State Pursues Settlement in Sheff v O’Neill
On Thursday, Governor Lamont and Attorney General Tong announced that Connecticut had reached a final settlement in the Sheff v. O'Neill case. This decades-old litigation says that Connecticut must provide equal educational opportunity to all students, including by ending the extreme racial and economic segregation of students in Hartford and the surrounding suburban districts. The settlement was granted preliminary approval by a Hartford Superior Court judge, and now requires both legislative approval and final sign-off by the court.
The agreement would enter the state into a 10-year injunction, requiring compliance with various terms—including providing state-funded magnet schools and expanding incentives for the voluntary Open Choice program in the surrounding suburbs. According to the Hartford Courant's coverage, almost 900 Hartford students wanted to access suburban schools last year, but there were insufficient seats. The CT Mirror reports that the plan would guarantee an integrated education to every Hartford minority student who seeks one. However, our affiliate, ERN CT, observed in a brief press statement that every parent in the state ought to have a right to choose where best to enroll their child in school.
For discussions about the proposed settlement’s potential shortcomings, consult yesterday's pieces by Chris Powell and Susan Bigelow. CT News Junkie's story also included a notable statement from House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, which showed concern about an overly prescriptive solution that doesn't "effectuate truly integrated educational experiences for students regardless of race, family income, class or zip code."
Department of Ed and ERN: “CT Earns Top Equity Rating”
Last week, our national affiliate, Education Reform Now (ERN), released a new report that compares all states' K-12 federally-approved plans under the American Rescue Plan. The analysis identified Connecticut as a national leader, one of only seven states to receive a "green light" for its plan's overall emphasis on student equity. In a press statement, from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker said that the state is "committed to using these funds to address the educational and social-emotional impact this pandemic has had on all our students and school staff." In a joint opinion for the CT Mirror, ERN CT State Director Amy Dowell and ERN Senior Policy Analyst Nicholas Munyan-Penney explore the ways that Connecticut stands out, and argue for accountability as the plan is being implemented.
Education Secretary Cardona’s Priorities
On Thursday, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a speech that lays out his vision for education. He empathized with educators who have struggled to meet the challenges of the pandemic, but he stood fast on the importance of maintaining in-person learning. He also pushed to "level up our entire system of education," urging school leaders to address mental health, academic learning loss, and systemic inequities. In addition, he laid out specific goals, including tutoring for every student who has fallen behind, a career counselor in every high school, and an activity outside of the classroom for every high schooler.