More than half of Hartford’s school-aged children still attend segregated schools — 22 years after the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the state to eliminate the educational inequities caused by the isolation of Hartford’s overwhelmingly black and Hispanic school population.
The data on the racial makeup and distribution of Hartford’s public school students for the current year was released Thursday by the Connecticut State Department of Education.
The report that 9,691 Hartford students attend schools the state considers to be in a “reduced isolated” setting comes at a pivotal time — the transition to a new governor’s administration. (“Reduced isolated” is a term of integration used when no more than three-quarters of a school’s student population are black or Hispanic.)
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has maintained in the past that the state is under no obligation to further desegregate city schools. Instead, he prefers the state focus its time and energy – and funding – on improving neighborhood schools.
Incoming Gov. Ned Lamont will be forced to decide how to proceed with the decades old Sheff vs. O’Neill lawsuit. During the election campaign, he said that he supports efforts to end court involvement.
“I happen to think we have to raise up the level of schools in the city,” he said. “I think we can take a pause on this, on the legal remedies. Let me get the educators together,” he said.
Attorneys representing Hartford youth are ready to go back to court to force further desegregation.
“We are ready and anxious to go to trial,” said Martha Stone, the leader of the Center for Children’s Advocacy and attorney for the Sheff plaintiffs.
As for the data, “I am disappointed and not surprised,” said Stone. “It’s really much too slow progress.”
State Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell said she is pleased that there are more students in integrated schools this year than last year. Overall, however, there has been no appreciable decline in segregation since 2014.
“The state remains firmly committed to increasing access to reduced isolation educational opportunities and is working collectively with partners to identify strategies to this end,” said Wentzell. “We should be heartened by this year’s report.”