Today, Hartford is at a crossroads when it comes to education. For thousands of Hartford’s kids, magnet schools have created opportunities that weren’t there ten or fifteen years ago. But we’ve also created a two-tiered system, where too many children are in schools that haven’t gotten the attention or investment they deserve.
While improvements have been made, there are still some common-sense solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing our education system. For instance, just to name a few:
- Seats should never be allowed to sit empty in high performing magnet schools when there are Hartford kids ready, willing and able to attend.
- Even in an open choice system, families with siblings who want to attend the same school should be kept together as much as possible.
- We should never have another year like this year, when the city allocated zero dollars for repairs at our schools.
- We need to develop a more sensible, coordinated effort to end absenteeism in our schools.
- We need to develop the capacity to deal with discipline problems through in-school suspensions and other disciplinary action, because sending kids home on suspension doesn’t help anyone — least of all the kids.
- We also need to acknowledge that our neighborhood schools have a higher concentration of English Language Learners and children with special needs, and work with the State to help give them the support they need.
Finally, hard as it may be, we need to have an open and honest conversation about the future of education in Hartford. Right now, the Sheff decision measures success only by one measure: reducing racial isolation. That is a very important, very worthy goal — but so is making sure that every child is in a quality school, regardless of the school’s racial makeup. We’re not having that conversation now. We need to have it. And the Mayor needs to help lead it.
There’s much more to say about education, but that’s a start.