Twenty five years of school integration progress in Connecticut: Congratulations to our friends and colleagues in Hartford for their recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of the filing of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, a landmark state constitutional decision in 1996 that has led to development of a successful two-way school integration program in Hartford and surrounding towns. The Sheff remedy is now bringing quality, integrated education to 40% of Hartford schoolchildren, with almost 18,000 children now participating throughout the region. Hartford is also serving as the host city for the Magnet Schools of America national conference this coming weekend, on the 60th Anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education decision. Read more about the growth of the Hartford program on the website of the Sheff Movement, a local parent and community coalition supporting the goals of the case. PRRAC is a proud partner and supporter of the Sheff Movement.
A local “Berlin Wall” finally comes down: Connecticut and the New Haven Housing Authority Executive Director for their leadership (and HUD for its support…) in tearing down a decades-old border fence separating the Brookside/Rockview public housing developments in New Haven from the suburban Hamden neighborhood on the other side of the fence. The fence had been a stark racial and class divide and cut off pedestrian and car traffic along existing roads linking the two neighborhoods. The fence had also been an evidentiary issue in the Christian Community Action v. Kemp public housing desegregation litigation in the 1990s (although the federal consent order in that case only required City officials to “make their best efforts to remove the fence separating Hamden and New Haven in the West Rock area….” ). Read local coverage here.
Housing mobility and health: We recently released “Moving to Healthier Neighborhoods: Options for Local Advocacy,” the third in a series of Policy Briefs on housing mobility and health. The first Policy Brief in the series, “Prescription for a New Neighborhood?” (2010) explored the potential for a new federal housing program targeted to low income families with children facing neighborhood related health risks. The second Brief, “Two Simple Changes to Improve Health Outcomes in the Section 8 Voucher Program” (2011), urged HUD to make several administrative changes in the voucher program to improve child health. Our new Policy Brief, released this week, provides a menu of health mobility options available to local advocates under existing law for families receiving federal housing assistance.
New civil rights guidance for charter schools: The U.S. Department of Education has issued new legal guidance reminding charter school operators that they must follow the same civil rights rules in admissions, school discipline, and treatment of English Language Learners and children with disabilities as other taxpayer funded public schools. A notable aspect of the new guidance was its strong endorsement of school integration policies in charters:
“Charter schools located in a school district subject to a desegregation plan (whether the plan is court-ordered, or required by a Federal or State administrative entity) must be operated in a manner consistent with that desegregation plan. Charter schools may also voluntarily elect to create learning environments that include students of diverse backgrounds. The benefits of such student body diversity are many. Diverse environments help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills; prepare them to succeed in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world; break down stereotypes and reduce bias; and enable schools to fulfill their role in opening doors to students of all backgrounds.”
Citing the Department’s 2011 Guidance on K-12 school diversity, the new charter guidance goes on to say that “If a charter school wishes to promote racial diversity or avoid racial isolation, it has the flexibility (to the extent permitted by applicable State law) to pursue a variety of approaches in the context of admissions and recruiting, school location, attendance boundaries, transfers, and retention and support programs.”
Upcoming programs at HUD:
Improving Equality of Opportunity in America: New Evidence and Policy Lessons
Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
A Moral Imperative for Housing Mobility?
Alexander Polikoff, Co-Director, Public Housing Program, and Senior Staff Counsel, BPI
Tuesday, June 17, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET