Let us say first that we believe in magnet schools. We believe in neighborhood schools, too. Unfortunately, we believe the state has done everything in it’s power to avoid taking real responsibility for Hartford schools, despite the Sheff v. O’Neill ruling that says they are obligated to combat segregation and provide equal educational opportunity for all students. These failures of the state are playing out right now at a school that predates that ruling by a full decade.
Starting in the fall of 2019, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts will split into two schools. There will be a full-day school with academics and arts enrichment, and a half-day professional arts training program. Students will have to choose one school or the other. However, for the last six years, Hartford Public School district (HPS) has refused to bus Hartford students to the half-day program. Knowing this, CREC Superintendent Timothy Sullivan still went ahead with his plan, leaving Hartford students with no real access to the professional training program (there are a handful of students that go to Bulkeley in the morning but they have to walk to the half-day program. They are often late and therefore miss important Academy classes).
Why won’t HPS bus their students? Because the school choice system we have says that money follows the student. Schools, and therefore districts, are in constant competition for students dollars. So while HPS is closing schools, supposedly due to low enrollment, they sure aren’t going help CREC get more student dollars.
Although Sullivan says he rushed this decision through in order to give families time to re-enter the lottery, this has actually been the plan since May of 2018. CREC didn’t let the public know until the middle of October. You see, October 1 is the date by which the state calculates how much money each school gets based on their number of students. By waiting until after October 1, Sullivan didn’t risk losing student dollars for the school year.
And for CREC, it all comes down to dollars. For years the non-profit organization has subsidized its 16 schools through their lucrative real estate and construction side jobs. But the state is pushing CREC out of this business, and CREC is passing that pain onto its schools.
At this point, HPS and CREC are in cahoots in segregating our students, directly in violation of Sheff. Systemically though, this is the planned outcome and effects of a market-based education regime that pits schools against each other.
The city, the state and CREC can, and will point fingers at each other, but the only real victims here are the students.
Julia Rosenblatt and Ajia Loomis are the parents of Hartford school children.
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