- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Families and advocates marched to the Department of Education on Thursday to urge state officials to address the backlog of Hartford students seeking to attend quality magnet and other schools.

Members of the Sheff Movement, an outgrowth of the 1989 Sheff vs. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit, said there are nearly 3,000 Hartford students on a wait list for magnet school seats and more than 1,700 on a wait list for Open Choice seats in surrounding school districts. Some students are on both wait lists.

Other city students have applied to charter and top neighborhood schools and have been denied because of a lack of space.

Elizabeth Sheff, whose son Milo was the lead plaintiff in the case, said “opportunity hasn’t expanded at a pace to keep up with the demand” for quality schools in the state’s capital.

“We still have children in underperforming, racially isolated schools,” Sheff said. “And we see the difference in achievement.”

Kelly Donnelly, a Department of Education spokeswoman, said magnet and charter schools are “part of our larger effort” to ensure that all students, regardless of race or income, have access to good schools. Currently, the state is pursuing a series of reforms to boost student achievement, including providing additional resources and assistance to needy districts.

Debra St. Germain, a Hartford teacher and resident, said she’s concerned her 4-year-old granddaughter, Janessa McFadden, has not yet found a school to attend next year. She said the girl’s name was entered in lotteries for both magnet and neighborhood schools but to no avail.

“We have no idea where she’s going to school,” said St. Germain, who said the process is “convoluted” and needs to change.

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