Editorial Response

Response to Editorial: Integration magnet schools, yet another desegregation failure

Dear Editorial Board,

Over the last three years, I have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from community members pursuing educational justice in Hartford and their partners from across the country. The issues involved in school segregation, integration, and equity are complex, and those who dedicate themselves to addressing them face many obstacles and frustrations caused by past and current racism and white supremacy embedded in our educational system. It is far easier to stand on the sidelines and criticize such efforts, as you did in your 12/4 editorial on the topic of school integration in Hartford, than to critically and productively engage in the process of seeking solutions. I was startled to read the headline of the piece, declaring the efforts a failure, and further dismayed to read the incomplete and misleading content.

The Connecticut Supreme Court decision of 22 years ago referred to in your editorial is the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case filed by families in and around Hartford to raise up the rights of Hartford public school students who were denied an education equal to their peers in suburban school districts due to segregation and economic disparities. The Regional School Choice Office lottery that was mentioned in the editorial is undoubtedly flawed, and the plaintiffs in the Sheff case continue to litigate with the state on this and other deficiencies in delivering on their responsibility to all Hartford students. One point that should be made here is that the “empty seats" issue is not caused by the 75% integration goal, but rather the failure of the state to fund and expand the capacity of magnet schools to meet the demand for them.

With the current lawsuit, Robinson v. Wentzell, challenging the lottery admissions system and potentially threatening the progress that has been made for quality, integrated education for Hartford students, it’s imperative that there be factual and unbiased information shared among your readers, including that Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative non-profit organization that stands for among other things opposing affirmative action, is representing the plaintiffs in this case.

My hope is that going forward the resources and platforms that we as members of the UConn community have access to will be used in a more responsible way with regard to issues of such great human importance.

Additional sources of information include: the NAACP LDF, the Sheff Movement Coalition, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sincerely,

Patricia O’Rourke
PhD Program, Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut
patricia.orourke@uconn.edu