Judge approves settlement in 33-year-old segregation case for Hartford schools

A Hartford judge has given preliminary approval for a final deal to end a 33-year-old segregation case regarding Hartford schools.
In 1989, the Sheff vs. O'Neill accused Hartford schools of being overly segregated. Seven years later, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed. That ruling led to the Open Choice program that also lets Bridgeport and New Haven students attend suburban schools.
Since then, the case has been regularly litigated as Hartford parents complained the state did too little to address racial inequities.
Thursday's settlement would end direct court oversight. It also means a massive expansion of the magnet school programs and Open Choice in Hartford.
State lawmakers will need to approve the settlement before it goes back to the judge for final approval.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SETTLEMENT FROM GOV. NED LAMONT'S OFFICE:
  • To the extent necessary to meet demand for Choice seats by Hartford students, the State will increase available Choice seats over the number of available seats in 2020-21 by up to 783 seats by 23-24, up to 1,863 seats by 25-26, and up to 2,737 seats by 28-29.
  • By 2025-26, the state expects to meet entry grade demand for Hartford students for Choice schools operated by Hartford and others.
  • By 2028-29, the state expects to meet demand for Hartford students for all grades in Choice schools.
  • The state will continue to make ongoing adjustments to continue to meet demand as it changes over the years, with continuing measurable assessments of demand in 2031-32 and every three years thereafter.
  • Ongoing court jurisdiction will end with the approval of this agreement.  The state will be subject to an injunction for 10 years requiring its continued compliance with the material terms of the agreement, but there will no ongoing court involvement unless there is a claim of material noncompliance.
  • State funding will include the costs of all additional seats identified above, to the extent needed to meet demand.  In addition to added seats at existing Choice magnet schools, the State will provide financial incentives for suburban Open Choice schools to accept additional Hartford students up to a goal of 450 new seats over existing Open Choice seats.  Open Choice is a voluntary program that enables Hartford students to attend suburban schools, and for suburban students to attend Hartford schools.
  • In addition, new or expanded programs include the following:
  • a dual language magnet at Dwight-Bellizzi School in Hartford, beginning with PK4 and phasing-in through 8th grade year-by-year.
  • a new Goodwin University early literacy preschool Choice program in a renovated building in Rocky Hill.
  • a new Goodwin University technical high school magnet, focused on advanced manufacturing, in a renovated building on the Goodwin property for 9th-12th grade students.
  • addition of early college programming at Connecticut IB (International Baccalaureate) Academy in East Hartford with expansion to capacity.
  • retheming and expansion of Two Rivers and Civic Leadership magnet schools to focus on computer programming and coding with partnerships with Amazon and Microsoft.
  • implementation of a half day program at Goodwin University for Hartford and suburban students for Early College Advanced Manufacturing Pathway™ (ECAMP™) model to expand opportunities for dual-credit programming.
  • expansion of pre-k programs in existing magnet schools.
Because certain current Choice schools are not presently meeting diversity and reduced racial isolation goals, the agreement also provides for $12.6 million to operators over 3 years, beginning in FY23, to reformulate those schools to make them sufficiently attractive to appeal to a more diverse student body.
Among other things, those efforts will include:
  • $6.8 million to provide or increase athletics at magnets.
  • $7.8 million for enhanced extracurricular offerings at magnets.
  • Continuing audits and enhancements for schools that are not yet meeting diversity goals.
  • Additional financial and other supports to help all Open Choice and magnet schools become more welcoming and inclusive to all students.