March 13, 2009

City schools to Hartford: No more!

Insisting that “enough is enough with unfunded mandates,” school administrators are flatly refusing to go along with a request from the state’s commissioner of education to create 85 more slots for Hartford children to attend Bristol schools.

“We have simply reached the breaking point,” Superintendent Philip Streifer wrote in a March 10 letter to the commissioner, Mark McQuillan.

The move doesn’t necessarily mean that more inner city students won’t be placed in Bristol schools because the city has no authority to refuse to follow state law. But at this point, the commissioner’s request is not an order.

Cheryl Thibeault, a city Board of Finance member, commended Streifer and the Board of Education for “taking an aggressive stand” to try to fend off more expenses.

Streifer said the city receives $3,000 in funding for each student it accepts from Hartford, but has to shell out an average of $11,000 a year to educate each of them.

That means adding 85 more students would cost city taxpayers $600,000 extra each year at a time when the schools are scrambling to avoid layoffs and maintain existing programs.

The state is looking to increase the number of students who can participate in the Hartford regional program from 1,100 to 3,000 as part of a desegregation effort required by court decisions. Bristol currently has

Statistics from state education reports indicate Bristol has 46 Project Choice students, 36 of them minority students. It also sends some students to magnet schools in other towns so the flow of students goes both ways.

Board of Education members said they don’t want to expand the program because it costs too much.

“We simply can no longer afford to fund additional state mandates without adequate financial support,” Streifer said in his letter. He called it “paramount that the state fully funds” the program if it wants to increase the number of students served.

Bristol’s education leaders said they support efforts to integrate schools more, but argue that the state is responsible for the overall situation and should pay the tab for correcting it.

Streifer said that 30 percent of the city’s $101 million school budget is already devoted to mandated programs.

With state aid stagnant at best, there’s no way to take on additional educational responsibilities and ask struggling city property taxpayers to fork over the money for them, officials said.

The legislature is considering a bid to hand over responsibility for the Open Choice program directly to the state, rather than running it through the Capital Region Education Council, a move that might create a situation where Bristol could no longer say no.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Anonymous said...

Kudos for Bristol for taking a stand. Folks in Bristol are picking up the tab for the kids from Hartford coming in here. And you have to cut your budget to do it. These unfunded mandates are cowardly acts by the legislature.

Anonymous said...

Not our tax dollars are being used to educate out of city kids! C'mon enough already.

Anonymous said...

better look at the whole picture. the state gives Bristol how much money for education.I prefer that hartford takes of hartford but thats not going to happen !!!

Anonymous said...

There are more democrat voters in Hartford than voters in Bristol.

Guess who is going to win.

Concerned Conservative said...

Thank you Superintendent Philip Streifer for sticking up for Bristol's citizens. I must agree with you on this. No more busing kids here from Hartford!

Anonymous said...

I hate to admit it, but I actually agree with Striefer on this one. If we can't adequately educate ALL of the children currently in our district, why send more? I wonder where the stats are regarding what other towns participate and how the percentages of students going to Bristol compare to those going to Avon or Canton. We have a great family that finally found housing in Bristol who were bussed in from Hartford. I enjoy it. It is nice to see some diversity in the schools. Our kids need that in this day and age. I see how the Bristol kids affected this family in a very positive way as well. In can be a huge positive for everyone involved if only the funding and staff/ services were there.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Bristol diversified enough? It doesn't need to take Hartford kids to diversify anymore than it already is. We have enough of our poor and disadvantaged and we aren't doing the best job educating them. I'd choose Avon or Farmington to send my kids to if I was the Hartford parent.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Does the meaning of a "priorty school district" mean that Bristol's academic performance has been found to be wanting, or that Bristol is the first to receive the students from one of the worst performing school systems in the state?

That's right Perez, declare Hartford a sanctuary city, then ship your problems elsewhere!
Hey, can the city and towns from the rest of the CT bus their illegals to Hartford to educate and care for, permanently?

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that we are going to prevent more kids from being bused in. Let us focus on Bristol students and having them succeed, not another town's.