Region 16 joins magnet school tuition fight


PROSPECT —Region 16 has decided to take up arms with Region 10 in a legal battle over who’s responsible for paying part-time magnet school tuition.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly enacted new legislation that reaffirms its expectations that school districts must pay tuition for students attending magnet schools, including part-time magnet schools, operated by a regional educational service center.

The state’s ruling means some school districts will face additional costs in the coming school year to cover tuition payments.

School officials from Region 10, which covers Harwinton and Burlington, decided earlier this year to challenge the state’s ruling by filing a declaratory judgment and called on school districts throughout the state to join them.

During a special June 29 meeting, the Region 16 Board of Education approved joining the lawsuit, 7-1, and to limit its financial contributions to the fight to $2,000, according to the meeting minutes. Board member Donna Cullen was the only one who opposed it, according to the minutes.

Region 10 Superintendent of Schools Alan Beitman said Region 16 is one of three school districts, the others being Newington and Ellington, to join the fight.

“It’s the four of us moving forward at this point,” Beitman said.

Beitman said early this week that he was waiting to hear back from a couple of other districts. He added that some other districts support the move but decided not the join in for political reasons.

For Region 16, the state’s ruling means the district will now have to cover the tuition of Woodland Regional High School students who attend the part-time ACES Educational Center for the Arts (ECA) in New Haven.

The district has partnered with ECA for years, but parents have been responsible for the roughly $3,700 yearly tuition. Five Woodland students are slated to go to ECA next school year, which will cost the district roughly $18,500 in tuition costs.

For Region 10, Beitman said, there are two issues—paying the part-time tuition, and being liable for the costs of magnet preschools. He estimated the cost to Region 10 to be between $45,000 and $65,000.

Beitman said Region 10 school officials believe there’s nothing in the state statue to support the state’s ruling in this matter. He added that officials in Region 10 feel the cost is only going to go up in the years to come, and by not fighting it now they are sending a message that they’re willing to pay it.

“Once you start paying it you’re going to be obligated to pay it forever,” Beitman said.

The declaratory judgment is expected to be filed in the first week of August.