From the LWVCT WEBsite, modified:
Sheff v. O'Neill AGREEMENT REACHED...2008 version.

2,500 Hartford students to have chance to attend different school
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
April 30, 2013

Having run out of time to comply with a court order to desegregate Hartford's schools, the state has entered into a new agreement that will expand school choice opportunities for 2,523 more students.  The new order -- agreed to Tuesday by the Connecticut Attorney General and the plaintiffs in the state's landmark Sheff vs. O'Neill supreme court decision -- requires the state to pay to open four new magnet schools, offer more Hartford students seats in vocational-technical high schools and send more children to suburban schools.

"For all the children that have benefited, this is terrific," Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger said before signing off on the one-year agreement.

The state has spent billions to open integrated schools since the state Supreme Court ordered the state nearly 20 years ago to eliminate the inequities caused by segregating students.  But despite these efforts, the state has routinely fallen short of the benchmarks they have agreed upon.

This school year, 37 percent of Hartford's students are attending integrated schools -- 4 percentage points shy of the number the state agreed to reach in a settlement five years ago.  Addressing the court before the new one-year agreement was approved, the mother responsible for successfully suing the state nearly 20 years ago on behalf of her son told the court she is growing impatient for parents with children still in school.

"I am the person in the street that parents go to and say, 'I didn't get into a magnet school,'" Elizabeth Horton Sheff said.

"We are making progress. We are not there," she said.

[Please read the rest of this article at the CT MIRROR website]

Read details of the new schools and the agreement here.

Sheff started it, and JEF went further
Group Ups The Ante In Education Lawsuit With High- Powered Law Firm
by Christine Stuart | May 16, 2012 12:50pm

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy may have signed what supporters are calling a sweeping education reform bill Tuesday, but its 185-pages don’t begin to touch upon how the state finances all of its public schools.

That thorny issue is expected to be dealt with by the legislature next year or a court in 2014, the year the education adequacy lawsuit is scheduled to go back to trial.

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding sued the state back in 2005 alleging that under the state’s Constitution, not only are students entitled to a public education but they also are entitled to one that works, one that assures them, at minimum, an adequate education. The state Supreme Court agreed in a 4-3 decision in 2010, which sent the case back to the trial court.

In an effort to convince the state of Connecticut to settle the lawsuit out of court, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has upped the ante by acquiring the pro bono services of a prestigious New York law firm with deep pockets.

Earlier this week, the organization announced that Debevoise & Plimpton LLP will take over as chief legal counsel. Yale Law School’s Education Adequacy Project will continue its pro bono involvement with the case, but instead of being the lead law firm it continue in a supporting role.

And, after guiding the case to a Supreme Court victory, Yale doesn’t mind taking a back seat.

“We are delighted that Debevoise & Plimpton, one of the nation’s leading law firms, has agreed to join this vital lawsuit,” Yale Law School Dean Robert C. Post said. “The students of the law school’s Education Adequacy Project have litigated this case since it was filed in 2005, and we are grateful for the participation of Debevoise as the case moves into the trial stage.”

[Please read the rest of this article at the CT NEWS JUNKIE website]

Officials: Efforts to reduce racial isolation need overhaul
Jacqueline Rabe, CT MIRROR
December 8, 2010

The state is still falling far short of compliance with a court order to reduce the racial isolation of Hartford's largely black and Hispanic school population, and advocates say drastic changes will be needed to avoid further legal action.

"State officials need to take this court order much more seriously. If they continue down the same path they will not meet the requirements. They need to do something drastic, and soon," said Martha Stone, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Scheff vs O'Neill lawsuit. That lawsuit led to the 1996 the state Supreme Court order to desegregate Hartford schools.

The State Department of Education reported this week just over one quarter of Hartford's 21,713 minority schoolchildren now attend integrated magnet, charter, technical, agricultural or suburban schools - well short of the 35 percent target. By October 2012, the state must have 41 percent of minority students attending integrated schools or provide 80 percent of those students that want to leave their local schools with the opportunity to do so.

The Hartford Board of Education estimates that currently 62 percent of students that want to leave their schools have the opportunity to do so. The SDOE does not calculate that figure.

"It's a very complicated problem to untangle," Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan told the city school board Tuesday night. "This could rest with the Supreme Court deciding what we have to do... A court-ordered solutions might not render the best set of solutions."

