April 9, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
If the General Assembly
approves bills that the education committee signed off on Friday,
there will be more money for early childhood education, magnet
schools and school lunches, and charter schools will be allowed
to admit more students.
Under another proposed bill, the state would also pick up a
higher percentage of school construction for all districts that
designate at least 10 percent of their budgets for school maintenance.
Between bills passed Wednesday and Friday, magnet school legislation
is facing a major overhaul.
Measures in separate bills would require both districts that
participate in a magnet school - and those that don't - to send
any student who wishes to go as long as there is space available.
Students who live in a district that does not participate in
a magnet school must wait until after the lottery to see if any
seats are left unfilled. To ensure that the magnet schools get
paid, the state would subtract the students' tuition from the
state aid that goes to the town and send it to the magnet school,
said State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman
of the committee
The bill was written in response
to the plight of a South Windsor mother, who tried desperately
to get her son into the Greater Academy of Math & Science
in Hartford. South Windsor does not participate in the school
and there were no vacancies for suburban students, although
the mother said she was attempting to get her son into a vacancy
reserved for a city student.
"No local board should be able to say `no - you're not
allowed to go to a magnet school'," said state Sen. Thomas
Gaffey, D-Meriden, co-chairman of the committee.
The bills also increase state-paid tuition to magnet schools
and help magnet schools run by regional education service centers,
such as those at the Learning Corridor, to pass revenue shortfalls
on to sending districts. It works this way: Each July a service
center, such as Capitol Region Education Council, would calculate
the per pupil expenditure of each student and subtract the per
pupil amount paid by the state. The rest of the cost would then
get billed to the sending districts as long as the amount does
not exceed the sending district's average pupil cost for the
The bill goes on to prohibit sending towns from pulling out
of the magnet schools because of costs.
"No participating district may withdraw its financial support
from an interdistrict magnet school because such district determines
financial support calculated [this way] is too costly," the
Republicans on the committee objected, but Fleischmann told
them to take their complaints to Gov. M. Jodi Rell because the
proposal and the language is hers.
Gaffey spoke passionately about the myriad reforms to magnet
school legislation, saying they are in the spirit of the Sheff
vs. O'Neill court order to desegregate Hartford's schools.
Fleischmann said he was most
pleased by the bills that increase funding for early childhood
education. "One of the best
investments that we as education policy makers can make is the
investment in early childhood education," Fleischmann said.
Less than an hour after the
committee convened, Rell issued a press release praising the
committee for the early childhood initiative. "This legislation
will bring to life the plan I proposed in my budget address.
It will create the opportunity for 1,000 youngsters to attend
innovative early childhood education programs right in their
communities. The legislation also provides for oversight and
standards that will make certain that the investment we make
in our children produces strong results."
State Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg's proposal to
buy laptops for all freshmen and sophomores didn't make it out
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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