 to -99g)

Eligible

Operators

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

Public or independent institution of higher education

Local or regional board of education

Two or more boards of education acting cooperatively

Regional education service center (RESC) (CGS 10-66bb(b))

Local and regional boards of education

RESC

Cooperative arrangement between two or more school boards

For a school that helps meet the goals of the 2013 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 (CGS 10-264h(a))

Local and regional boards of education (CGS 10-64(a))

SBE authorized to establish and maintain the technical high school system (THSS)

Technical High School System Board (separate from SBE) governs the THSS (CGS 10-95(a))

Ineligible

Operators

Nonpublic school

Parent or group of parents providing home instruction (CGS 10-66bb(b))

Regional agricultural science and technology centers

Regional technical high schools

Regional special education centers (CGS 10-264l(a))

None specified

None specified

Program Requirements

Student recruitment plan that includes how the school will attract and retain various types of student populations including those (1) with a history of low academic performance, (2) who receive free and reduced price lunches (FRPL), (3) with a history of behavioral and social problems, (4) who require special education, and (5) who are English language learners (ELL) (CGS 10-66bb(d)(15))

Support racial, ethnic, and economic diversity

Offer a special and high quality curriculum

Require students enrolled to attend at least half-time (CGS 10-264l(a))

Provide each enrolled student all the student's nonagricultural academic classes unless the board:

1. on or before July 1, 1993, entered into a contract for shared-time arrangements with another board or

2. has a shared-time arrangement for its vocational aquaculture program (CGS 10-65b)

Shared-time arrangements mean students are enrolled in the agri-science centers part-time while attending school at their home district for nonagricultural courses (CGS 10-65b).

Establish and implement a five-year plan to increase racial and ethnic diversity at the agri-science center that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the center's region (CGS 10-65a(a))

Operate on a 12-month-a-year basis to allow for occupational instruction and the supervision of student occupational experience programs (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-64-2)

Must provide students in all grades with a supervised, agricultural occupational-experience program in addition to regularly scheduled class activities (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-65-7)

Schools must offer full-time, part-time, and evening programs in vocational, technical and technological education and training (CGS 10-95(b))

SBE may authorize schools to offer trade programs for a maximum of five years, after which SBE must evaluate programs (see below) (CGS 10-95i (b) and (c))

SBE must base any decision to offer new trade programs on (1) employment demand for graduates, (2) cost of establishing the program, (3) availability of qualified instructors, (4) existence of similar programs at other educational institutions, and (5) student interest (CGS 10-95i(c)).

SBE must create a process for employers, parents, students, teachers, and others to request consideration of a new trade program (CGS 10-95i(c)).

Approval Granted By

For state charter school: State Board of Education (SBE) (CGS 10-66bb(f))

For local charter school: local board of education and SBE (CGS 10-66bb(e))

Education commissioner (currently a moratorium on new magnets unless they are part of Sheff; see “Approval Limits”) (CGS 10-264l(b))

SBE for program, educational need, and area to be served in order to be eligible for state operating and construction grants (CGS 10-65 (a))

SBE (CGS 10-95(a))

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 (CGS 10-66bb(c))

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 2013 Sheff stipulation (CGS 10-264l(b))

Must be established through agreements with other boards of education to create regional agri-science center within a regular public school system

Must create an agri-science consulting committee to advise host board (committee is advisory only)

Consulting committee must include at least two representatives with competent agricultural or aquacultural knowledge appointed by each participating board (CGS 10-64(a))

None specified

Additional Approval Factors

(Applicable to schools meeting initial considerations)

SBE must give preference to applicant 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;

whose primary purpose is serving students who (1) have a history of low academic performance, (2) receive free and reduced price lunches, (3) have a history of behavioral and social problems, (4) are special education students, (5) are ELL students, or (6) make up single-gender student bodies;

whose primary purpose is to improve the performance of an existing low-performing school; or

that demonstrate credible, specific strategies to attract and retain low performing or ELL students.

