Hartford parents rally for more access to magnet schools

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–Twenty-five years ago this month Hartford parents went to court claiming the city’s schools were illegally segregated.

They eventually won that case in the state’s highest court but thousands of kids are still not able to participate in the solution. They can’t get into the new schools built to address the problem.

To the chants of “Our children can’t wait,” and “Where’s my seat?,” parents on the waiting list for slots at one of the region’s ‘Magnet Schools’ marched to the front of the State Board of Education.

The state has built 42, state of the art, multi-million dollar Magnet Schools in the Hartford region in the nearly twenty years since the State Supreme Court ruled in the landmark “Sheff Versus O’Neill” school desegregation case.

“I’m a parent who has a child currently on the wait list,” said Nyesha McCauley, a Hartford parent. “We are just waiting for our opportunity to get into a quality school.”

Nyesha and the others at today’s rally today represent the estimated 6,000 Hartford parents on the waiting list for the lottery to get into one of those schools.

Three-year old Jaliyah and 4 year old Janessa are on the wait list. Their mother was among the first to graduate from one of the Magnet schools and their grandmother, who is a Hartford teacher, brought them today.

“This system doesn’t work, it’s so broken and so complicated that a teacher who has been working for 36 years in the system no longer understands it and can’t explain it to my own son and daughter-in-law,” said grandmother Debra St. Germain.

Christian Ortiz, who just graduated high school said, “I was on the waiting list for 12 years and in my 11th grade year of high school, I finally got into a magnet school. “

Also attending today, and still fighting the battle is Elizabeth Horton Sheff who’se then 4th grade son Milo was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit 25 years ago.

“I’m still here 25 years later and hopefully we’ll see more progress but as long as I’m alive I’ll stick with it.”

The State Department of Education says approximately there are currently about 20,000 applications for the Magnet Schools from across the Hartford region.

There are about 5,500 slots available.

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