General Assembly Resolves Pre-School Magnet School Tuition Issue

The Connecticut General Assembly has passed, and Governor Dannel P. Malloy has signed into law, new legislation that eliminates the interdistrict magnet pre-school funding obligations of Connecticut’s local and regional boards of education.  The passage of this legislation marks a major victory for “sending districts” (i.e. school districts that send magnet pre-school students to out-of-district inter-district magnet schools), and should result in considerable cost-savings for boards of education across the State for years to come.

The new magnet school funding legislation was included as part of the General Assembly’s 486-page omnibus budget implementer bill for Connecticut's 2013-15 biennium budget.  The bill was passed on June 5, 2013, the last day of this year’s legislative session.  As it pertains to magnet schools, the new legislation effectively eliminates the requirement that boards of education pay the tuition of pre-school aged students enrolled in interdistrict magnet schools operated by regional educational service centers (“RESCs”).  The new legislation requires the state, and commencing in 2014-2015,  parents (based upon their ability to pay), rather than the sending local or regional boards of education, to pick-up their children’s magnet pre-school tuition tab.

Magnet pre-school tuition has been a hotly contested legal issue over the past year.  On August 6, 2012, a hearing officer appointed by the State Department of Education issued a declaratory ruling that held that under Connecticut law, school districts could not be legally required to pay pre-school magnet school tuition for non-special education students.  The hearing officer’s decision was the end result of a petition for declaratory relief brought against the State Board of Education by six Connecticut school districts.  Pullman & Comley attorneys Mark J. Sommaruga and Zachary D. Schurin successfully represented the school districts in the action.

Following the issuance of the August 6, 2012 decision, the General Assembly stepped into the legal fray last December and passed legislation re-imposing the burden of magnet school tuition back onto sending districts.   The new statutory language included in the budget implementer bill, however, once again eliminates “sending school district” interdistrict  magnet pre-school tuition obligations for Connecticut’s local and regional boards of education.  Should you have any questions or concerns about this important legal development please contact an attorney with this firm.

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Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s School Law practice on federal and Connecticut law as it pertains to educational institutions, whether those institutions be public school districts, private K-12 schools, or post-secondary colleges and universities.

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