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NBC CT: Proposal could eliminate tuition cuts, leaving Hartford schools with a $11M hole

 -  Jane Caffrey, NBC CT

The Hartford Public Schools superintendent is raising concerns that Governor Lamont’s proposed budget could mean an $11 million loss for schools across the capital city.

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez testified before lawmakers in a public hearing Wednesday in favor of House Bill 5212. It would maintain tuition caps for Connecticut public schools.

While tuition may not be something you would typically associate with a public school, in Connecticut, School Choice gives families the option to move their child to another public school district, magnet, charter or technical school.

When that happens, the public school district the child left behind pays that student’s tuition.

“We are the district that has the largest number of students that are attending schools in other districts,” Torres-Rodriguez said.

For each student that leaves Hartford Public Schools through School Choice, the district pays at least $10,000 a year in tuition, according to data from 2022. The many special education students that transfer to specialized programs could have tuition costs that are eight times as much.

Back in 2016, Hartford Public Schools paid $65 million in tuition costs for city residents attending school in other districts. Today, that figure has nearly doubled to $113 million, making up 25% of the district’s total budget, Torres-Rodriguez said.


School+State Finance Project, a nonprofit, said while districts across the state could feel the impact of losing a tuition cap, Hartford would be disproportionately affected.

“They're kind of in the epicenter,” Lisa Hammersley, School + State Finance Project executive director, said.

Hartford Public Schools is paying tuition for more than 4,200 kids attending schools in other districts, according to the nonprofit’s data.

“All of the choice that occurs every year is really heartbreaking,” Hammersley said. “When you think about it, they're sending all of these resources out of district, and every year repeatedly, their kids are getting cut.”