[Please read the rest of this article at the CT MIRROR website]

New federal rule complicates desegregation efforts
Robert A. Frahm, CT MIRROR
September 7, 2010

On an enrollment form at Hartford's Classical Magnet School, seventh-grader Elisa Laureano's mother lists Elisa's race as white but also checks a box categorizing her ethnicity as "Hispanic." So is Elisa white? Hispanic? Both?

For Classical Magnet, it's a $4 million question.

Under a federal rule that takes effect this year, students can identify themselves in multiple racial and ethnic categories. Critics say the rule could upset a variety of race-related programs, from measuring academic achievement to ensuring civil rights compliance.

Deschines, Alexis 9-7-10 3x2

Alexis Deschenes: 'It feels good to identify myself as both races'

One immediate impact in Connecticut is that the rule complicates the process of determining whether schools such as Classical meet the racial balance standards in the court-supervised desegregation settlement of the Sheff vs. O'Neill desegregation case.

Schools throughout the region take their official census on Oct. 1, and depending on how the question is resolved, some could lose their magnet status - and a financial lifeline from the state.

"We have a problem," said Classical Principal Tim Sullivan. "It could be a game-breaker for us."

[Please read the rest of this article at the CT MIRROR website]

Student Count In Question: Sheff Plaintiffs File Motion To Have Special Master Take Over From State

Hartford Courant
December 12, 2009


The plaintiffs in the Sheff desegregation lawsuit are alleging that the state is out of compliance with the court-ordered agreement and are seeking to appoint a special master to take over its administration.

In a motion filed in Superior Court Friday, attorneys representing the plaintiffs say the state has failed to reach a court-ordered benchmark of teaching 27 percent of the city's minority students in a racially diverse setting this school year.

The stipulation was part of a 2008 agreement between the plaintiffs and the state in the landmark Sheff decision. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that city children attending Hartford public schools were racially, ethnically and economically isolated in violation of the state's constitution.

The motion filed Friday contends that the state Department of Education's claim that it has met the 27 percent goal depends, in part, on improperly counting 521 Hartford minority students who attend Naylor Elementary School as learning in a diverse setting.

If those students are counted, the percentage of city minority students learning in more diverse classrooms is 27.3 percent. But the plaintiffs claim that those students shouldn't count toward the goal, resulting in a compliance rate of 24.9 percent.

At issue is whether the state can classify Naylor as an Open Choice school and take advantage of a 5 percentage point variance that would put the district in compliance with the Sheff agreement. Open Choice allows city students to enroll in suburban schools.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Sheff Parties Ask Legislators To Approve Settlement
By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKER | Courant Staff Writer
April 16, 2008

Representatives from both sides of the state's 19-year-old Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation lawsuit on Tuesday urged lawmakers to embrace the latest proposed settlement, saying it stands the best chance yet of achieving what earlier efforts have not: desegregating Hartford schools.

"We signed this agreement because we believe it could be done," said Dennis Parker, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, testifying before the legislature's education committee. "We recognize it involves hard work but we are willing to put in that hard work."

The proposed settlement, reached earlier this month, outlines measures that include building magnet schools in Hartford-area suburbs and expanding the number of slots for Hartford students in suburban public schools, racially integrated preschools and technical and agricultural high schools. It would also streamline the application process to magnet schools, improve transportation and support for Hartford students attending schools in other districts, and give the plaintiffs a role overseeing the desegregation efforts.

If it's successful, by the time the settlement expires in 2013, at least 80 percent of Hartford students who seek places in a racially integrated school will have them.

The proposed accord would replace a 2003 settlement, which expired last summer far short of its goals. The new proposal doesn't spell out how to achieve the new goals, but requires officials to create a comprehensive plan by Nov. 30, and specifies many items that must be included.

"There is no moment to be lost if we're to implement this by December," state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said, urging approval of the plan.

Lawmakers offered a mixed reception.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Path To Integration
Hartford Courant
April 5, 2008

Schools Chief Makes A Pitch; Adamowski Seeks Regional District
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
November 15, 2007

A regional school district that would craft and run interdistrict schools could be an effective way to diminish the racial and economic isolation of Hartford's schoolchildren, the city's superintendent of schools, Steven Adamowski, testified Wednesday.

The existence of 166 local and regional school districts in 169 towns has had the effect of segregating minority children, he said in the final day of testimony at Superior Court in Hartford in the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation case.

"All the poor students are bottled up in one place. It is essentially the reason we have the Sheff case," said Adamowski, whose city is now party to the case.

