OLR Bill Analysis

HB 7201

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

SUMMARY

This bill makes changes to the criteria used to determine whether an interdistrict magnet school is eligible for state operating grants.

The law allows the State Department of Education to establish a magnet school operating grant program for two different types of magnet schools: (1) Sheff interdistrict magnet schools, which are located in the Sheff region (i.e., greater Hartford) and were 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 applies different diversity criteria to these two types when determining if they are eligible for state operating grants.

This bill applies the Sheff magnet school diversity standards to all non-Sheff magnet schools. The Sheff standard, which the bill refers to as the “reduced isolation standard,” requires that total student enrollment not exceed 75% of students that identify as black/African American or any part Hispanic. As under current law, non-Sheff magnets must also meet enrollment criteria based upon students' district of origin (i.e., “sending” or “participating” district).

The bill also grants a one-year operating grant eligibility exception for non-Sheff magnets that fail to meet the Sheff reduced isolation standard. This is in addition to the one in current law that grants a one-year exception for Sheff and non-Sheff magnets that fail to meet the enrollment criteria based on students' district of origin.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017

MAGNET SCHOOL OPERATING GRANT ELIGIBILITY

In current law, there are three different criteria that SDE uses to determine magnet school operating eligibility: one for Sheff magnets, and two for non-Sheff magnets that vary based on whether the school was established before or on or after July 1, 2005.

The bill applies the “reduced isolation setting” diversity standard that currently applies only to Sheff-magnets to both categories of non-Sheff magnets. This standard appears in the 2013 Sheff stipulation and order, which deems a magnet program to have a “reduced-isolation setting” if its enrollment of students who identify as black/African American or any part Hispanic does not exceed 75% of the school's total enrollment.

Table 1 below compares state operating grant eligibility criteria for non-Sheff magnet schools under current law with those under the bill. It includes enrollment criteria based on students' district of origin.

Table 1: Magnet Operating Grant Eligibility for Non-Sheff Magnet Schools

Schools by Date of Establishment

Operating Grant Eligibility under Current Law

(CGS 10-264l(a))

Operating Grant Eligibility under the Bill

(HB 7201)

Non-Sheff magnet school operating prior to July 1, 2005

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

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

“Reduced isolation standard”: no more than 75% of enrolled students may identify as black/African American or any part Hispanic

Non-Sheff magnet 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 as defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget for use by the census bureau)

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

“Reduced isolation standard”: no more than 75% of enrolled students may identify as black/African American or any part Hispanic

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 students who are enrolled to attend at least half-time. Regional agricultural science and technology schools, technical high schools, or 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.

Sheff Region

This region includes 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.

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.)

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

29

Nay

3

(03/24/2017)