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Hartford Public Schools face $77 million deficit

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – The Hartford Public School system faces a $77 million deficit which could have a significant impact on thousands of children’s education.

Students and parents were able to voice their ideas on how to balance the budget during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.

The two major factors that caused the deficit were inflation and a COVID-19 relief fund that was set to expire.

While many students and families said they feared possible cuts, Hartford Public School leaders said that shouldn’t have to be the case. Instead, they planned to resort to a financial model that was used before they got the COVID relief funding.

“That does not mean cutting current staff. That means potentially reducing budgeted positions that are vacant currently. That means reallocating some of our resources across schools so we’re more equitable,” said Jesse Sugarman, a spokesperson for Hartford public schools.

The budget was set to be approved in April. Until then, students said they wanted to make sure their voices were heard.

“It’s disheartening because we were already short,” said T’Challa Williams, community advocate and parent.

Williams is concerned about what this budget deficit will mean for thousands of students within the district.

“How are we going to educate these children? How are we going to honestly say that we’re providing them with quality education when we are basically sitting around the table, trying to determine how much of this turkey we’re going to cut off and still call it a thanksgiving meal,” Williams said.

“What we know is that the expenses are outpacing the revenue that’s coming in,” said Torres-Rodriguez.

The superintendent said it’s too early to know what will get cut from the budget.

“Can two schools share a music and art teacher if they’re within close proximity of each other. Those are the conversations we are now having,” Torres-Rodriguez said.

The district hopes additional funding from the state can help, as well as subgrants.

“How we’re going to sunset some of the programs or not. And if we’re not, how are we going to get there so that we can still maintain the integrity of supporting our students,” said Torres-Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, parents are concerned about what this could mean for the future.

“If we have to compromise to the tune of $77 million, we’re not offering quality education if that’s the compromise,” Williams said.

Uzoma Chukwurah, Hartford’s Board of Education student representative, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

“If students who have a strong connection to the school joined and gave input to what they see every day in their schools that other adults do not, then a stronger community could’ve been created and bring forth these concerns before a school budget is decided,” Chukwurah said.

“This is not a new situation for Hartford Public Schools. We’ve had a history of mitigating deficits and maintaining a high service for our students and families and we’re going to continue to do that,” Sugarman said.

There was still time, but the district said it will continue to hold public forums for students and families to give their opinions on the budget.

Diwali to be a School Holiday in West Hartford - We-Ha  West
Diwali to be a School Holiday in West Hartford – We-Ha West
-- agenda item IV.A
— agenda item IV.A