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Article II. Article I.

Article III

February 2, 2009


CHANGING THE EDISON INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL TO A LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst Alan Shepard, Principal Budget Analyst You asked (1) what the process would be for changing the Thomas Edison Magnet Middle School, which is currently operating as an interdistrict magnet school, to a local Meriden public school and (2) whether and how much Meriden would have to pay to make the change.

THOMAS EDISON MAGNET MIDDLE SCHOOL Edison is an interdistrict magnet school, which is defined by state law as 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 (CGS § 10264l). Edison is a full-time interdistrict magnet program for grades six to eight with a math, science, and technology focus. It enrolls approximately 750 students. Five districts participate in the school: Meriden, Middletown, Madison, Wallingford, and Regional District 13 (Durham and Middlefield). It is located in Meriden and owned by the Meriden board of education but is operated by the ACES regional education service center. As an interdistrict magnet school, Edison’s educational program is approved by the State Department of Education (SDE) and the school receives annual state per-student operating grants. Because the school is operated by a regional education service center (RESC) and more than 55% of its students come from Meriden, its state operating grant for FY 09 is $3,000 for each Meriden student and $6,730 for each student from any other district (CGS § 10-264l (c)(3)(B)). In addition to annual state operating grants, the state reimbursed Meriden for 100% of the eligible costs constructing and equipping the school under the magnet school construction grant reimbursement law in effect when the school was built.

OFFICE OF FISCAL ANALYSIS Legislative Office Building, Room 5200 Hartford, CT 06106  (860) 240-0200

Connecticut General Assembly

OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH Legislative Office Building, Room 5300 Hartford, CT 06106  (860) 240-8400

CHANGING THE EDISON SCHOOL TO A REGULAR MERIDEN PUBLIC SCHOOL School Construction Grant Repayment Requirement If the state provides a grant to buy or build an interdistrict magnet school building and the building is no longer used for such a school, state law requires the education commissioner to determine whether (1) title to the building and land reverts to the state or (2) the school district that received the grant must repay the difference between the higher magnet school construction grant and the grant it would have received if the school had been reimbursed at the percentage applicable to a local school construction project in that district in the same year. Under the law, a school district asked to reimburse the state must do so by the end of the fiscal year following the request. If it fails to pay, the SDE may withhold repayment from the district’s total state education aid. If that is insufficient, the SDE may refer the matter to the Department of Administrative Services for collection (CGS § 10-264h (c) (1)). Thus, if the education commissioner decided the state would not take title to the Edison school, Meriden would be required to repay the difference between the 100% state funding it received for building the Edison school and its lower percentage for a local Meriden project.

Construction Grant Repayment Amount The total grant repayment should Meriden “de-magnetize” estimated to be $8,745,000 calculated as follows:

Edison is

Maximum area eligible under normal space standards: 130,133 sq. ft.

Actual area approved under magnet programmatic needs: 162,289 sq. ft. (an increase of 24.7% based on maximum eligible per regulations).

Because Section 10-264h(c) specifies “eligible project costs” and not “net eligible costs,” the presumption is that the space standards are not part of the adjustment calculation.

Magnet reimbursement rate: 100%

Normal reimbursement rate: 1995/96 = 72.50%

Based on costs (and payments) of $31.8 million: $31.8 million x .7250 = $23,055,000 (normal reimbursement)

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Therefore, if Meriden de-magnetizes Edison, the commissioner must determine whether (1) title to the building and any legal interest in appurtenant land shall revert to the state or (2) Meriden owes a refund of $8,745,000 ($31,800,000 - $23,055,000).

“De-Magnetizing” Process If Edison no longer meets the statutory definition of an interdistrict magnet school program, it would no longer be eligible for annual state magnet school operating grants. However, except for the school construction grant reimbursement requirement, state law does not establish any process for changing an interdistrict magnet school into a local public school. The SDE likewise has not established an administrative or regulatory process for implementing such a change, according to Katherine Nicoletti, the department’s legislative liaison. Unless the legislature establishes a statutory process, it appears the education commissioner would determine how to proceed. Among the issues the commissioner would likely consider are (1) the provisions of magnet school participation agreements; (2) which entity has the right to request the change when, as in Edison’s case, the school district owns the building, but a RESC operates the school program; and (3) a plan for educating the school’s students after the magnet program ceases. At a minimum, according to Nicoletti, the magnet school owner or operator would have to notify the education commissioner in writing of its intent to make the change.


February 2, 2009

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Article II. Article I. February 2, 2009