PA 17-172—HB 7201

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF REDUCED-ISOLATION SETTING STANDARDS FOR INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL PROGRAMS

SUMMARY: This act creates new student enrollment standards for determining state operating grant eligibility for all magnet schools in FYs 18 and 19 (i.e., the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years), replacing three different categories of standards in prior law.

Prior law allowed the State Department of Education (SDE) to establish a magnet school operating grant program for two different types of magnet schools: (1) Sheff interdistrict magnet schools, located in the Sheff region (i.e., greater Hartford) and created in response to the Connecticut Supreme Court's Sheff v. O'Neill decision, and (2) non-Sheff interdistrict magnet schools, which have no location restrictions. While both types of magnet schools encourage racial, ethnic, and economic diversity, the law previously applied three different student enrollment standards when determining whether magnet schools were eligible for state operating grants: one for Sheff magnets and two for non-Sheff magnets that varied based on when the school was established.

The act replaces these three enrollment standards with a new set of standards. For FY 18, the act creates uniform standards for both Sheff and non-Sheff magnet schools, but in FY 19 it gives the education commissioner the authority to create alternative standards for reduced-isolation student enrollment for Sheff magnet schools in order to comply with the Sheff stipulation and order that will be in effect then. The act allows the commissioner to define “reduced-isolation student.” Under the most recent stipulation, reduced-isolation setting means racial minorities can make up no more than 75% of the enrolled student body.

Under the act, these reduced-isolation setting standards must be created by the commissioner by July 1, 2017 and are not considered agency regulations. Beginning in FY 18, the act generally prohibits the commissioner from awarding operating grants to magnet schools that fail to meet these new standards, but it also gives her the discretion to award the grants to noncompliant schools while assisting them with their efforts to regain eligibility. The act also gives her the authority to impose a financial penalty for consecutive years of ineligibility.

Additionally, for FY 17, the act makes the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk eligible for the maximum full-time magnet school operating grant (i.e., $7,085 per non-resident student; $3,000 per resident student). By law, any magnet school that operates less than full-time, but at least half-time, is eligible for up to 65% of the maximum operating grant amount.

The act also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the provisions about operating grants for the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School take effect upon passage.

MAGNET SCHOOL OPERATING GRANT ELIGIBILITY STANDARDS

Table 1 compares state operating grant eligibility criteria for non-Sheff magnet schools under prior law with those under the act.

Table 1: Non-Sheff Magnet School State Operating Grant Eligibility

Magnet School Type

Operating Grant Eligibility under Prior Law

(CGS 10-264l(a))

Operating Grant Eligibility under the Act (FYs 18 and 19)

School operating prior to July 1, 2005

No more than 80% of enrolled students may come from a participating district

No more than 75% of enrolled students may come from a participating district

Enrolled students must meet the education commissioner's new reduced isolation standards, which must contain a minimum 20% reduced-isolation student enrollment percentage, with an alternative minimum percentage at most 1% lower for certain non-compliant districts (see Development of Reduced-Isolation Setting Standards below)

School operating on or after July 1, 2005

No more than 75% of enrolled students may come from a participating district

At least 25%, but no more than 75%, of enrolled students may be racial minorities (i.e., of a race other than white, or of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity)

Table 2 compares state operating grant eligibility criteria for Sheff magnet schools under prior law with those under the act.

