“Get your son out of this school.”
That’s the message Yanira Rios received seven years ago from her son’s kindergarten teacher shortly after moving to Bridgeport, the only community in the region where she could afford an apartment. Her son had learned to read in preschool before leaving Shelton, and now Rios was being told that his teacher needed to focus on his classmates, who were far behind him academically.
“It was so discouraging to have a teacher beg you, ‘You have to figure it out. You have to get your kid out of here, because at the end of the year he’s going to be behind,'” said Rios.
A few months later, she cried while reading the letter saying her son had won a coveted spot through the school choice lottery in Westport Public Schools, the top ranked district in the state and No. 28 nationally.
“I was excited to the point of tears, because it meant a lot to me that he would be in a place where he would be challenged, where when he graduates he would be, I would say, on equal footing with most people in the state,” said Rios, who grew up in public housing and attended schools in Bridgeport and Puerto Rico. “It was heartbreaking to see the differences in Westport.” She also has a daughter who is now in the Westport school system.
The opportunity given to Rios’s two children, however, is not shared by the majority of students from Connecticut’s cities, where schools are largely filled with poor students who are multiple grades behind. Why? Because for decades state lawmakers have relied on predominantly white suburban communities to voluntarily offer enrollment to city students or to allow the construction of affordable housing so low-income city dwellers can move to their suburb and attend their schools.
Billions in school construction in CT hasn’t made a dent in segregation — but this year, things could be different, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Mirror, Jan. 4, 2021, available here