Constructing School Systems in Hartford
Origins: Sheff v. O’Neill
The current landscape of public schools in Hartford is the result of a Court decision which was sparked by a lawsuit over thirty years ago. In 1989, a young Hartford student, Milo Sheff, alongside 16 other plaintiffs, sued the state of Connecticut for violating the equal protection clause of the state constitution. Specifically, that CT public schools were racially segregated, and students were deprived of an equal education. After years of legal delay, in 1996, the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill case made its way up to the Connecticut Supreme Court where the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
Resolution of the case: voluntary school desegregation
In 2003, the first phase of a voluntary desegregation plan was agreed upon by the Sheff plaintiffs and the CT Attorney General. This plan includes two parts, both of which permit students to travel and attend a school outside their assigned district: the inter-district magnet program, and the Open Choice city-suburban transfer program.
To establish the inter-district magnet program, dozens of new specialized magnet schools in Hartford were constructed. Magnets seek to attract students from the suburbs to bring funding to the under-resourced Hartford schools. Currently, there are 21 magnets in Hartford.
The second part of the desegregation plan is the Open Choice program through which Hartford students are able to attend a school in the suburbs, or suburban students attend a school in Hartford. There are 2 schools in Hartford involved in Open Choice for suburban students, and dozens of public schools outside the city which Hartford students may enroll in.
Hartford District Schools
Alongside both the magnet schools and the schools involved in Open Choice are 19 public schools in the Hartford Public Schools district, many of which existed prior to the Sheff v. O’Neill case. The three schools in our project (Weaver, Bulkeley, and Hartford High School) fall under this category.
It is then up to Hartford students and their families to choose which school in the Hartford metropolitan area will best serve their child’s needs (Sheff v. O’Neill, 2021).
Map of high schools in the Hartford Public Schools district and their approximate student enrollments.