State charters also receive preference if (1) located at work sites or (2) with applicants that are higher education institutions. (CGS 10-66bb(c))

None

None

None

Approval Process

The level of approval depends on the type of charter (1) SBE review for state charter schools and (2) local board of education and SBE for local charters.

Public hearings must be held in the district where school will be located.

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

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

SBE must vote on a state charter application within 90 days of receiving it; a local board must vote within 60 days of receiving a local charter application and forward an approved application to SBE, which must vote on it within 75 days.

SBE approval must be by majority vote and may be subject to conditions.

Charters may delay opening for up to one school year for the applicant to prepare (CGS 10-66bb(e)&(f)).

The application must be approved by the education commissioner (CGS 10-264h(b)).

Not specified in statute

Not applicable (but see “Program Requirements” above for approval process for new trade programs)

Approval Limits

SBE is banned from approving more than four new state charter schools between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2017 unless two of the four are established with the special purpose to provide language acquisition to ELL students (CGS 10-66bb(f)).

There is a moratorium on approving state funding for any new magnet school until the education commissioner develops a comprehensive statewide magnet school plan or unless the new magnet serves to reduce racial isolation under the 2013 Sheff stipulation (commissioner has not yet finalized a plan) (CGS 10-264l(b)).

None

None

Enrollment Minimums or 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 SBE finds a state charter school has a demonstrated record of achievement, it must waive the enrollment limits (CGS 10-66bb(c)).

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% (CGS 10-264l(b)(3)).

● 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 (CGS 10-264l(i)).

Agreements with participating boards may address admission policy and the number of seats available for acceptance (CGS 10-64(a)).

Each board of education without its own agri-science center must designate one or more SBE-approved center that their students may attend (CGS 10-64(d)).

Each board not hosting an agri-science center must provide enrollment opportunities equal to at least (1) the number of students stated in the written agreement, if one exists or (2) the average number of students the board enrolled at the center during the three previous school years, in addition to, for ninth grade, the number of ninth grade students stated in the agreement, if one exists, or the average number enrolled in each designated center over the three previous school years (CGS 10-65(b)).

No enrollment limits or minimums for board that operates the agri-science center.

School boards that provided opportunities for students to enroll in more than one center in the 2007-08 school year must continue to do so in the numbers required by law (CGS 10-65(b)).

None

Student Admission Criteria

Required

Provide open access on a space-available basis

If applicants exceed space available, must distribute places by lottery

Promote a diverse student body

Not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or English proficiency (CGS 10-66bb(d))

May not recruit for purpose of interscholastic athletic competition (CGS 10-220d)

Optional

May limit enrollment to particular grade level or specialized educational focus

May give preference to siblings if applicants exceed space available (CGS 10-66bb(d))

Waiver

May seek enrollment lottery waiver if (1) school's primary purpose is to serve student populations with behavioral or social difficulties, needing special education, who are ELL, or of a single gender or (2) a local charter is established at a school among the lowest 5% when all schools ranked by school performance index (CGS 10-66bb(j))

May not recruit for purpose of interscholastic athletic competition (CGS 10-220d)

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

In enrolling individual students directly, must give preference to a student from a district not participating in a magnet school or the Open Choice interdistrict attendance program (CGS 10-264l(j))

Applicants must: (1) have successfully completed eighth grade for ninth grade admission, (2) indicated an interest in agriculture as a career and agree to participate in a supervised, occupational experience program (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-65-6).

Agreements with sending districts may specify admission policy and the number of seats available for acceptance. (CGS 10-64(a))

Argri-science center staff must recommend students for acceptance into the program (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-65-6)

Any student denied admission must be given opportunity to ask for review of his or her case (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-65-6)

Admissions policy requires eighth grade students to submit:

1. 7th grade Connecticut mastery scores,

2. 7th and 8th grade transcripts,

3. 7th and 8th grade attendance records,

4. Written statement of why he or she wants to attend, and

5. Evidence of extra-curricular activities or community service.

Each placed on a ranked list based on score aggregated from each requirement

Application considered final when other documents added including records that show (1) eighth grade completed and (2) no serious disciplinary infractions

THSS board may make regulations controlling student admissions policy (currently there are none) (CGS 10-95(a)).

