Education Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-7201

Title:

AN ACT APPLYING THE SHEFF DEFINITION OF REDUCED-ISOLATION SETTING TO ALL INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOLS IN THE STATE.

Vote Date:

3/24/2017

Vote Action:

Joint FAVORABLE

PH Date:

3/6/2017

File No.:

 

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Education Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The purpose of this bill is to apply the reduced-isolation setting standards of the 2013 stipulation and order for Milo Sheff, et al. v. William A. O'Neill, et al., as extended, to all interdistrict magnet schools in the state.

There are currently two different racial enrollment standards in place for magnet schools in Sheff (Hartford region) and non-Sheff regions. This discrepancy effectively creates an inequitable allocation of magnet school grants across the state. The bill addresses the inequitable nature of the current magnet system by creating a unified standard to all interdistrict magnet schools in Connecticut.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Dianna Wentzell, Commissioner, State Department of Education:

Ms. Wentzell testifies in support of the intent of HB 7201, but does not support the language as it stands. The Department supports unifying the desegregation standard for the state in accordance with the Sheff standard, but does not support linking it to the 2013 stipulation, an order which will expire in June. It “does not make sense” to conform to an order which may change in the coming months.

The Department is also opposed to requiring schools established prior to 2005 to conform to this standard when they are currently only subject to the residency standard. It will take a “substantial amount” of time for those schools to attain a racial compliance standard. The Department is happy to collaborate to develop workable language.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Connecticut Education Association:

CEA testified in support of HB 7201 and its goal of further reducing racial isolation across school districts and across the state. The resulting policies from the implementation of HB 7201 would provide resources to all schools in an equitable manner and in a way that does not negatively impact the educational opportunities for students enrolled in existing programs.

Kate McCoy, Executive Director Strategic Planning & Magnet School Development, New London Public School:

Ms. McCoy testified in support of HB 7201 and its intent to use one measure for calculating racial isolation across Connecticut and the state's magnet schools. She asserts that applying one standard across the state is necessary to create equity in access to magnet grants.

Dr. Manuel Rivera, Superintendent, New London Public Schools:

Dr. Rivera testified in support of HB 7201 and its effective goal to provide high demand, quality schools and programs necessary to improve student achievement and simultaneously reduce racial isolation in Connecticut through magnet funding.

The difference in the two racial enrollment standards given to Sheff and Non-Sheff regions creates inequitable access to magnet school grants. Schools in communities with high concentrations of African American and Hispanic students must not only meet enrollment expectations that require a minimum or 25% of regional or Out-Of-District students, but they also must meet a racial balance criteria that is different than the magnet schools in the Hartford (Sheff) Region. This effectively makes it disproportionately harder for Non-Sheff regions to gain access to magnet funds. HB 7201 will work to solve this inequitability by creating one racial enrollment standard.

Representative Chris Soto, D-39th District, Vice Chair, Appropriations Committee:

Representative Soto testified in support of HB 7201 and its intent to increase the academic achievement of all students. Rep. Soto points out that the original goal of Connecticut's magnet system is to create an equal playing field for students. The current magnet school system fails to achieve this intent due to the double standard with respect of how Connecticut calculates student populations. “If we all have the same goal,” Rep. Soto concludes, “which is to increase students' achievement, let's all have one standard.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None expressed.

Reported by: Kevin Halligan

Date: 3/29/17