STATISTICS DON'T LIE - THEY JUST
GET MANIPULATED...IS THIS WHAT YOU INTERPRET FROM THE
NOTE: Farmington and Avon reversed by Courant
graphics department-- all these suburban town look the same to the
NEWS FLASH: The emperor isn't wearing
Regional taxation for schools may be in the wind...like
Westchester? Or New Jersey model?
OP-ED | Real School
Desegregation Impossible Under Current System
by Susan Bigelow | Nov 25, 2011 1:42pm
In 1996 the state Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill
case that racially and ethnically isolated schools in Hartford were
unconstitutional. They instructed the state to take measures to correct
the de facto school segregation that characterized both city and
suburban schools, but provided little guidance for how they should do
so. Since then, the state and the Sheff plaintiffs have come to an
agreement which is supposed to allow for 80 percent of Hartford
students seeking seats in school choice programs to be seated by next
October. It’s not going that well, though there is still optimism that
the state will meet its goal.
The alternatives to city schools, though they clearly work well for
some students, aren’t perfect. Suburban districts accept a small number
of students, while others who want out of the city’s failing schools
look for seats at regional charter or magnet schools. This doesn’t
necessarily fix isolation, however. Students attending suburban schools
are not always accepted by their suburban, often white peers. When I
was a student teacher and later a full time high school teacher in
Hartford-area suburban schools, it was easy to see how students,
faculty and administrators often turned their backs on the Project
Choice kids, creating a new de facto segregation.
Charter and magnet schools, the other hope for fixing school
segregation, are also extremely racially isolated, as Jonathan Pelto
points out. They also often don’t deliver on their promises of better
education; when socioeconomic factors are accounted for, many
charter/magnet schools don’t outperform the districts they draw from.
There are some shining exceptions, of course, like the Amistad Academy
in New Haven, but they are just that: exceptions.
So what to do? Charter and magnet schools offer some hope, though they
aren’t perfect. But even if the state meets its Sheff-mandated target
next year, will Hartford’s schools really be desegregated? Will
Bloomfield’s, where the high school is 98 percent nonwhite even though
the town itself is far more diverse? Are the economic and social
barriers that come along with racial isolation for minority students
ever going to ease? If the current system isn’t working, maybe next
year’s legislative session should consider more drastic solutions.
One of the institutions declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court
in 1996 was the system of exclusive town-based school districts, which
drew rigid district boundaries along town lines. The establishment of
charter schools and regional academies as alternatives to town or city
schools was supposed to be the solution, as they drew from multiple
districts. However, the actual problem that town-based districts
generate remains: when parents who have enough money don’t like a
school district for all kinds of reasons, including discomfort with the
racial and economic mix in the schools, they leave. Parents who don’t
have enough money stay, leading to pockets of poverty and its attendant
miseries. This is the story of Hartford and its suburbs since the
1950s, and no school choice program as they currently stand can really
alter that fundamental reality.
Maybe it’s time to admit that town-based school districts aren’t the
best way to educate our students, and look into another model. Not only
are town-based districts expensive for municipal governments to
maintain and heavily dependent on state aid, but they are redundant,
offer little choice to those living within them and, most importantly,
encourage racial and economic segregation. To truly integrate the
students of Greater Hartford and provide real school choice, school
systems should combine to form a consolidated regional school district.
This isn’t a new idea. Wake County in North Carolina did just this in
the 1970s, largely because of the racial discrepancies between Raleigh
city schools and the suburbs. Wake County’s system is one of the
largest in the country, and is noted for its racial integration
efforts. While it has problems such as long bus rides for students and
the shuffling of students between schools, it still can serve as a
model for such a fragmented region as ours. Why shouldn’t we explore a
single Hartford County school district, or, failing that, a single
Greater Hartford district for those towns at the region’s core?
Such a move would be controversial, of course, but there would be
tangible benefits to the state’s schoolchildren and taxpayers. Students
would have far more choice in where they wanted to go to school,
instead of being restricted to a few local schools, and more highly
specialized programs could be developed. Teachers and schools could be
held to a single, consistent standard enforced by a regional district
agency. Administrative costs and duties could be centralized and
streamlined. Yes, some towns would lose the high test score bragging
rights they so jealously guard, but the dismantling of walls between
towns would be the price of better education for everyone. And, if
Hartford area schools pioneer regionalization, they could serve as a
model for the integration of school districts across the state.
Gov. Malloy has indicated that school reform will be the focus of
2012’s short legislative session. I hope he and our legislators examine
this and other unconventional ways of making our schools better for
everyone. Connecticut’s children can’t wait.
Martha Stone, Sheff attorney
Backers say charter schools could help
state reach integration goals
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
October 28, 2011
With the state falling well short of complying with a court order to
desegregate schools in Hartford, lawyers and advocates are urging
inclusion of charter schools in the effort.
