Hartford Threatens To Cancel Transportation Contract For City's Magnet Schools
November 17, 2009
HARTFORD — - More than 2,200 suburban students attending the city's magnet schools could be forced to scramble for rides to school unless the state comes up with more money for transportation.
In another development in an ongoing dispute between the state and city about paying for the city's magnet schools, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski will recommend today that the transportation contract for magnet school students be canceled to help close a $3 million deficit.
Adamowski's recommendation comes less than two months after the state legislature voted to increase magnet school funding to $12,000 per student, an amount that fell short of Hartford's request of $13,054 per student.
That level of funding, Adamowski said, means that the school system's budget for transporting students to the city to maintain compliance with the Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation mandates would last only until mid-December.
Adamowski could not be reached for comment Monday.
In letters sent this month to more than 40 suburban school districts and school boards, Adamowski and board Chairwoman Ada Miranda outlined Hartford's predicament.
"The state budget, as adopted, provides only one half the cost of transporting students from 52 towns in the region to the city to attend magnet schools."
"The average cost to transport one student for a year is approximately $3,000. But $1,400 per student has been appropriated, leaving a shortfall of approximately $3.3 million per year," Adamowski said in the letters.
"The state Department of Education has been aware of this impending transportation crisis since the passing of the budget," Adamowski said. "At this time we do not know if or how the state will resolve this problem. However you and your board need to be aware of the situation."
Adamowski said that state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan is continuing to work to "avert this crisis," and said that many school officials and their boards are "exhausted by these ongoing Sheff funding issues and the state's unwillingness or inability to provide adequate funding at the same time it attempts to enforce the Sheff desegregation goals."
State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislative education committee, said Monday that he wasn't aware of Adamowski's recommendation, but added that he wasn't surprised.
"Unfortunately, the Hartford district has shown a predilection for playing games of chicken," Fleischmann said, adding that the district's preferred method of problem-solving is getting more money from the state.
"We've given them millions. This should be doable," Fleischmann said. "The city of Hartford and the state must make these schools work. We will figure out a way."
Tom Murphy, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Monday that it would be a "big mistake" for Hartford to cut off hundreds of suburban students who attend city magnet schools that were built with, and are largely operated on, state funding.
Murphy said that without the suburban students, the schools would no longer be considered "magnet" schools and the state could demand a repayment from Hartford for the money used to build them. Hartford's educational cost-sharing funds from the state also could be affected, he said.
"We are working with the Office of Policy and Management and the legislature to provide some solutions, but it doesn't come easy in this [economic] climate," Murphy said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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