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Budget Blues

HARTFORD SCHOOLS Projected shortfalls put reforms at risk

Hartford Courant

October 22, 2008

Hard times come at a bad time for all of us, but especially for low-performing school districts such as Hartford's.

Last week, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski told the school board and the city council that the Hartford system is facing a budget shortfall of between $4.3 million and $25.5 million next year, when the budget is projected to be $297 million.

The shortfall, depending on its size, could be devastating to a district that is replacing failing schools under an ambitious reform program that will require more operating and payroll funds than can be found in a standstill budget.

Progress has been made in reforming and improving the schools during the past 18 months. School and city officials must do everything they can to keep the momentum going despite the likely budget shortfall.

Effective lobbying of the governor and General Assembly not to cut Hartford's share of state educational funding too deeply is a must.

Searching for other sources of revenue such as charging tuition to school districts that send students to city magnet schools must be pursued. But that alone won't close the budget gap.

Cutting any hint of fat in the school budget is a must, too, but we'd be careful of cutting in the classroom. The central office staff is an obvious target, as Mr. Adamowski noted.

Hartford's school system is expensive to operate, granted. But there's evidence that the investment is starting to pay off more than in the past. The reform program must continue.

Long term, Hartford's future depends on the quality of its schools. As does Connecticut's.

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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