State Announces Hartford Desegregation Victory, But Is it Really A Victory?

Last week, the state Department of Education announced that more Hartford Public School students attend racially diverse schools than ever before. More than twenty years after the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill case, the city is finally making headway toward its goal of desegregating capital city schools — but there is more to the story.

As the Hartford Courant reports, the reason that Hartford Schools met the threshold set out by the Sheff v. O’Neill settlement is not because of any real shift of students into more integrated schools, but because a settlement between the Sheff plaintiffs and the city allowed for less stringent rules to what constitutes as a racially diverse school.

As Courant reporters Kathleen Megan and Matthew Kauffman explain:

“Last year, in its count of Hartford minority students attending integrated schools, the state was allowed to include those enrolled in three schools that did not meet the Sheff compliance standard, which requires that black and Latino students make up no more than 75 percent of the student body.

This year, the state was allowed to count students attending three additional non-compliant schools. The settlement also permitted the state to count schools that missed the desegregation standard by less than one percentage point, which added three more schools.

Those changes added 1,068 students who would not have been included last year, accounting for 5 percent of Hartford’s minority students. Using the rules in place last year, the state would have been able to count 44 percent of Hartford minority students as attending integrated schools this year — a decline from last year’s 45.5 percent…

In fall of 2013, the percentage of Hartford minority children counted as attending integrated schools was 42.7 percent. The next year it went up to 47.5 percent, then down to 45.5 percent in the fall of 2015…”

Here’s a link to the Hartford Courant’s full article.

Though this may seem like a hollow victory — and in many ways it is —  the same June 2016 agreement that allowed for six more schools to be counted as integrated, also provided more funds to existing magnets.

According to the Connecticut Mirror, these funds were used to add grades, attributing to the 750 additional students attending magnets schools that either expanded enrollment or under the new rules are now considered integrated.

What do you think?

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