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CT Insider: Gov. Lamont's proposed budget could deliver an $11 million blow to Hartford's schools

Emily DiSalvo, CT Insider

February 25, 2024 - 2 minutes

Hartford Public Schools may face an additional $11.1 million in magnet school tuition costs after Gov. Ned Lamont removed the tuition cap in his proposed budget.

The legislature previously capped tuition costs at 58 percent of fiscal year 2024 costs, but Lamont's proposal would force the district to find the additional 42 percent in addition to its preexisting budget challenges. And while the decision would apply to districts statewide, Hartford will seemingly pay the highest cost.


In a Feb. 15 press release, Lamont's office touted "historic investments" in education cost sharing (ECS) funds, including $8.9 million for Hartford. Districts, including Hartford, were guaranteed ECS funding. Experts say the announcement merely speeds up the timeline.

"If the question is like, 'Are districts getting an ECS increase or an increase in funding?' the answer is yes," said Michael Morton, deputy executive director for communications and operations at the School and State Finance Project. "What the governor's budget does is it goes back on the commitment that was made a month ago on funding for public school-choice programs that impact districts."

At the press conference, Torres-Rodriguez said the $11.1 million "burden" will have a direct affect on students and resources available to them. A one-page information sheet from the district says that amount of money in Hartford will fund the athletic department, one high school science teacher, one high school language teacher, 20 art teachers, 10 social workers, 10 counselors, eight custodians, and support services for students.


In Hartford, 25 percent of the district's overall budget goes to tuition costs. Because of the school-choice program created by a settlement in the Sheff V. O'Neill case, students in Hartford have the option to attend CREC schools, charter schools, and other magnet schools. While Sheff was intended to increase racial integration, the district and other experts have pointed out the financial impacts the decision has had on neighborhood schools in the district.

Morton said that while Hartford is disproportionately impacted, every district should be concerned.

"(Hartford) should definitely be concerned," Morton said. "If the budget passes as the governor proposed this year, every town in the state of Connecticut should be concerned, quite frankly, because it's not just affecting Hartford. Hartford is affected disproportionately, but it's going to impact every single district and town."

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