Adamowski testified that he has offered a series of suggestions to state education officials, including the creation of a regional school district for the 22 towns that are subject to the Sheff litigation. Such a district would spend state funds to create and operate magnet schools and interdistrict programs under its own school board. It would not replace existing school boards and school districts, but function alongside them.

"I'm very concerned we have no takers in the suburbs for magnet schools," he said, speaking after his testimony. A regional district should have enough authority to build new schools anywhere within the 22 towns, including Hartford, he said.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Day 4 In Sheff Case Reveals Rift
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
November 10, 2007

Testimony by the state's education commissioner on the fourth day of a hearing on the Sheff vs. O'Neill desegregation lawsuit revealed a testy relationship between Hartford's superintendent of schools and the state Department of Education over state efforts to quicken the pace of desegregation.

The Sheff lawsuit, filed in 1989, resulted in an order by the state Supreme Court in 1996 to end the racial, ethnic and economic isolation of Hartford's minority students. The court left it to the state and the plaintiffs to decide how to do that. Now the plaintiffs say desegregation efforts have fallen short, and they are in Superior Court appealing for help.

State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan on Friday summarized an exchange of letters that began last summer between him and Superintendent Steven Adamowski in which McQuillan asked Hartford to submit documents showing why several of the city's magnet schools didn't have enough white students and how the district intended to remedy the problem.

"This was a repeated plea that went out," McQuillan testified, and the state was threatening to withhold millions of dollars if those documents weren't submitted by Oct. 1.

In letters back to McQuillan, the commissioner testified, Adamowski challenged the state's authority to withhold funding.

"I wrote back to say we really do have the authority to withhold funds," McQuillan said

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Spotty Sheff Enforcement
November 9, 2007

Over the years the state has helped develop a comprehensive plan to desegregate Hartford's schools, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the efforts, appealed to suburban districts to open their schools to city students and offered training to suburban districts to help city students succeed, state witnesses testified Thursday in the Sheff vs. O'Neill desegregation case.

But cross-examination of those witnesses in Superior Court in Hartford revealed that shifts in management have resulted in spotty results and murky accountability since 2003, when the plaintiffs in the Sheff lawsuit reached a compromise agreement with the state on integration goals.

During those years, changes in oversight included five state education commissioners, multiple reorganizations of the state Department of Education, four Hartford superintendents, a transition from state control over Hartford schools to local control and the creation and disbanding of a magnet school office in Hartford.

The lawsuit, filed in 1989, resulted in an order by the state Supreme Court in 1996 to end the racial, ethnic and economic isolation of Hartford's minority students. The court left it to the state and the plaintiffs to decide how to do that, and sent the case back to Superior Court for monitoring. Now, 11 years later, the plaintiffs say desegregation efforts have fallen short, and they are in Superior Court appealing for help.

Marcus Rivera, a consultant for the state education department, testified that he helped Hartford create a plan for integration that included developing magnet schools, improving all of Hartford's schools and sending city students to suburban schools. After Hartford's school board approved the plan, the state left it to the city to implement it, he said.

But during his cross-examination of state witnesses Thursday, the city's lawyer, John Rose, pointed out that Hartford is not a defendant in the Sheff lawsuit and therefore not responsible for carrying out its mandate.

After his testimony, Rivera said he isn't sure how much of the plan he helped create was carried out, though he believes some of it was.

Some of the testimony suggested the state is not entirely to blame for failure to reach Sheff goals to enroll specific numbers of Hartford minority students in suburban schools through the Open Choice program. Rivera said that Hartford hasn't always cooperated.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Schools: A Shift Of Views On Sheff;  Case Returns To Court Amid New Skepticism
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
November 5, 2007

A decade after the state Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of schools across Greater Hartford in the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill case, the goal of integration remains elusive.

Magnet schools, the cornerstone of the state's plan to bring together white children and children of color using voluntary incentives, have fallen short. Hartford's schools still have a population that is predominantly black, Hispanic and poor.  Now, as the Sheff plaintiffs head back to court Tuesday to demand the state make good on its assurances, advocates of integration are facing increasing skepticism on the part of both state lawmakers and city officials over both the cost - and value - of continuing down the same path.

Tensions that have long remain hidden are now erupting, opening up a new and potentially contentious chapter in the effort to desegregate schools in and around Hartford.

"It's breaking out in the open now," said John Brittain, a former Sheff lawyer. "The current spat with the Hartford school system exposes the fragility of the infrastructure of the Sheff v. O'Neill process."

