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Remaining Vigilant to “Open Doors for More Families”

Click here for the January 10 stipulation and proposed order.
 
While the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregation, stark disparities remain in Connecticut’s public education system. About 30 percent of African-American and 22 percent of Latinx youth still attend schools where at least 90 percent of students are people of color.
 
The additional seats in the two-year agreement will be augmented with $2.3 million in state funding aimed at further desegregating the region’s inter-district magnet schools.
 
Click here for press reporting on the settlement.
 
However the new seats hardly cover the over 10,000 annual applications received by the state, regional and local education agencies that manage a series of so-called “choice” programs. It also does nothing to support Hartford’s traditional neighborhood schools — or the families whose children will continue to attend them.
“Now is not the time to let down our guard in the fight to fund our future,” said Hartford Federation of Teachers President Andrea Johnson (at podium in photo, above). “Instead, we need to resist disinvestment and neglect — harmful policies that go hand-in-hand with segregation and isolation. Our city’s neighborhood schools deserve access to the same resources in this settlement,” added Johnson, who for four decades taught students in the Capitol City.
 
Click here for recent press coverage of HPS programs cuts and educator layoffs.
 
Despite three decades of gains in educational opportunity, much work remains to ensure equity, according to Sheff plaintiffs with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Housing costs and zoning laws, for example, still frustrate efforts to give more students of color access to high-quality schools. 
 
“This agreement is an important step forward in our longstanding effort to end the racial and economic segregation of the Hartford area school system,” said LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross. “We look forward to working with state officials to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to guarantee that all Hartford students have equal access to a quality education,” he added.
 
Click here for the LDF’s background on Sheff and a summary of the new agreement.
 
The stubborn nature of inequality requires that the lawsuit’s plaintiffs and education advocates maintain the push to fully fund all public schools, address housing costs and resist racial isolation. 
 
“The agreement is the result of the decades-long commitment by parents, students, educators and advocates in the Sheff Movement,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “They refuse to give up on access to quality integrated schools for every child in the Hartford area. We all must remain vigilant to open doors for more families to better learning opportunities,” added Hochadel, who previously taught science and physics in the state’s technical high schools.
 
Click here to learn more about the coalition and their ongoing advocacy.
 
The movement in 1989 began when parents sued then-Governor William O’Neill over persistent racial and economic segregation faced by students in Hartford Public Schools (HPS). Original plaintiff Elizabeth Horton Sheff articulated their commitment in remarks after the settlement was announced. She said that advocating for quality, integrated education, is about equity for all students “no matter the color of their skin or whether they are rich or poor.”
 
For union members and our allies in the Sheff Movement, that means true social justice for all Hartford’s families remains a shared dream yet to be realized.
 
Editors note: includes contributions from AFT Communications Department’s Annette Licitra.
 
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