Cardona’s Role in CT’s Complex School Desegregation Efforts Becomes Focus: Will He Give Integration a National Platform?

The 74
January 13, 2021

… if schools nationwide look to Hartford as an example, they’ll be able to promote diversity in schools in a way that’s “legally bulletproof against right-wing attacks.”

With Cardona tapped to replace Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, his public remarks on (Sheff) the major civil rights case … suggest to some the possibility of a major shift in the U.S. Education Department’s tenor on racial integration in America’s persistently segregated classrooms. School integration advocates have urged Cardona to leverage his experience with the Connecticut case as he joins Biden’s campaign promise to “restore the soul of America.”

After attorney Martha Stone met with Cardona in January 2020 to discuss the state’s commitment to ending racial isolation in Hartford’s schools, she left with optimism.

Other government leaders have been far less amenable, she told The 74. In the three decades since Stone filed the Sheff desegregation case in state court, policymakers’ commitment to desegregation has ebbed and flowed…Under the 2020 settlement agreement, the state agreed to add additional seats to its high-demand magnet schools and spend more than $2 million to facilitate integration, including on recruiting efforts to bolster interest among students in the region’s affluent, predominantly white suburbs.

Critical for Hartford students was a long-term commitment to fulfilling Sheff’s promise by providing enrollment to an integrated school to any student interested in attending one, Stone said.

“That was a significant piece to this latest settlement and it’s the first time the state had actually agreed to meet demand,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that every student would get an integrated setting — but every student that wanted that would have the opportunity.”

“There is a third path available, and Connecticut has led the way,” he said. “Cardona may be uniquely positioned to advance Joe Biden’s signature goal of healing the soul of the country and uniting the nation.”

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