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Civil-Rights Group Alleges Racial Bias in Hartford Schools

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The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) has complained to two federal agencies that the Hartford school system is violating the rights of minority students by spending less money educating minorities than it spends on white students.

The allegation is based on a 90-page study, conducted by the organization's executive director, that found higher pupil-teacher ratios, teachers with fewer years of experience, and more minority teachers and principals in schools that had high percentages of minority students.

Input Linked to Performance

Because standardized test scores of students in "minority" schools are lower than those of students in "white" schools, "a link between educational inputs and student performance exists," the civil-liberties organization said in an announcement of the action.

In documents filed late in May with the Justice and Education Departments, the or-ganization claimed that inequities in the distribution of school resources violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In lodging the Justice Department complaint, officials of the civil-liberties organization said they would attempt to take advantage of a Reagan Administration plan to bring lawsuits against school systems that provide unequal resources to minority students in lieu of seeking busing orders to desegregate schools.

None of the Hartford school system's 25,500 students--86 percent of whom come from minority families--are required to ride buses for desegregation purposes. The

school system has a voluntary desegregation program, in which 209 students participate, according to a school system spokesman.

The CCLU study examined 24 elementary schools, 15 of which were labeled "minority" because 87 percent or more of the students attending those schools were from minority families. Nine other schools, with minority enrollments ranging from 21 percent to 67 percent, were classified as "white."

Differences Found by Study

Among the differences between the two sets of Hartford elementary schools, the CCLU study found:

The minority schools have "significantly higher" percentages of inexperienced and non-tenured teachers than the white schools. Because of the lack of teaching experience, the median teacher's salary in the minority schools is $1,200 less than that in the white schools.

Fifty-two percent of the teachers in the minority schools hold master's degrees; in the white schools, 71 percent of teachers hold master's degrees.

The ratio of pupils to teachers is 29 to 1 in the minority schools, compared to 24 to 1 in the white schools. The ratio of pupils to school administrators is 358 to 1 in the minority schools, compared to 312 to 1 in the white schools.

Nine percent of teachers in the white schools are minorities; in the minority schools, 46 percent of teachers are minorities. All of the school system's black elementary-school principals and vice-principals serve in minority schools.

The study also criticized the Hartford school system for not providing "school-by-school budgeting," and it recommended that the Connecticut education department require school systems to conduct "a school-by-school audit of funds ... in order to prevent misallocation of funds to schools."

But Hernan LaFontaine, the Hartford school superintendent, said that detailed budget information for each school "is regularly collected and is available."

Offical to Analyze Report

A school-system official has been assigned to "analyze the report carefully and check all the data."

"If any of the findings are true, we will take corrective action," the superintendent said.

Mr. LaFontaine added that although he had not yet read the study in detail, he was "surprised" to find that school officials were criticized for assigning minority teachers to teach in schools attended by minority students.

"There was a time when civil-rights groups were pushing to have more minority teachers and administrators in minority schools--to be role models, and so on. Now, I guess there's been another turn of public opinion," he said.

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