© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'School Choice' In Hartford May Model Integration, But Also Enhance Disparity

A group of students in a Hartford school classroom.
David DesRoches
A group of students in a Hartford school classroom.

A new report out of Harvard University finds that when parents are choosing schools for their kids, more choice is leading to more segregation. And it points to schools in Hartford as a model for integration.

The report, “Do Parents Really Want School Integration?” suggests white, middle and upper-class parents should actively introduce their child to racial and socioeconomically diverse experiences.

“Integration is good for everybody,” said researcher Rick Weissbourd. “It’s good for your own kids. It’s good for other people’s kids. It’s critical for the country as a whole, and it’s critical for democracy.”

Weissbourd said the magnet schools in Hartford effectively model the integration of white, black and Latino students.

“It does appear that it has substantial racial integration — economic integration — in its schools, so those things have been heartening to see,” he said.

Integration was imposed on Hartford after a Connecticut Supreme Court decision in the 1990s created the magnet schools now held up as a model by the report.

But Hartford city councilor and parent Josh Michtom says the magnet system sustains disparity within the district.

“There’s some sort of more-resourced schools that have to be made nice to attract suburban parents,” Michtom said. “And there’s some schools that are less-resourced, and those are the ones that city parents get if they don’t get into the more-resourced one. And that leaves a feeling of a two-tiered system — and also this notion that: Why should it be so that the good schools are that have white kids in them?”

Schools that have white kids in them, the Harvard report says, tend to receive more funding, have more qualified teachers, and are less crowded.

Michtom, who is white, is sending one child, who’s also white, to a Hartford magnet school, and he said he plans to send his youngest child, a white Latina, to the local neighborhood school. It’s a decision Michtom said he’s spent a lot of time thinking about.

Weissbourd said most parents overlook integration when choosing schools.

“We also asked parents to list the six or seven factors that were most important to them in choosing a school,” he said. “And integration, you know, tended to be in the bottom three. So I think it’s a factor for a lot of parents — but I don’t think it’s a strong factor for most of the parents.”

And there’s another factor parents consider — that’s where to live.

Weissbourd said white, middle and upper-class parents should at least consider moving to an integrated school district.

Michtom said leaving it up to individuals doesn’t go far enough.

“People pay a certain amount for their house with the understanding that they’re buying into certain schools, which are by and large white schools,” Michtom said. “And they will be very upset, and will oppose any effort to make it so that buying into a West Hartford house doesn’t buy you into a West Hartford school. So I think it has to be imposed by the state. I don’t think it will, but I think it should be.”

Regardless of how integration happens, the Harvard report makes one thing clear: parents of all backgrounds say racial and economic integration is important, and they'd like to see it happen for their kids.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
Related Content