Twenty years after Connecticut State Supreme Court ruled that Hartford Public Schools had to immediately desegregate, more than half of all Hartford- area students still go to racially isolated schools — how is it that we haven’t followed through with the promise of Sheff v. O’Neill?
Obviously, there aren’t any simple answers to this question: Why hasn’t Connecticut figured out how to successfully desegregate schools? Hartford isn’t alone here either. There are plenty of other U.S. cities in the same boat — or worse off.
The most recent PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools may shed some light on what’s going on.
Take a look at their findings on attitudes towards school diversity:
Parents of school-aged children see racial and economic diversity in the classroom as positives in general — but fewer are persuaded of their importance or practical value, and most don’t see school diversity as worthy of a longer commute.
Seven in 10 parents overall say they would rather see their child attend a school where the student body is racially diverse, with 49% feeling that way strongly. However:
Fewer (55%) say it’s very or extremely important that schools have a mix of students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds — with sharp racial divisions in this view.
Just more than half say that such a mix of students improves the learning environment.
But only one-quarter of parents say that they’d like their child to attend a racially diverse school and that they’d accept a longer commute to do it.
The Gap In Parent’s Views On Diversity
PDK’s annual poll is a yearly survey on education. One of the oldest in the country. PDK has collected data on public views since 1969.
While there’s been a lot of focus on this year on the poll’s findings on standardizing testing — some of which was a bit misleading — the results on diversity shows a vast divide between the views of white and black parents. While 72 percent of black parents view racial diversity as “highly important,” less than half of white parents view it as such.
Now, this isn’t stated specific data, but it does speak volumes when you consider the difficulties that Hartford has had with integrating schools.Particularly if you take into consideration that only a quarter of parents viewed diversity as important enough to travel to a school that is geographically further.
In other words, while a majority of parents value racial diversity, most of them aren’t willing to move their child outside of their neighborhoods to seek it out, and yet, this is what school integration programs hinge on: Parents willing to bus their children into either Open-Choice schools in the suburbs or Magnet schools in cities.
The district is in a lose/lose situation
The state invested billions of dollars in the Hartford’s interdistrict magnet school system in a bid to integrate schools, but because those schools are struggling to find enough white, affluent students to meet the state-imposed quota of 25 percent, seats go unfilled.
The state tried to renegotiate the quota down from 25 percent, but the courts have thus far shut down the attempts.
These poll results reaffirm what Hartford has already experienced. Most parents want to send their children to racially diverse schools, but not many are willing to bus their children away from their home districts to seek it out. Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard for magnet schools to keep up with the quota?