Table 2: Sheff Magnet School State Operating Grant Eligibility

Operating Grant Eligibility under Prior Law

(CGS 10-264l(a))

Operating Grant Eligibility under the Act

FY 18

FY 19

The number of enrolled students that may come from a participating district must be no more than 75% of enrolled students identifying as black/African American or any part Hispanic (i.e., meets the Sheff 2013 stipulation reduced isolation standard)

Same as non-Sheff magnet schools (see Table 1 above)

No more than 75% of enrolled students may come from a participating district

Enrolled students must meet the education commissioner's new reduced isolation standards, which may contain an alternative reduced-isolation student enrollment percentage that, among other things, comply with the Sheff stipulation or order in effect (see Development of Reduced-Isolation Setting Standards below)

Development of Reduced-Isolation Setting Standards

Under the act, the commissioner-developed standards must do the following:

1. define the term “reduced-isolation student” for purposes of the standards;

2. establish a requirement for the minimum percentage of reduced-isolation students that can be enrolled in an interdistrict magnet school program, as long as this percentage is at least 20% of total school enrollment; and

3. allow a magnet school to have a total school enrollment of reduced-isolation students that does not exceed 1% below the minimum percentage established by the commissioner, as long as the commissioner approves a plan designed to bring the number of reduced-isolation students in the magnet school into compliance with the minimum percentage.

For the 2018-19 school year, the standards must authorize the commissioner to establish an alternative reduced-isolation student enrollment percentage for a Sheff magnet school by May 1, 2018, as long as she does the following:

1. determines that this alternative percentage (a) complies with the Sheff v. O'Neill decision or any related stipulation or order in effect and (b) increases opportunities for Hartford resident students to access an educational setting with reduced racial isolation or other categories of diversity, including geography, socioeconomic status, special education, English language learners, and academic achievement and

2. approves a plan for such magnet school that is designed to bring the number of reduced-isolation students into compliance with this alternative percentage or the minimum described above.

The act requires the commissioner, by May 1, 2018, to submit to the Education Committee a report on each alternative reduced-isolation student enrollment percentage established for Sheff magnet schools.

Failure to Meet Reduced-Isolation Setting Standards

Under the act, in FYs 18 and 19, any Sheff or non-Sheff magnet school that fails to meet the commissioner's new reduced-isolation setting standards and exceeds the 75% participating district student enrollment cap is generally ineligible to receive a state operating grant; however, the commissioner may award the grant for an additional year or years if she (1) determines it is appropriate to do so and (2) approves a plan to bring the school into compliance with the reduced-isolation setting standards.

Under prior law, magnet schools that failed to meet reduced-isolation setting standards had different award eligibility exceptions. For noncompliant schools, the commissioner could award a grant for one additional year if she found good cause to do so and (1) more than 75% of the total enrollment was from one district or (2) less than 25% or more than 75% of the enrolled students were racial minorities. She could not award a grant for an additional consecutive year or years unless she found it appropriate for purposes of the state complying with the 2013 Sheff stipulation and order that required such a school to operate under a state-approved enrollment management plan that complies with the standard within an agreed upon period.

Financial Penalty

For FYs 18 and 19, if a magnet school fails to meet the commissioner-developed reduced-isolation setting standards for two or more consecutive years, the act allows the commissioner to impose a financial penalty on the school's operator, or take any other measure in consultation with the operator, as appropriate to help the operator come into compliance.

BACKGROUND

Interdistrict Magnet Schools

These schools have a program that (1) supports racial, ethnic, and economic diversity; (2) offers a special and high quality curriculum; and (3) requires enrolled students to attend at least half-time. Regional agricultural science and technology schools, technical high schools, and regional special education centers are not considered magnet schools (CGS 10-264l(a)).

Sheff v. O'Neill Decision

In 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Sheff that the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation of Hartford public school students violated their right to a “substantially equal educational opportunity” under the state constitution (238 Conn. 1 (1996)). It ordered the state and the plaintiff's representatives to work out an agreement, which since has been renewed several times, for the voluntary desegregation of Hartford students.

2013 Sheff Stipulation and Order

This stipulated agreement between the Sheff v. O'Neill parties establishes a timetable for the state to make additional progress in reducing the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation of Hartford public school students. The agreement, known as Phase III, runs from December 13, 2013 to June 30, 2015. (It was since extended twice by the parties to run through June 30, 2017.)

Sheff Region

This region consists of the school districts of 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.