Discussion on the Hartford Public Schools Budget 2017-18

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Tomorrow (6/9/2017) at 12:30 p.m., the Hartford Board of Education* will vote on the Superintendent’s proposed budget with significant cuts to programs and schools. The vote will take place in the Superintendent’s Conference at 960 Main Street, Hartford, CT. HPS faces uncertainty for a variety of reasons and possible cuts in State education funding, along with flat funding from the City of Hartford. As I wrote in 2016, this is the same situation that has happened over the last few years.

This year, HPS faces a $26 million budget gap. This gap includes about $13.5 million increase in costs and $12.6 million in cuts to State education funds and other grants. Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 3.30.58 PM

In order to make up part of the gap, HPS requested $3 million more from the City of Hartford. In order to make up the rest of the gap of about $23 million, HPS proposed cutting that much in services and staff. Although this is not the biggest cut ever, it’s still substantial with a reduction of more than 80 positions in total for about $6 million in savings, plus reduction in services and contracts.

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Up until recently, the budget appeared to be balanced based on this plan. However, when the City of Hartford (Mayor and City Council) passed its budget, it did not include the additional $3 million in funds for the schools. After even more cuts, HPS still faces an additional $2 million gap.

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Hartford relies heavily on State grants, so the flat funding, cuts, and uncertainty here complicate the issue. To be sure, flat city funding is also an issue that Hartford and other school districts face. As a comparison, some other school districts in the region requested and got more funds from their town and cities this year (e.g. Farmington (low turnout), West Hartford). Some towns, like Windsor and Berlin (lack of turnout), rejected their proposed budget increases through a referendum. And Bloomfield reduced its contribution to the schools.

The problem for HPS may be sharper since it hasn’t had an increase in City funding for almost a decade. And State funds and cuts have made up the difference. But those are uncertain this year, again.

Check out the proposed budget, budget presentation, and Finance Committee documents below and stay tuned!

*I am an elected member of the Hartford Board of Education.

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Robert Cotto Jr.

Robert Cotto, Jr. is currently the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College and a Lecturer in the Educational Studies department. Before his work at Trinity, he was a Senior Policy Fellow in K-12 Education for CT Voices for Children where he published reports on Connecticut’s testing system, public school choice, and K-12 education data and policy. He taught for seven years as a social studies teacher at the Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies (MLC), an interdistrict magnet school intended to provide a high-quality education and promote racial, ethnic, and economic integration. Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Cotto was the first in his family to go to college and he earned his B.A. degree in sociology at Dartmouth College, his Ed.M. at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and an M.A. in American Studies at Trinity College. He is serving his second term on the Hartford Board of Education and in the past has served as Secretary and Policy Committee Chair. Since returning back home to CT from college, Robert has lived in the Frog Hollow neighborhood and he recently moved to the Forster Heights area of the Southwest neighborhood.