Equity & Diversity

Student Transfers Proposed in Conn. Desegregation Plan

By Jeff Archer — December 04, 1996 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Connecticut could wind up with one of the country’s most far-reaching student-transfer programs as officials try to eliminate racial imbalances between urban schools and their suburban neighbors.

The state school board is considering whether students from Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven should be able to attend any school in the state. Still in draft form and lacking details, the plan would require suburban districts to open 5 percent of their seats for transfers, and would provide some state construction money where more space is needed.

Up to 10 percent of the students in each of the urban districts could transfer, according to the plan.

This month, the board will consider including the plan in its annual package of education proposals for the state legislature, which reconvenes in January.

The concept of interdistrict transfers has emerged as an attractive option for officials working to alleviate persistent segregation around the Hartford city schools.

In deciding a 7-year-old desegregation lawsuit, Sheff v. O’Neill, the Connecticut Supreme Court in July ruled 4-3 that the racial and ethnic isolation in the Hartford district violated the state constitution’s protection against segregation. (“Conn. Supreme Court Orders Desegregation for Hartford,” Aug. 7, 1996.)

In recent weeks, elements of a possible remedy have come from the state school board, the plaintiffs in the case, and the Educational Improvement Panel, a 22-member group of lawmakers, education officials, and community leaders appointed after the ruling.

The panel now faces a Jan. 23 deadline for making recommendations to the legislature.

Under the draft board proposal to allow urban students to choose outside schools, school funds would follow transferring students from one school to another.

‘Voluntary’ Not Enough

“This is in the talking stage,” cautioned board Chairman Craig Toensing, who also sits on the Educational Improvement Panel. “It’s not anything more than committee work.”

But Mr. Toensing believes some kind of transfer plan will emerge in whatever recommendations the panel finally adopts.

“There’s going to have to be a movement of people, and the question is how that’s going to happen,” he said.

About 600 of Hartford’s 25,000 students already attend school in neighboring districts through a 30-year-old voluntary transfer program.

To help alleviate the racial isolation of Hartford, however, the state board’s more comprehensive transfer plan would mandate that districts participate, a stipulation that worries some Connecticut education groups. But Mr. Toensing doubts a voluntary plan would work.

“If it’s left strictly up to voluntary participation, I don’t think enough will get done,” Mr. Toensing said.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit recently submitted 30 pages of desegregation “guidelines” for the Educational Improvement Panel to consider.

State-Run Magnets?

The document stipulated that the city’s schools should have programs, facilities, and resources “at least equal to” those of the state’s other schools.

While supporting the chance for more city students to attend school in the suburbs, the plaintiffs also suggested that the suburban students need to be permitted--and encouraged--to move to the city’s schools, unless the transfer increases the racial imbalance between districts.

“The accumulation of court opinions over the years have suggested that the burden of transportation should not be on one group,” said Charles V. Willie, a desegregation expert from Harvard University who testified for the plaintiffs during the case.

One of the more novel suggestions the plaintiffs offered was to create state-run magnet schools, which they termed “lighthouse schools,” located in or near urban areas. The guidelines further suggested that the state coordinate its low-income-housing programs with school desegregation in mind.

Despite the support building around the transfer proposal, the plaintiffs have run into some friction with the Educational Improvement Panel, which they say has been slow to address the state supreme court’s mandate.

The panel’s members recently rated 129 individual options for creating a remedy--from mandatory student reassignment to consolidating districts. The group planned this week to decide which ones deserved further consideration.

Proposals with the highest support included using magnet schools to draw suburban students to urban areas, creating state-financed regional preschool centers, and allowing parents greater choice in selecting their children’s schools.

“They brainstormed, but then used their ideas almost as a popularity contest,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer on the plaintiffs’ legal team. “Providing a remedy for a court order is not about what’s popular.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 1996 edition of Education Week as Student Transfers Proposed in Conn. Desegregation Plan

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty