The question of how 2,200 suburban students attending Hartford-run magnet schools were going to get into the capital city once transportation funding ran out in December was answered Tuesday when the state stepped in with $3 million.
State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann said the money was appropriated from an over-funded line item in the budget dedicated to magnet school funding statewide.
Mayor Eddie Perez announced the arrangement at Tuesday's school board meeting.
The money will be given to the Capitol Region Education Council, which will oversee transportation for students from 44 suburban school districts through the end of the school year.
Hartford had been seeking $3.3 million that school officials said they needed to cover transportation costs. Without it, Hartford school officials said they would be forced to cancel the transportation contract, forcing students to find their own way to the city's 10 magnet schools.
Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said that the $300,000 difference between the state's appropriation and Hartford's request would be made up through savings that CREC expects and a contract renegotiation with the transportation provider.
"We agreed that this was the best use of those funds and solves a pressing problem," Fleischmann said. "The state has a responsibility to keep Hartford host magnet schools open and keep enrollments rising. We're going to do everything we can to make the Sheff [desegregation] agreement work."
Tuesday's announcement marks the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between Hartford school officials and the state over the cost of educating magnet school students. Hartford had sought $13,054 per student, but the legislature approved $12,000.
Regardless of the dispute, Phil Tegeler, staff coordinator for the Sheff Movement coalition, said Tuesday's announcement was great news because it will keep the school desegregation effort moving forward.
But Tegeler said he is concerned that continuing disputes between the state and city and annual funding battles "are starting to turn suburban parents off."
"Parents recognize these are high-quality schools, but you can't do this every year with last-minute budget crises," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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