State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan is ordering Hartford school officials to enroll students from Manchester and Bloomfield in Hartford's host magnet schools. He's also directing the sending districts to pay the student's tuition.
The dispute stems from the success that Hartford Magnet schools have had in attracting minority students - resulting in a less diverse student population. To address this, the state now requires an enrollment of 50 percent suburban and 50 percent city students in the schools.
State Education Department spokesman Tom Murphy says this mandate prompted the Magnet Schools to charge tuition. And that came as a surprise to suburban districts.
"Suburban districts are saying, 'wait a minute, some of us have agreements that say we can send students with no tuition.' Therefore, in the case of two districts, Manchester and Bloomfield, they believe that they shouldn't have to pay, and they did not pay," Murphy said.
Hartford had accepted the new students last Spring -- 41 from Manchester, and 25 from Bloomfield.
But later sent them a letter stating that if their home districts wouldn't pay the $4,600 per student tuition, they could not attend the host magnet school.
Michael Rizzo is the chairman of the Manchester Board of Education.
The prime problem with this is that Manchester didn't budget for that bill, and the agreements that we have indicates that we can send students tuition free. If that were to change, the board of education would need to consciously decide if it wants to participate in a program like that, where we would need to pay for our students to go.
Murphy says Commissioner McQuillan is ordering the sending districts to re-enroll the students. He says McQuillan will advocate for more state subsidies to help close the gap for this year's tab, but is requiring them to pay last year's tuition bill.