"These schools have an untapped potential to expand diversity," said
Philip Tegeler, one of the original lawyers who filed the Sheff vs.
O'Neill desegregation suit and is now with the Sheff Movement. "Why
shouldn't charter schools be part of the solution?"
To comply with the state Supreme Court order to reduce the inequities
caused by racial isolation in Hartford's schools, the state needs to
have 41 percent of minority students attending integrated schools by
next October, or provide 80 percent of the Hartford students that apply
to attend non-traditional public schools the opportunity to do so. The
state had just 27 percent of its 21,713 minority students attending
integrated schools last school year.
So does the state intend to start looking to charter schools to fill
"I know it's something that's being considered," said Rep. Andy
Fleischmann, the House chairman of the Education Committee.
But one main sticking point is finding the state funding to open new
charters that promise to be racially integrated.
"The state has an obligation to provide great, racially diverse
schools. Charter schools should be another tool in the toolbox," said
Martha Stone, a lawyer for the Sheff plaintiffs.
The three existing charter schools in the Sheff region that
collectively have 1,050 students are under no obligation to be racially
integrated. Jumoke Academy and Achievement First elementary and middle
school would fail the racial integration qualifications, with 99
percent of their students being minorities, according to the State
Department of Education's most recent report. Odyssey Community School
in Manchester, which is part of the Sheff Region, is racially
integrated, with half of their students being minorities.
Stone and Tegeler are not suggesting existing charters in the Sheff
Region be required to diversify, because they have admirable
Instead, they want all new charters that open to be required to be
integrated and be included in Sheff calculations.
"If the state is going to spend money on opening charters then they
should help the state meet its obligation to provide a quality
education in an integrated setting," said Stone.
Charter school leader Dacia Toll, the president of Achievement First, a
network of charters based in the Connecticut, New York and Rhode
Last year, Toll approached top state legislators asking for permission
to open a new racially integrated charter high school for 420 student
in Hartford that would help the state comply with Sheff.
But their proposal never came to fruition.
"It's still under discussion," Fleischmann said.
And while the state deliberates on Toll's offer to open an integrated
high school, which could cost the state more money to help her provide
transportation to suburban students, she in hoping to move forward with
opening a traditional charter school--a cheaper option for the state
but not helpful to get the state in compliance with Sheff integration
"We are looking at our other options now," she said. "It's not from a
lack of support to make us a Sheff school, the resources are just
Officials: Efforts to reduce
racial isolation need overhaul
Jacqueline Rabe, CT MIRROR
December 8, 2010
The state is still falling far short of compliance with a court order
to reduce the racial isolation of Hartford's largely black and Hispanic
school population, and advocates say drastic changes will be needed to
avoid further legal action.
"State officials need to take this court order much more seriously. If
they continue down the same path they will not meet the requirements.
They need to do something drastic, and soon," said Martha Stone, one of
the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Scheff vs O'Neill lawsuit. That
lawsuit led to the 1996 the state Supreme Court order to desegregate
The State Department of Education reported this week just over one
quarter of Hartford's 21,713 minority schoolchildren now attend
integrated magnet, charter, technical, agricultural or suburban schools
- well short of the 35 percent target. By October 2012, the state must
have 41 percent of minority students attending integrated schools or
provide 80 percent of those students that want to leave their local
schools with the opportunity to do so.
The Hartford Board of Education estimates that currently 62 percent of
students that want to leave their schools have the opportunity to do
so. The SDOE does not calculate that figure.
"It's a very complicated problem to untangle," Education Commissioner
Mark McQuillan told the city school board Tuesday night. "This could
rest with the Supreme Court deciding what we have to do... A
court-ordered solutions might not render the best set of solutions."
Hartford and state school officials discuss flagging efforts to reduce
racial isolation in city schools
Since the court order, the state's emphasis - and its money - have
mainly gone to building magnet schools with specialty themes such as
performing arts or environmental sciences in hopes of attracting a
racially-diverse student population. The state has spent almost $1
billion building these schools.
But education leaders and lawmakers are now rejecting that approach,
calling it too expensive as the state faces multi-billion deficits in
the coming years.
"We have received as much benefit as we are going to get from building
magnet schools," said Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, D-Meriden and co-chairman
of the legislature's Education Committee. "We are not going to build
our way into compliance."
Gaffey and McQuillan both say in order to get the state in compliance,
enrollment of Hartford students into suburban schools needs to explode.
There are currently 1,300 Harford students enrolled in suburban schools
compared to the nearly 4,200 city minority students enrolled in magnet
To comply with the court order, 3,500 additional students need to be
enrolled in an integrated school, either in Hartford or a nearby
district by October 2012. But increasing enrollment in magnet schools
cannot be a solution without building new schools. There are 14,500
students on wait lists to enroll in Hartford's 12 magnet schools right
now, Hartford Superintendent Steven Adamowski said.