Lawyers for the Sheff plaintiffs declined to say what they will seek in court. The latest effort at compromise between the state and the plaintiffs - which failed to win legislative approval - called for the state to spend $112 million over the next five years to expand the array of magnet, charter and vocational-technical schools.  But one attorney said now that the issue is heading back to court, the plaintiffs won't be constrained by the compromises that they have agreed to in the past.

"There's new thinking we'll be presenting at the trial," said Matthew Colangelo, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who is representing the plaintiffs in the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit.

"We're saying it's been 11 years and not enough progress has been made and we think it's time for the court to get involved."

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Sheff Case Returns To Court
School Desegregation Issue Had Been Stuck In The State Legislature
By ROBERT A. FRAHM | Courant Staff Writer
July 6, 2007

The struggle to desegregate Hartford's public schools is back in court.

Plaintiffs in the Sheff v. O'Neill case filed a legal motion Thursday, saying they will wait no longer for the legislature to approve a tentative agreement that would require the state to take aggressive new measures to reduce racial isolation in Hartford's public schools.

A 4-year-old settlement in the long-running case failed to reach its goals and expired last week. The state and the Sheff plaintiffs reached a tentative agreement in late May that would establish new goals and extend the settlement, but the legislature so far has not approved the extension.

The proposed extension calls on the state to spend millions of dollars more over the next five years to subsidize magnet schools, charter schools and other programs designed to bolster integration.

The legislature, which received the settlement as its regular spring session was coming to a close, is expected to take up the issue in a special session later this month.

"Time is wasting, and kids are not being properly educated," Wesley W. Horton, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said after filing a motion asking the courts to enforce a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling ordering the state to reduce racial isolation in Hartford's mostly black and Hispanic schools.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

A Losing Battle, So Far;  Report: Reality Spoils Racial Balancing Act
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
June 13, 2007

An agreement hailed four years ago as a way to end the overwhelming racial isolation in Hartford's public schools has failed, a new independent review of the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case says.

Trinity College researchers will issue a report today showing in stark numbers how little progress has been made toward creating magnet schools that draw a mix of white and non-white students, or toward getting the city's mostly black and Hispanic student population into mostly white suburban schools.
The report shows that magnet schools, instead of drawing white suburban children into the city, have been more popular among black and Hispanic suburban families. It also found that gains under a program allowing city children to enroll in suburban schools have ground to a halt.

"This is sad news," said Jack Dougherty, a Trinity professor who, along with two students, compiled a report showing that the key Sheff strategies to reduce racial isolation in Hartford's schools have come up short.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

A review of Sheff, here to see the full story - or read an excerpted version below.

A DECADE OF HALF MEASURES:   10 years after a Hartford mother and son forced city schools to integrate, progress has dragged
Stan Simpson, The Hartford Courant
July 23, 2006

Eugene Leach couldn't help himself. He's a historian after all.

Our conversation was about Sheff vs. O'Neill - the landmark Hartford school desegregation court ruling that is 10 years old this month.   The Trinity College history and American studies professor took me back to 1848 and the writings of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, one of his favorite 19th century authors and orators.  Douglass had been lamenting the construction of a new school in Bath, N.Y., with taxpayers' dollars. It was going to be for whites only. He believed segregated schools were unbecoming and shortsighted.

"It will be an important point gained if we secure this right," Douglass wrote. "Let colored children be educated and grow up side by side with white children, come up friends from unsophisticated and generous childhoods together and it will require a powerful agent to convert them into enemies and leave them to prey upon each others rights and liberties."

Those thoughts 158 years ago are as profound today - and as difficult to attain. The Sheff plaintiffs are once again haggling with the state, urging more progress in the desegregation of Hartford schools.  A decade after the court's decision that Hartford's schools would be integrated voluntarily, the 24,000-student school district remains 95 percent black and Latino, and most of the students are poor. While some city students now have better opportunities to be educated, most continue to languish in substandard public schools.

The problem is that these students' futures are subject to the luck of the draw - or the school lottery, in this case. And, as the kids might say, that sucks.

"I'm where Douglass was in 1848," said Leach, who is white and a parent-plaintiff in the Sheff suit. "I haven't changed my fundamental belief that what the country professes is equality. And equality means open doors for integrated education and open opportunity for integrated education."

The state Supreme Court ruling on Sheff was national news. That the state was deemed responsible for de facto segregation, even thought it didn't cause it, was a largely contrarian notion. The verdict came seven years after the suit was filed in 1989 and one year after Superior Court Judge Harry Hammer had ruled in the state's favor.  Still, even with the trumping Supreme Court edict - which suggested no remedy - the plaintiffs had to return to court three times in arguing that the state was not complying.

A settlement was finally hatched in 2003, in which both sides agreed that the state would build eight new magnet schools over four years at a cost of about $45 million per year. A separate program, called Open Choice, was established to increase the number of suburban-school slots available to city students from 1,000 to 1,600. The goal was to have 30 percent of the Hartford students in integrated schools by 2007.

The state has fallen way short on all of these goals.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

House votes to OK settlement 87-60.  Next stop, Senate (not necessary for confirmation).
Legislators Approve Sheff Settlement; House Votes 87-60 For Integration Plan
February 26, 2003
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

The landmark settlement in a school desegregation case against Connecticut survived challenges to its cost and its educational merit as it won final approval in the state
legislature Tuesday.

The House of Representatives voted 87-60 to approve the out-of-court settlement in the Sheff vs. O'Neill case, an agreement that includes plans for eight new integrated
magnet schools in Hartford over the next four years.  Some legislators objected to the estimated $135 million price for the plan, which also calls for expansion of a
suburban school choice program for Hartford children, but the House could not muster enough votes to block the agreement.

"It was a good day," said Philip Tegeler, one of the lawyers for plaintiffs in the 14-year-old case, which sought to reduce racial segregation in Hartford's mostly black and
Hispanic public schools.  Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the vote "a historic victory for Connecticut's children," saying it would help the state make "significant, solid steps toward diversity and perhaps become a national model."

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Sheff Deadline: 2007
SETTLEMENT: A Four-Year Effort Begins To Help Undo Hartford's School Segregation
January 23, 2003  by ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

After 14 years of court battles, political maneuvering and heated public debate, the two sides in Connecticut's historic Sheff vs. O'Neill school desegregation case signed a four-year truce Wednesday.  Now comes the hard part.

The agreement between the plaintiffs and the state already is being hailed as a national model for voluntary school integration, but its success or failure will hinge largely on whether Hartford can attract hundreds more white suburban children into the city to attend proposed new magnet schools.  A key provision of the agreement is the creation of eight new magnet schools in or near Hartford over the next four years - something both sides see as essential to changing a stubborn, longstanding pattern of racial segregation in schools in Connecticut's capital city.

Hartford public schools, where more than 90 percent of students are black or Hispanic, remain as segregated today as they were when the Sheff lawsuit was filed in 1989.
Under the proposed settlement, the state for the first time would establish specific goals for increasing the number of Hartford children attending integrated magnet schools
or enrolling in suburban schools under a voluntary transfer program.

The inclusion of specific goals and timetables was a key objective for plaintiffs, but the plan - which depends upon parents making voluntary choices - falls short of the
original vision of the plaintiffs, which included the possible redrawing of boundary lines between city and suburban school districts.  Even if the goals are met, 70 percent of the city's children would remain in mostly segregated schools.

"Is it the vision we started with 14 years ago? No. Is it a giant step forward? Yes," said Elizabeth Horton Sheff, the mother of lead plaintiff Milo Sheff. "It's a good thing. This isn't the end of it. We'll come back and we'll see where we are in four years."

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Now the New York Times is on the case!
Poverty in a Land of Plenty: Can Hartford Ever Recover?
By PAUL ZIELBAUER (Monday, August 26, 2002 front page with picture of Colt Building)
"Hartford's descent reflects the conundrum of Connecticut, which has a split economy of affluent suburbs and floundering cities..."

Monday, December 09, 2002 - 3:41:54 AM MST
Diversity in schools muddled;  Big cities can't match gains made in suburbs
HARTFORD - Five years after the state launched efforts to comply with a state Supreme Court order to reduce racial isolation in public schools, most suburban districts are
more diverse, but urban districts remain as segregated as ever.

In 2001-02, 133 out of 166 school districts showed increases in the percent of minority students over the 1996-97 school year, according to the strategic school profiles each district submitted to the state.  Another 30 districts showed declines in their minority population. Three stayed the same.

But in city school systems, where high concentrations of minorities prompted the filing of the landmark Sheff vs. O'Neill desegregation lawsuit 13 years ago, the situation has not improved.  In both Bridgeport and New Haven schools, the minority percentages are higherin 2001-02 than they were five years earlier. Both have populations of racial minorities bordering 90 percent.  In Hartford, the target of the Sheff case, the population of racial minorities has declined marginally, from 95.2 to 94.2 percent.

State education officials are in the process of compiling a report on efforts to reduce racial, ethnic and economic segregation. It is due in January.  Information already provided by districts on strategic profiles, however, suggest an abundance of voluntary interdistrict programs and schools, diversity training and student swapping is going on both in the cities and the suburbs.  But some say the increasing suburban diversity has as much if not more to do with immigration and pursuit of the American dream than efforts taken by the school systems.

"It's a little of both," said Thomas Murphy, a state Department of Education spokesman. "We're seeing more participation in magnet schools as well as housing patterns that reflect some migration of middle class minority families out to the suburbs."  Others caution that a diverse district doesn't ensure diverse schools.

"Students don't attend districts, they attend schools. It's not uncommon to see a rapid increase in suburban segregation if districts aren't careful," said Gary Orfield, a Harvard University professor and desegregation expert who has testified on behalf of the Sheff plaintiffs.  According to Orfield, the whole population of Connecticut, and much of the nation, is being driven by immigration and a growing diversity.

The net result is a swelling minority population in formerly all-white suburbs, while the cities remain segregated because middle-class black and Hispanics leaving the cities are being replaced by poor immigrants or no one at all.

[Please read the rest of this article at the CT POST website]

Settlement Possible In School Desegregation Suit
2:38 PM EDT,October 9, 2002
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, The Hartford Courant

The two sides in Connecticut's landmark school desegregation lawsuit could be closing in on a settlement as negotiations reach a critical stage, officials said today.

Parties in the Sheff vs. O'Neill case will meet again next week to try to reach a deal that could lead to a significant expansion of magnet schools and urban-suburban
student transfer programs in the Hartford region.

“We're at a make-or-break point,” Mark Stapleton, the state Department of Education's chief legal officer, said as the state Board of Education held a brief closed meeting Wednesday morning to get an update on negotiations. “We're getting close to a decision on whether a deal is feasible.”

The settlement talks, which began earlier this year, are the first serious out-of-court discussions aimed at resolving the dispute since the case was filed 13 years ago.

Six years ago, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sheff plaintiffs and ordered the state to reduce racial imbalance in Hartford's mostly black and Hispanic public schools.  However, the plaintiffs returned to court two years ago and again earlier this year to contend that the state legislature has not done enough to comply with that

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Decision expected in the Fall, according to the Greenwich TIME June 28, 2002.
The Sheff v. O'Neill case went back to court on April 16th. Although there is a State position,  and have been active at times in the past, the State League currently does not have a specialist in this area.  Help is needed to mobilize the community around this issue.

The CCLU has taken the lead in pulling together like-minded groups.  The next planning date for Sheff v. O'Neill had been set for March 20th,  at 6:00 p.m. at the CCLU Offices, 32 Oak Street.  It is reported on the LWVCT WEBsite that in all likelihood there will be a town hall meeting on Sheff v. O'Neill on April 3rd or 4th and a candlelight vigil on April 15th at the State Capitol the day before Sheff v. O'Neill goes back to court.

The LWVCT WEBsite advises for "...more info you can call Teresa Younger at 247-9823, ext. 219 (Executive Director, CCLU)."

Sides Seek Sheff Pact;  Serious Talks In School Desegregation Case
July 13, 2002 - By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

For the first time in the 13-year history of the Sheff vs. O'Neill school desegregation case, lawyers for both sides are holding serious negotiations aimed at settling the landmark case.

The state and the plaintiffs announced Friday that they are seeking an extension of the deadline to file legal briefs until after Labor Day to give them time to negotiate for a
settlement. They said they expect Superior Court Judge Julia L. Aurigemma to grant the extension.  While there is no guarantee the state and the plaintiffs will be able to agree on a way to end the case and the segregation that the state Supreme Court in 1996 ruled is unconstitutional, the announcement said they will take July and August to try to craft a resolution. This twist in the case, now in its third round of hearings, was startling because both sides have been far apart for more than a decade.

Aurigemma, reached at her home Friday, said she had not yet received a motion requesting an extension. "They said it might be coming."

Aurigemma, who ruled three years ago that the state was proceeding as it should and granted more time for it to comply with the state Supreme Court's desegregation
order, had asked both sides for suggestions on how she should rule. She indicated in court that she may not simply go with one side or the other, saying "It may well be
the court doesn't believe the [Sheff] plan is the way to go or adopting the state's plan of leaving things the way they are is the way to go."

The question itself, she said, could be seen as gentle prodding for the two sides to work out a compromise.  "Have I encouraged them?" she said, repeating a question put to her. "I probably did."  Rather, she later clarified, "I didn't encourage them to settle. I just asked for suggestions."  Then she laid out what both sides were facing. "If I
decided I wanted to take a middle ground, I might be out on my own and that wouldn't be a good idea. If the plaintiffs and the state can find a way to live with a resolution, that would be excellent," Aurigemma said. "It would be a good thing for everyone."

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Town mulls joining school race suit
By Neil Vigdor - Staff Writer for the Greenwich TIME
June 28, 2002

Greenwich has two weeks to decide whether to ally itself with four other Connecticut communities and a conservative think tank in the high-profile Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case.

Brookfield, Shelton, Middlebury and Beacon Falls, with the financial backing of the Hartford-based Yankee Institute for Public Policy Inc. and several private donors, plan to file a brief in state Superior Court later this summer to oppose the mandatory establishment of magnet schools and busing programs for desegregation.

The Board of Selectmen heard overwhelming public support for joining the fray yesterday at Town Hall, but decided to defer its decision until July 11.  "I think it would very much be in the interest of Greenwich and its citizens," said William Tell Jr., a retired local attorney who is a member of the Yankee Institute's board of directors.

Desegregation is of particular importance to Greenwich, which was forced to convert Hamilton Avenue School into a magnet institution last fall after the state discovered a racial imbalance there. The school's 53-percent minority enrollment had exceeded the district-wide total of 22 percent. The state Supreme Court's 1996 ruling in Sheff v. O'Neill prompted the state to make racial imbalances of 25 percent or more illegal.

Elizabeth Horton Sheff, whose son Milo is the lead plaintiff in the 13-year-old case, is pressing her case in state Superior Court in New Britain. The plaintiffs have argued that the state is not cooperating with the Supreme Court order and are demanding stricter enforcement of the ruling.

Tell argued that suburban communities such as Greenwich would be forced to foot the bill for the establishment of magnet schools in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Greenwich TIME website]

Sheff Plaintiffs Present New Concept...
Consultant Says Suburban Kids Are Favored So Far
April 17, 2002
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN -- Many of the magnet school openings sought by minority parents in Hartford are going instead to black and Hispanic families from the suburbs, a school
desegregation expert testified Tuesday.

As a result, Hartford is not getting the full benefit of a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling ordering the legislature to reduce racial isolation in the city's public schools, Leonard B. Stevens said.  Several regional magnet schools "are not operating at peak effectiveness as instruments of desegregation," Stevens testified in the latest hearing in the Sheff vs. O'Neill school desegregation case.

Stevens, a Florida-based consultant, was the opening witness as plaintiffs appeared before Superior Court Judge Julia L. Aurigemma to contend that the state has not moved quickly enough to comply with the court order.

Stevens, who has worked on desegregation cases in Cleveland, Milwaukee and other cities, outlined a plan that could open new spots in attractive magnet schools or in
suburban schools to thousands more children in Hartford over the next four years.  The Stevens plan is the first remedy ever outlined in such specific detail by the plaintiffs in the case, filed 13 years ago to reduce racial isolation in Hartford's mostly black and Hispanic public schools.

The plan avoids controversial measures such as mandatory busing, but urges a gradual expansion of magnet schools and of a voluntary program allowing Hartford children to enroll in predominantly white suburban schools.  The plan is the centerpiece of strategy for the Sheff lawyers, who will emphasize its voluntary nature and its similarity to existing state programs as they urge Aurigemma to follow its blueprint.

"You will see how unradical our proposals are," lawyer Wesley W. Horton told Aurigemma during opening arguments.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Racial Balance Remains An Issue State Supreme Court To Review New Plan To Integrate Schools
April 15, 2002
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

When civil rights activists accuse the state in court this week of failing to comply with a school desegregation order, they will cite the plight of parents like Hartford's Shari Miller.

Miller wants her daughter, Chelsea, who turns 5 this week, to attend kindergarten at the racially integrated University of Hartford Magnet School this fall, but Chelsea's chances are remote.

