WTNH: 20-year battle for 20 magnet schools
20-year battle for 20 magnet schools
by Mark Davis
April 27, 2009
©WTNH.com News Channel 8
Hartford (WTNH) – Twenty years ago today, 17 children from a dozen families in the Greater Hartford area sued the state of Connecticut. It would come to be known as the “Sheff versus O’Neill” school desegregation case and it would have ripple effects all across the state.
Milo Sheff was 17-years-old when the Supreme Court ruled on the case in 1996. He was in the fifth grade when the case was originally filed back in 1989. The high court said that Hartford’s public schools were unconstitutionally segregated.
Now, 20-years since the case was first filed and 13-years since the State Supreme Court ruling, there are more than 20, multi-million dollar magnet schools in the greater Hartford area.
But not every Hartford student can get into the magnet schools. It’s done by lottery and hundreds and hundreds never get called every year.
Today, Milo’s mom, Hartford activist Elizabeth Horton Sheff, said the two decade battle was worth every moment.
“I have been, I believe, been blessed to be working with many people in all walks of life to promote quality, integrated education, and to stand for our children’s constitutional rights,” Sheff said.
There are now a total of 21 magnet schools in the region, three more starting up this year, attended by 8,000 school children; seven of them have been nationally recognized.
“If I were to repeat that well known, somewhat often used phrase in politics, ‘are we better off today than we were 20-years ago?’ I would say the answer is yes,” said Attorney John Brittain.
With the overwhelming demand for admission by both minority and non-minority students to the magnet schools, the outlook is for more success.
“By 2013, we will meet at least 80% of the demand for an integrated education,” said Brittain.