State desegregation efforts move forward

The State Board of Education Wednesday gave the nod to a plan aimed at desegregating Hartford largely black and Hispanic schools. It’s also an effort for the state to comply with a Supreme Court order to end the inequalities caused by this racial isolation.

The Mirror provided a detailed explanation of the proposal last week, which includes drastically expanding school choice options for Hartford students to leave the neighborhood school they are zoned to attend. The state will announce next week if it has met the requirements that 41 percent of Hartford students be attending an integrated school or that 80 percent of those who wish to leave their neighborhood school be provided the opportunity to do so.

Last year, the state was far from the finish line.

Before the proposal was unanimously approved by the board, a few more details were revealed.

Those details include the anticipation that at least four new charter schools will open over the next two years, though it is still unclear if they will be located in Hartford area and used to help the state reach its integration requirements. Also, the plan is heavily reliant on an expansion of the state’s Open Choice program, which provides enrollment opportunities to Hartford students in suburban-area schools. The program currently has about 1,700 students participating, well short of the 2,500 students that the Department of Education reports are needed to comply with the settlement. The plan relies on new financial incentives enticing suburban districts to offer 1,075 new seats, a 40 percent increase.

The plan now awaits action by the governor and the legislature, though it might be a tough sell with the attached $55.4 million price tag for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July and $90.5 million the following year.