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Changes Coming to Connecticut's School Desegregation Settlement

State education officials in Connecticut are negotiating changes to the state's landmark school desegregation settlement.

The talks come as state education department officials maintain that changing racial demographics in Hartford's suburbs are making it challenging to ensure more students in the capital city learn in a racially integrated setting, according to the Associated Press.

With more white students living farther away from Hartford, it's become increasingly difficult to attract them to the city's schools, officials said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case, Sheff v. O'Neill, insist there are still plenty of predominantly white communities in the region that can be drawn from to attract additional students, or where Hartford students can attend school in a racially integrated setting.

The current agreement expires in June. The Associated Press reports that the groups "are conducting confidential talks and would not disclose details of the discussions, except to say a decision is expected soon."

Working under the settlement terms, officials have chipped away at segregation in the region, yet challenges remain. The Associated Press reports:

"Newly released statistics show that nearly half of Hartford's minority students are currently enrolled in "reduced-isolation settings," a marked improvement from 11 percent in 2008. That comes after the state spent more than $2 billion on new magnets and other programs throughout the region over a 10-year period. Yet the plaintiffs contend that progress falls far short of giving every Hartford student the opportunity to learn in a racially integrated setting.

Unlike other states where there has been forced busing and redrawn school districts, Connecticut's settlement relies on voluntary desegregation and additional state funding. Parents inside and outside of Hartford can choose to enter a lottery in order for their children to attend approximately 45 magnet schools. Hartford students can also choose to attend suburban public schools."

Desegregation plans typically mandate a range of actions that districts must take, such as reducing racial isolation in schools, increasing the diversity of faculty and ensuring all students have access to academically rigorous courses.

Earlier this year, Education Week explored the state of desegregation in the nation's public schools as part of its coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. To view where school districts and charter schools remain under a federal desegregation plan either ordered by a court or entered into with federal civil rights officials, check out this interactive map.

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