WNPR

Connecticut Seeks To Change Sheff V. O'Neill Formula

Jun 2, 2017

The decades-long effort to desegregate Hartford schools and improve educational outcomes for its students is headed back to court. 

The case is known as Sheff v. O’Neill. As part of it, the state has to ensure that Hartford's schools have no more than 75 percent of its students who identify as black or Latino. Anything over that percentage would mean a student would be in a racially isolated school setting.

But according to documents filed this week in court, the state wants to change that formula -- increasing the number of students who identify as minorities to 80 percent for the remainder of the school lottery for the upcoming school year.

That could have the dual effects of both allowing more Hartford students to attend, but also increasing racial isolation in those schools.

The plaintiffs in the case say the move would undo more than a decade of work towards integrating the schools, and they say it would represent a "unilateral dismantling" of the Sheff desegregation system that has been in the works for 15 years.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Governor Dannel Malloy said that while the state has made progress toward integrating schools for Hartford’s minority students, too many are still denied access to empty seats in the diverse magnet schools.

The changes, the governor’s office said, would "mean that more of them would have seats in diverse, high-quality schools."

The matter now heads to a court hearing on June 13; the state has agreed to continue the school choice lottery as-is until then.