By: Maria Moore
The New Hartford Public School district will no longer have to pay the tuition of students attending preschool at magnet schools. Our local elementary schools’ Board of Education was one of six school districts which had petitioned the state Board of Education for relief from having to make those payments for magnet school preschools when the districts themselves did not offer preschool as part of their regular school programs. In a decision dated August 6, Attorney Ann Bird, the hearing officer, ruled that districts are not responsible for tuition payments for preschool magnet school programs but are responsible for tuition for students attending part-time, non-preschool interdistrict magnet school programs.
To read a copy of the 25-page ruling, download the following PDF link: Preschool Magnet Schools Tuition Ruling, August 6, 2012 (13).
The Petitioners in the lawsuit were the Boards of Education from the following districts:
- Regional School District # 10 (lead Petitioner);
- New Hartford;
- Regional School District #16; and
Following is a news release from the law firm of Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon, which represented the petitioning school districts:
Attorney Mark Sommaruga, with the assistance of Attorney Zachary Schurin, prevailed in a hearing on a petition for declaratory ruling that was conducted before a hearing officer appointed by the State Department of Education. This office represented several school districts (led by Regional School District No. 10) that asked the State Department of Education to issue a declaratory ruling with regard to: a) whether sending local and regional school districts are required to pay the tuition for resident students attending part-time magnet school programs; and b) whether such sending school districts are required to pay the tuition for resident students attending pre-school magnet school programs. After a hearing on February 29, 2012, the hearing officer recently issued her decision. While the hearing officer found that the Connecticut statutes governing inter-district magnet schools require sending school districts to support and pay the entire tuition for resident students attending part-time magnet school programs, as long as those programs require students to attend at least 450 hours/year, the hearing officer also found that these same laws do not require sending school districts to support and pay tuition for resident students attending magnet pre-school programs. This is an important victory that may result in considerable cost savings for Connecticut school districts.
Effect of Preschool Magnet School Ruling In New Hartford
In New Hartford, approximately 6 to 7 students have enrolled every year in the Reggio Magnet School of the Arts in Avon, and about that same number of students has enrolled at Reggio for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Our reporter asked New Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Philip O’Reilly how these students’ tuition was going to be handled since parents had signed up their children on the understanding that the tuition would be paid by the local schools, and Dr. O’Reilly said he had the same question; the ruling did not address that scenario.
The New Hartford Public Schools district does not offer preschool as part of its regular programs; the preschool program it does offer is to meet the needs of special education children and a limited number of typical children are enrolled in that program. The typical children’s parents pay $1,000 tuition in order for their children to attend the preschool program.
Asked whether the New Hartford Schools district has any plans to add preschool as part of its regular program, Dr. O’Reilly said there were no plans to add preschool. Asked whether the schools had any plans to extend Kindergarten to full days, and the response was that the Board of Ed had no plans to do so.
The New Hartford Public Schools Board of Ed will be meeting this evening, Tuesday, August 21, and Board members will be discussing the ruling on the preschool magnet school tuition.