Special Education

State charters

The school district where student lives must hold the planning and placement team meeting.

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

On a quarterly basis, the district must pay the 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.

The charter school is responsible for ensuring the student receives services mandated by his or her individualized education program (IEP) (CGS 10-66ee(d)).

Local charters

The local district must pay the local charter the amount in the charter document for reasonable special education costs per student (CGS 10-66ee(b)).

Same as state charter school requirements, except:

Payments from districts not required to be quarterly

Magnet school only responsible for providing special education services if student attends magnet program full-time (CGS 10-264l(h))

Agri-science centers may charge tuition to a sending district for educating a student receiving special education services, as follows: the cost of the services minus any state grants the center receives per student. (The sending district may seek reimbursement from the state for the tuition costs under existing special education reimbursement law.) (CGS 10-65(b))

SBE provides and pays for the services, which are the same that a local or regional school district must provide.

If a student's planning and placement team determines that he or she requires services that preclude him or her from participating in the technical high school vocational education program, the student must be referred to the local board of education in the town where the student lives for development of an individualized education program at the expense of the local or regional board of education (CGS 10-76q).

Student Transportation

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

The district has the option of providing transportation to its students attending charter schools outside the district; if it does, costs are eligible for reimbursement in the regular school transportation grant (CGS 10-66ee(f)).

Provided by the participating districts

Same kind as provided to children enrolled in other public schools (CGS 10-264l(f))

Sending school boards must pay the cost of transportation from high school to an agri-science center school located in or outside the district for any resident student under age 21 who has not graduate (CGS 10-64(d)).

Sending school boards must provide transportation for any resident student under age 21 who has not graduated from high school to a technical high school located in or outside the district (CGS 10-97(a)).

School Transportation Funding

Provided to local and regional school districts through the normal school transportation grant program for charter school students transported within district where the charter school is located (mandated) and out-of-district (voluntary) (CGS 10-66ee(f))

Provided through the normal school transportation grant program for students transported within the district (CGS 10-264l(f))

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

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

Sheff Magnets: up to $2,000 per student (CGS 10-264i)

Sending districts are eligible for state reimbursement of reasonable transportation costs at its regular rate (0 to 60% depending on wealth) plus an additional 20 percentage points for any costs exceeding $800 per pupil, per year (CGS 10-64(d)).

The education commissioner may reimburse districts and RESCs up to $2,000 per student for the cost of transporting Hartford students to centers outside Hartford to help meet Sheff goals (PA 14-217, 97).

Sending districts not required to spend more than $6,000 per student to transport to an agri-science center (CGS 10-97(e))

Sending districts are eligible for state reimbursement of reasonable transportation costs at its regular rate (0 to 60% depending on wealth) plus 20 percentage points for any costs exceeding $800 per pupil, per year (CGS 10-266m and 10-97(a) and (c)).

If the cost of providing out-of-town transportation for any student exceeds $200 per year, the town may opt to maintain the student in the town where he or she attends the technical high school (CGS 10-97(a)).

The education commissioner may reimburse local and regional boards of education and RESCs up to $2,000 per student for transporting (1) Hartford students to technical high schools outside Hartford or (2) out-of-district students to technical schools in Hartford to help meet Sheff goals (PA 14-217, 97).

Sending districts not required to spend more than $6,000 per student to transport to a technical high school (CGS 10-97(e))

School Construction Funding

State charters

Schools are eligible for state grants for construction and capital improvements or to repay debts for capital projects.

Grants start at $250,000 and must be repaid if the charter school ceases to use the building for education purposes before the bonds are retired (CGS 10-66hh).

$5 million in new bond authorization for grants must be effective by July 1, 2014 (CGS 10-66jj).

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 in meeting the goals of the 2013 Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation court stipulation and order (CGS 10-66ee(l)).

Local charters

While there is no explicit local charter school construction law provision, grants presumably fall under regular local school district construction provisions (CGS 10-283).

Grants exist for start-up costs of up to $500,000 for newly established local charters (CGS 10-66nn).

Must comply with regular school construction grant requirements, including General Assembly approval as part of the annual school construction priority list

From July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2011, eligible for 95% funding of construction projects through the school construction grant program

As of July 1, 2011 eligible for 80% funding of construction projects through the school construction grant program (CGS 10-264h(a))

Within appropriations, discretionary grant of up to $75,000 for start-up costs for any new magnet school that assists the state in meeting the goals of the 2013 Sheff court stipulation (CGS 10-264l(c))

For projects filed before July 1, 2011, a school board operating a center receives a state grant equal to 95% of the eligible cost of construction and equipment for the center through the state's school construction grant program.

For projects filed on or after July 1, 2011, reimbursement is 80% of eligible costs. (CGS 10-286(a)(4),10-65(a), and PA 11-61, 86)

State pays 100% of the cost of school capital projects through general obligation bonds (since they are state schools, there is no local share of the costs).

School projects must be included on the annual school construction priority list in the same manner as local school projects (CGS 10-283b).

Operating Expense Funding

Operating Expense Funding

(continued)

State charters

State charter schools receive a state grant of $11,000 per student per year for FY 15 and for each following fiscal year.

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

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% of unexpended funds in a reserve fund to finance a specific capital or equipment purchase; school must return any other unspent funds to the state (CGS 10-66ee(a),(d)&(e)).

Local charters

Local charters receive a state grant of up to $3,000 per student, within available appropriations.

The local board of education must pay a local charter school the amount specified in the school's charter (which must be approved by the local board of education), 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 (CGS 10-66ee(a),(b)&(c)).

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 2013 Sheff stipulation (“Sheff magnet”) or not (“non-Sheff magnet”). Grants for FY 15 are:

host magnet generally: $7,085 for each student from outside the host district and $3,000 for each student from the host district;

Sheff host magnet (hosted by Hartford or other Sheff district): $13,054 for each student from outside host district and $3,000 for each student from within the district;

non-Sheff RESC magnet with 55% or less enrollment from a single town: $7,900 per student;

non-Sheff RESC magnet with 55% or more of enrollment from a single town: $7,085 for each student from outside the dominant district and $3,000 for each student from the dominant district (two of these magnets receive higher grants for students from their dominant districts); and

RESC-run Sheff magnet: $10,443 per student for a school enrolling less than 60% of its students from Hartford.

Part-time magnet school programs receive 65% of the above amounts if they operate at least half-time (CGS 10-264l(c)).

Many magnet schools receive per-student tuition from sending districts.

Tuition varies based on the state grants the schools receive, but cannot exceed the cost of educating the student minus any state grants to the magnet (CGS 10-264l(k)).

For ECS grants, magnet school students are counted as attending school in their home districts (CGS 10-262f(25)).*

Operating Grants and Tuition

State operating grant of $3,200 per student (PA 14-217, 118)

State law allows operating board to charge sending districts no more than $6,822.80 in tuition per student attending an agri-science center (PA 14-217, 118)

Operating board can charge tuition on a pro rata basis for shared-time students.

For ECS, agri-science students are counted as attending school in their home districts

Supplemental Grants

$500 supplemental per-student grant, within available appropriations, for centers with more than 150 out-of-district students

A gradually decreasing phase-out grant for four successive years for centers that no longer qualify for the $500 grants

A $60 per-student grant for centers that are ineligible for the $500 grants or phase-out grants (CGS 10-65(c))

Any remaining funds after the above distributions: an additional $100 per-student grant for all centers

Any remaining funds after the above: proportionately distributed to districts operating centers with more than 150 out-of-district students based on the ratio of the number of out-of-district students in excess of 150 in each center to the total number of students in excess of 150 in all centers in the state (CGS 10-65(d)).

