Introduction 

On March 31, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7R (“Order 7R”) to address, among other issues, continued funding for boards of education, continued employment and/or restoration to employment for staff members of boards of education, and preservation of services provided by student transportation providers and public and approved private special education providers. Order 7R seeks to ensure that schools can “with short notice resume services and classes when public health and safety restrictions allow it.” It also recognizes that the budgets of boards of education did not anticipate costs associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency and are additionally strained by the loss of revenue from other operations, such as cafeteria services, due to the closure of schools. The provisions of Order 7R related to local and regional boards of education are summarized below.

Continued Funding by State and Municipalities

  • The State of Connecticut must continue “to process appropriated state grant funds intended to support boards of education through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.” The continued grant funds include the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant pursuant to Section 10-262f, payments for special education excess costs pursuant to Sections 10-76d and 10-76g, and Choice programming pursuant to Sections 10-264i, 10-264l, 10-264o, and 10-266aa.
  • Municipalities are similarly required to provide funding to local boards of education as set forth in the approved annual school budgets for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.

Continued Employment and Restoration to Employment of School Staff

  • Boards of education “shall continue to employ or restore to employment if already laid off, and pay school staff who are directly employed by the local or regional board of education, including but not limited to teachers, paraprofessionals and other support staff, cafeteria staff, clerical staff, and custodial workers, to the greatest extent practicable.”  This requirement is made “in recognition of the fact that schools . . .  will need to reengage students as quickly as possible upon resuming classes.”
  • Boards of education “may require school staff to provide services during the period of closure to the extent consistent with state and federal laws, including any applicable Executive Orders, guidance, or public health recommendations. . . .”
  • Boards of education are not required to continue to employ any staff member who secures other employment.
  • Boards of education are not required to continue to employ any staff member “if the staff member would have been separated for reasons other than circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • Finally, Order 7R does not affect the ability of boards of education “to reduce the number of staff members prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year due to budget reductions or as otherwise necessary outside of the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, in compliance with current legal requirements.”

Preservation of School Transportation

  • Boards of education (or a municipality if it holds the transportation contract) that determine that contracts related to student transportation require amendment to more accurately reflect the actual costs incurred during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency “shall promptly negotiate amendments to such contracts with student transportation providers….”
  • The terms of such amendments must be consistent with the following goals:
    • sustaining continuity of service when school resumes;
    • continuing to make payments so that transportation contractors provide continued compensation and health insurance to their active employees “to the greatest extent practicable – whether full-time or part-time – at rates commensurate to those paid and provided immediately prior to [COVID-19 pandemic emergency], whether or not services are actually or immediately rendered”; and
    • requiring the transportation provider to “attest and provide reasonable documentation of the fact that it is charging only the actual and reasonable cost of sustaining wage and health insurance payments for active employees and/or fleet while also engaging best efforts to avoid unnecessary costs.”
    • Finally, Order 7R states that the payments cannot provide funding beyond the contractor’s “actual and reasonable costs incurred for the purposes set forth above.”

Preservation of Public or Approved Private Special Education Providers

  • Boards of education that determine that contracts related to public special education providers or approved private special education providers require amendment to more accurately reflect the actual costs incurred during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency “shall promptly negotiate amendments to such contracts with public special education providers or approved private special education providers. . . .”
  • The terms of such amendments must be consistent with the following goals:
  • sustaining continuity of service when school resumes; and
  • continuing to make tuition payments so that such providers continue to provide compensation and health insurance to their active employees to “the greatest extent practicable – whether full-time or part-time – at rates commensurate to those paid and provided immediately prior to the [COVID-19 pandemic emergency], whether or not services are actually or immediately rendered”; and
  • requiring the public or approved private special education provider “to attest and provide reasonable documentation of the fact that it is charging only the actual and reasonable cost of sustaining wage and health insurance payments for active employees while also engaging best efforts to avoid unnecessary costs.”
  • Finally, Order 7R states that public or approved private special education providers cannot receive funding “beyond the actual and reasonable costs incurred for the purposes set forth above.”

Conclusion

Please continue to monitor ctschoollaw.com for updates concerning COVID-19.  If you have specific questions about the provisions of Order 7R that relate to funding for boards of education or the continued employment or restoration to employment of public school staff members, please contact Natalia Sieira Millan at nsieiramillan@goodwin.com or Dori Antonetti at dantonetti@goodwin.com.  If you have specific questions about the provisions of Order 7R that relate to the preservation of student transportation providers and/or public or approved private special education providers, please contact Chris Tracey at ctracey@goodwin.com or Andreana Bellach at abellach@goodwin.com.

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Photo of Dori Pagé Antonetti Dori Pagé Antonetti

Dori Antonetti is an associate in the School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education, and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Dori worked as a Hearing Review Officer for…

Dori Antonetti is an associate in the School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education, and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Dori worked as a Hearing Review Officer for the New York City Office of Labor Relations. Dori also clerked for Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Before law school, Dori joined Teach for America and worked as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Spanish Harlem.

Dori is proficient in Spanish.

Photo of Andreana R. Bellach Andreana R. Bellach

Andreana represents boards of education in education law matters, labor relations and employment law, including labor negotiations for certified and non-certified staff, grievance arbitration, freedom of information hearings, student disciplinary matters, special education disputes, and education policies and practices. Andreana frequently speaks on…

Andreana represents boards of education in education law matters, labor relations and employment law, including labor negotiations for certified and non-certified staff, grievance arbitration, freedom of information hearings, student disciplinary matters, special education disputes, and education policies and practices. Andreana frequently speaks on education law and labor relations matter.

Photo of Natalia Sieira-Millan Natalia Sieira-Millan

Natalia Sieira Millan advises public school districts on all aspects of school law, and she also teaches school law at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut as well as the Quinnipiac University School of Education.  Prior to joining the…

Natalia Sieira Millan advises public school districts on all aspects of school law, and she also teaches school law at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut as well as the Quinnipiac University School of Education.  Prior to joining the firm, Attorney Sieira Millan was an Assistant Agency Legal Director with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

Photo of Christopher A. Tracey Christopher A. Tracey

Chris represents public school districts in all areas of school law, and has a particular experience regarding special education, education reform, and budgetary matters, including issues related to Connecticut’s statutory “Minimum Budget Requirement.”