In the six years since the state Supreme Court ordered the legislature to reduce racial isolation in Hartford's public schools, Connecticut has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new magnet schools, but those schools remain out of reach for many, including Chelsea.

The $21.5 million university magnet school, which opened last year, has nearly 1,700 applicants for fewer than 50 openings next fall. Chelsea, who is biracial, is on a waiting list.

"I don't anticipate her getting in this year," Shari Miller said.  "Probably not next year, either."

When plaintiffs in the historic Sheff vs. O'Neill case return to court Tuesday, they will present a plan that could open new spots in attractive magnet schools or in suburban schools to thousands more children in Hartford. Miller is among the witnesses expected to testify in the case.

The new plan - relying on strictly voluntary choices for parents - is the first remedy ever outlined in such detail by plaintiffs in the case, which was filed 13 years ago to reduce segregation in Hartford's mostly black and Hispanic public schools.

The plan avoids controversial measures such as mandatory busing or reconfiguration of urban-suburban school district boundary lines. Instead, it proposes a vast increase in the number of children moving voluntarily between Hartford and its predominantly white suburbs.

[Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

On Sheff v. O'Neill...from outside source...
SUNDAY: School integration remains stalled.  MONDAY: The Learning Corridor.  TUESDAY: What it will take.
Integration: No Quick Answers - #1

      Hartford Courant Editorial
                August 12, 2001

                Five years after the landmark Sheff vs. O'Neill decision, the
                report card on classroom integration would have to say

                The most substantial progress toward meeting that goal has
                occurred outside the parameters of Sheff vs. O'Neill. Housing
                patterns have changed in the Hartford region. The number of
                minority students in suburban towns has increased. In
                Wethersfield, for example, minorities now make up about 13
                percent of the enrollment in town schools.

                Still, the fact remains that most students in Connecticut's
                cities continue to attend segregated schools. In Hartford,
                more than 95 percent of the students are Hispanic, African
                American or Asian.

                Although there have been promising initiatives - notably
                magnet schools - the state's response to the Sheff decision
                has yet to result in substantial school integration. It probably
                will take many more years for that to happen.

                In a series of three editorials beginning today, The Courant
                will examine models for urban-suburban integration and
                suggest steps to bring Connecticut closer to compliance
                with the Supreme Court's directive.

               [Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

A Magnificent Magnet - #2

Hartford Courant Editorial

August 13, 2001

Despite the lack of progress in integrating Hartford schools,  The Learning Corridor next to Trinity College offers a sterling example of what's possible.   Some have suggested that the answer to the state Supreme Court's Sheff vs. O'Neill integration directive might be to clone the corridor and sprinkle 10 more such complexes around the capital city.

Located on a 16-acre campus between Broad and Washington streets, the corridor is home to four magnet schools that eventually will draw 1,600 students from Hartford and two dozen suburban towns. The magnet, or lure, for parents is the promise of academic excellence in integrated settings.  The corridor opened only last September, so it is too early to measure educational achievement. However, the schools are offering students challenging courses in a clean and safe environment.

Included are two specialized high schools, a middle school and an elementary Montessori school.  One high school, the Greater Hartford Academy of Math & Science, showcases integrated education at its best. The school enrolled about 150 students last September, a number projected to double in the next three years.

                [Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

Link Education, Integration - #3

                Hartford Courant Editorial
                August 14, 2001

                It has now been 12 years since several Hartford and
                suburban parents alleged in state court that students in the
               city and region receive an inferior education in segregated
                public schools in violation of the state Constitution.

                It has been five years since the state Supreme Court agreed
                with the plaintiffs and ordered the governor and legislature to
                come up with a plan to integrate the school systems of
                Greater Hartford.

                Although there has been progress, the core issue is
                unchanged: Hartford schools remain as racially segregated
                as ever, even while several suburbs have seen increases in
                their enrollment of students from minority groups because of
                changing residential patterns.

                The Supreme Court understood that change will not occur
                overnight. That's why it set no timetable.

                Further, a consensus exists that coercion would be
                unacceptable. So-called forced busing in other parts of the
                country has not produced desirable results. The best hope
                for breaking the back of segregation is to sell parents and
                students on the idea that integration and educational
                excellence must enter into a partnership. One cannot fully
                thrive without the other in a diverse society.

                Here is what it will take:

              [Please read the rest of this article at the Hartford COURANT website]

For the whole collection of LWV of Weston WEBpage articles and links on the subject of Affordable Housing, click HERE.