Nonsupplant Requirement

For FY 2013 and each following FY, any increase in state aid over the previous year cannot be used to supplant local education funding (CGS 10-65(f))

School operations are funded by the state through the regular state budget process.

Preparatory and supplemental programs, including apprenticeship programs, are funded from the nonlapsing Vocational Education Extension Fund, which includes all proceeds from operating the programs plus rental fees for technical high school facilities (CGS 10-95e).

Technical high school students are not counted for purposes of ECS grants and local districts receive no ECS grants for these students.

Evaluation

Evaluation

(continued)

Charters must be renewed every five year (CGS 10-66bb(e)&(f)).

After receiving an application for a charter renewal, SBE may commission an independent appraisal of the school's performance, whose results SBE must then consider in determining whether to renew the charter.

SBE or the education commissioner may deny renewal, place on probation, or revoke a charter if it finds the school has failed to: (1) adequately demonstrate student progress, (2) abide by state laws or regulations, or (3) manage its public funds in a legal or prudent manner.

Renewal can also be denied if (1) the school fails to attract and retain students (a) with a history of low academic performance or behavioral or social problems, (b) eligible for FRPL, (c) eligible for special education, or (d) who are ELL or (2) the governing council has not been responsible for school operations.

A school can also be placed on probation if it fails to (a) comply with its charter; (b) make measurable progress in reducing racial, ethnic, and economic isolation; (c) maintain its nonsectarian status; or (d) have a governing council that is able to provide effective leadership.

A charter can also be revoked if the school fails to (a) comply with its charter or (b) comply with the terms of its probation (CGS 10-66bb(g),(h) & (i)).

Each year, the commissioner must randomly select one magnet school to for a comprehensive financial audit by an auditor the commissioner selects (CGS 10-66ll).

The 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 magnet school to for a comprehensive financial audit by an auditor the commissioner selects (CGS 10-264l(n)).

Operating board must conduct an annual study to determine the educational and vocational activities of agri-science center graduates five years after graduation and submit study to SBE (CGS 10-65a(b))

Consulting committee must meet at least two times a year to review and assist in evaluating the center (Conn. Agencies Reg., 10-64-1)

SBE must establish specific achievement goals for THSS students and measure school performance based on quantifiable measures including 10th grade mastery test performance, trade-related assessment tests, and drop-out and graduation rates (CGS 10-95(e)).

SBE must evaluate each school trade program every five years on the basis of (1) projected employment demand, including employment of graduates in the preceding five years; (2) availability of qualified instructors; (3) existence of similar programs at other educational institutions; (4) student interest; and (5) technological changes. SBE must also consider geographic differences that may make a trade program feasible at one school but not another and consult the craft committees for the program (CGS 10-95i (b)).

Every five years, SBE must adopt a long-range plan of priorities and goals for the technical high school system (CGS 10-95i (a)).

THSS superintendent must report at an annual hearing held by the Education, Higher Education, and Labor committees on (1) how the system ensures the V-T curriculum is incorporating workforce skills to be needed over the coming 30 years as identified by the labor commissioner; (2) the employment status of system graduates; and (3) the adequacy of THSS resources (CGS 10-95h).

The education commissioner and other specified commissioners, in consultation with the THSS superintendent must evaluate and, as necessary, recommend improvements to the THSS certification and degree programs to ensure they meet the employment needs of business and industry (CGS 4-124z(a))

SBE must prepare a biennial report to the Education Committee that includes (1) applicant and student demographic information, (2) an assessment of student outcomes including completion rates and postsecondary education, (3) enrollment capacity and projected capacity, and (4) an analysis of enrollment including the likelihood of increases or decreases. SBE must provide opportunity for public comment when preparing report (CGS 10-95k).

*PA 09-6, 26, September Special Session, repealed the provision that reduced a town's ECS aid due to the number of students sent to magnet schools, thus making all magnet students count for purposes of calculating the ECS aid for their home district.

WEBSITE LINKS:

Technical High School System admissions policy:

http://www.cttech.org/central/about-us/CTHSS-admissions-policy.pdf

JM:ts