Adamowski told McQuillan Tuesday night that sending students to
suburban schools to comply with the court order would be "detrimental"
to the education provided in Hartford.
"For us to send another 3,500 out of our district, you can only imagine
what the impact will be," he said, estimating six or seven schools
would need to close and several hundred teachers and staff would be
Ada M. Miranda, Hartford's school board chairwoman, also does not
support expanding the number of students sent to suburban schools
through the Open Choice Program.
"It works against what we are trying to accomplish," she told
McQuillan. "Why does Hartford have to loose kids?... Parents seem to
like having more opportunities, but the dilemma is we want to keep our
But McQuillan and Gaffey say the state is quickly approaching a
deadline to comply, and spending millions to build more magnet schools
cannot be an option, so the focus has to be on finding students a spot
in suburban schools.
The problem is suburban districts have been slow to accept these
students, often blaming the lack of space or insufficient
reimbursements from the state for these students. The state currently
reimburses suburban districts $2,500 for each student Hartford student
they enroll. McQuillan and the State Board of Education are proposing
increasing that amount up to $6,000 per student for districts that
enroll more students.
Bruce E. Douglas, executive director of the regional organization that
manages the Open Choice program that sends students to suburban schools
as well as numerous magnet schools, said the answer to desegregate
schools is obvious.
"Open choice is cheaper. The state has wrongly chosen to pay for magnet
schools at the expense of spending more money to incentivize suburban
schools. This $2,500 reimbursement does not cover the costs for these
suburban districts, it has to be increased," he said.
And if the $6,000 reimbursement education leaders are proposing is not
enough of an incentive for districts to begin accepting more or any
students, McQuillan wants state lawmakers to grant him the authority to
require districts accept more students.
"We need more tools to get into compliance. This is one of them," he
That proposal is supported by Gaffey, whose committee will consider it
in the upcoming legislative session that begins in January.
"The reality is if you want to solve this dilemma then the commissioner
of education has to have that type of power," he said. "This is not
going to be solved by just looking for volunteers to open up slots in
their schools. Finding the money to provide incentives to them is not
Stone said she hopes lawmakers decide soon what to do, because the
current approach is not working.
"They have the freedom to choose how they are going to get into
compliance. What they don't have the freedom to do is to continue down
this path that will keep them in noncompliance," she said.
Student Count In Question: Sheff Plaintiffs File Motion To Have Special
Master Take Over From State
By STEVEN GOODE
December 12, 2009
The plaintiffs in the Sheff desegregation lawsuit are alleging that the
state is out of compliance with the court-ordered agreement and are
seeking to appoint a special master to take over its administration.
In a motion filed in Superior Court Friday, attorneys representing the
plaintiffs say the state has failed to reach a court-ordered benchmark
of teaching 27 percent of the city's minority students in a racially
diverse setting this school year.
The stipulation was part of a 2008 agreement between the plaintiffs and
the state in the landmark Sheff decision. The state Supreme Court ruled
in 1996 that city children attending Hartford public schools were
racially, ethnically and economically isolated in violation of the
The motion filed Friday contends that the state Department of
Education's claim that it has met the 27 percent goal depends, in part,
on improperly counting 521 Hartford minority students who attend Naylor
Elementary School as learning in a diverse setting.
If those students are counted, the percentage of city minority students
learning in more diverse classrooms is 27.3 percent. But the plaintiffs
claim that those students shouldn't count toward the goal, resulting in
a compliance rate of 24.9 percent.
At issue is whether the state can classify Naylor as an Open Choice
school and take advantage of a 5 percentage point variance that would
put the district in compliance with the Sheff agreement. Open Choice
allows city students to enroll in suburban schools.
The state has claimed that Naylor can qualify as an Open Choice school
by counting 11 suburban students who have chosen to attend the school.
But 10 of those 11 students are minorities, which the complaint argues
actually increases racial isolation at the school rather than decreases
The complaint also claims that only those 11 students coming from the
suburbs could be classified as Open Choice students, not the 521
minority students who live in the city.
The motion seeks the appointment of a special master who would oversee
and ensure compliance with the Sheff decision.
A special master could also compel the state legislature to increase
funding for programs that reduce racial and ethnic isolation, such as
increased funding for Hartford-run magnet schools and more money to
suburban districts participating in the Open Choice program.
State Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy said Friday that, as
was the case initially with Hartford-run magnet schools, Naylor
experienced an increase in minority enrollment from the suburbs.
But Murphy said that through marketing and showing that Hartford
neighborhood schools such as Naylor provide a quality education, he
expected future enrollment to bring in more non-minority students from
the suburbs and reduce racial isolation further.
"We think the plaintiffs need to be flexible on this issue," Murphy
said. "If we don't have money, we need flexibility."
Wesley Horton, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment
Friday, pending a hearing on the motion.
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford