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State Senate To Give $12,000 For Each Out Of Hartford Student Attending Magnet Schools


October 03, 2009

HARTFORD - The state legislature voted Friday to give the city $12,000 for each out-of-city student attending one of its magnet schools, a lower figure than school officials had sought and one they said could cost them roughly $2.3 million this year.

"We kind of came up with a compromise," House Speaker Christopher Donovan said. "Pretty much we've heard from everybody that they can live with that."

The $12,000 represents a $1,054 cut from the school district's request, but is nearly double what the schools received per student last year. City officials said the magnet schools were underfunded last year.

State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D- Meriden and co-chairman of the legislature's education committee, said the city suffered from a "credibility gap," meaning that legislators doubted the $13,054-per-student request could be justified.Told of Gaffey's skepticism, Christopher Leone, director of the district's Regional School Choice Office, said the higher figure requested came from the state education department. The department's spokesman, Thomas Murphy, said that the state arrived at the number in consultation with the city.

"We're going to have to review where this leaves each of our schools," Leone said, adding that "making cuts after the year starts" is "not as simple" as doing it beforehand.

Gaffey said that the school district's numbers came with "excessive administrative costs" and "very large contingency reserves." He also called the district's efforts to rally parents this week "obnoxious."

"Hartford's going to have to prove its case," Gaffey said, noting that $12,000 per student was "more than ample."

"They've absolutely not proven their case in my mind or in the minds of the leadership," he said.

The measure that passed Friday allows the school district to apply to the state for more funding this year for its magnet schools should it need to. But Sen. John Fonfara, who represents Hartford, said the per-student payment figure has to make sense. Right now, Fonfara said, the $13,054-per-student figure doesn't.

"I intend to really find the right people in the central office who can explain this in a way that I can explain it to others, because there might be a credibility issue right now ... as to whether that $13,000 number is real," Fonfara said. "I want to believe the people in the city who are telling me the number is real. But I'm not the chairman of the committee."

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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