Hartford School Chief Proposes $372 Million Budget
By COLIN POITRAS | Courant Staff Writer
April 10, 2008
Hartford School Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski on Wednesday proposed a $372 million budget for the coming school year that pours record levels of funding into special education and gives Hartford the highest per-pupil spending for preschool students in the state.
But to do that, something had to give and Adamowski hopes to save $3 million by cutting 59 positions in the district's central office and in student support services.
Details on the lost positions were not included in Adamowski's budget presentation to the school board Wednesday night. But Adamowski later said the cuts could include secretaries, administrative assistants and mid-level supervisors.
Parents and teachers interested in learning more about what positions may be lost should contact their local school principals, Adamowski said.
Adamowski said the proposed budget reflects his desire to shift spending toward classroom instruction and away from "bloated" central office staffing and support services. Student support services include such things as school nurses, language, speech and hearing specialists, psychologists and social workers.
"We haven't taken the approach that we have eight or nine departments and we are going to reduce them all equally," Adamowski told board members. "Some things we are not going to do anymore, some things we haven't done before and some things we are going to do differently."
The proposed budget for 2008-09 supports significant salary increases for teachers and school principals to make their pay more competitive with other school districts in the region. It also boosts funding for traditionally underfunded schools and allows for the opening of four new specialty schools and five redesigned schools to replace some of the district's lowest performing schools — Hartford Public High School, Milner Elementary School and Burns Elementary.
The budget also includes a larger investment in staff professional development to help teachers keep up with the district's fast-moving change to smaller, specialty schools and magnet schools. There is also more money set aside for English-as-a-second-language instruction and bilingual education training for teachers to reflect the district's burgeoning immigrant population.
This was the first year Adamowski presented a budget using an innovative technique that allows local school principals to propose their spending requirements based on individual student needs. But the budget's new format and lack of line-item detail frustrated some teachers in attendance Wednesday night who were used to knowing instantly where jobs were being cut and the budget's overall impact.
"I'm accustomed to seeing a line-item budget," said Cathy Carpino, president of the 2,500 member Hartford Federation of Teachers. "It's difficult to comment on a budget that looks more like a shell game."
The total proposed $371.7 million budget represents a 2.4 percent increase over current spending. General operating expenses were $284.5 million, up 4.7 percent. Special funding was $87.2 million, a decrease of 4.6 percent due largely to the legislature's recent decision to cut the state's early reading success grant.
Adamowski is asking the city for $93 million to cover its share of the school budget. The rest of the cost is picked up by the state and the federal government. The city's share is $5 million, or 5.7 percent, more than current spending.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who also serves as school board chairman, said the loss of 59 positions would be painful but overall the budget reflects the direction city officials want to go. "It's a work in progress," Perez said. "This is a strategic realignment."
The budget allocates a record $78.2 million for special education. Only about 9 percent of Hartford special education students currently meet their goals on an annual performance test, compared with the 56 percent national average, Adamowski said.
The budget also expands preschool slots by 100 students to a total of 770 students at an annual expenditure of $8,300 per student — the highest in Connecticut. Adamowski said the funding will support an increased focus on basic social skills and reading readiness.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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