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Achievement First-Hartford Struggles To Make Up For Missing State Funding

By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER | Courant Staff Writer

June 06, 2008

The much-anticipated Achievement First-Hartford charter school is slated to open in August, but a lack of state money has left Hartford school officials scrambling to secure the funds to run it.

Considered a key part in the city's school reform efforts, the school, run by the group that operates Amistad Academy in New Haven, received approval from the state and city boards of education late last year. Expecting money to be included in the state budget, school officials moved ahead with plans to open, hiring staff and enrolling students. There is already a waiting list for kindergarten and first grade.

But when the governor and state legislators opted not to make any changes to the budget this year, instead adopting a spending plan created last year, the funding for the school roughly $2.3 million for 252 pupils never materialized.

In a letter sent this week, Hartford Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski asked Gov. M. Jodi Rell to allocate the money.

But Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Rell, said that with the state facing a projected $150 million deficit, it would be difficult to find money for the school this year.

"We do recognize that this is a worthy program and we would very much like to be able to support it in the next two-year budget," he said.

Adamowski described Achievement First-Hartford as a critical part of the district's plan to reorganize city schools and offer more high-performing schools.

"Failure to fund the seats for the new Achievement First-Hartford school ... would strike a blow at the heart of our plans for the upcoming year and set back our reform effort not only in the eyes of Hartford parents and teachers but also in the eyes of the national funding community for whom the inclusion of Achievement First in our plans is critical to their future support," he wrote.

Christina Kishimoto, the district's senior director of school design, said Rell seemed supportive of the school, leaving her hopeful for the money to open and run it.

The school received approval last year to open with three grades kindergarten and first and fifth then add grades each year until it enrolls pupils from kindergarten through eighth grade. It would be housed at Mark Twain Elementary School on Lyme Street.

Achievement First, the group that will run the school, was still planning to hold open houses, Kishimoto said.

The group operates schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and New York. Its Amistad Academy and Elm City College Preparatory School, both in New Haven, have drawn attention for producing reading, math and writing gains among low-income and minority children.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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