Ken Krayeske photo
Hartford City Hall (Ken Krayeske photo)

The legislature’s Education Committee will ask Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez on Thursday why the city refuses to sign off on the updated Sheff v. O’Neill agreement to reduce racial isolation Hartford Schools.

During the first forum on June 20, Education Committee members and Hartford’s Corporation Counsel John Rose Jr. got into a heated argument over the city’s reluctance to sign the agreement, which sets ambitious goals to reduce racial isolation in Hartford Schools.

Last week the plaintiff’s in the landmark desegregation lawsuit grew impatient with the state’s reluctance to sign it without the city’s approval and asked the court to get involved again in settling the dispute. The plaintiff’s motion will be considered by Superior Court Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr., who decided on May 29 that the state should spend approximately $112 million more than it currently does to address racial isolation and academic achievement in Hartford area schools over the next five years.

Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said during the June 20 meeting that he’s confused about why the city would intervene in the lawsuit and participate in the negotiations, but refuse to sign the tentative agreement between the plaintiff’s and the state.

Rose said the city is not backing away from its obligations under the agreement by not signing it. He said the city of Hartford will still do what it, is required to do under the agreement, even though it will not sign the agreement because it is considering its own lawsuit.

Rose said the problem is the city spends “Millions of dollars every year to facilitate an agreement we had nothing to do with creating.” He said the school board doesn’t want to be held liable to reduce racial isolation by a certain percentage, if it doesn’t believe it’s reasonable to achieve those numbers.

According to the first Sheff settlement, 30 percent of Hartford students were supposed to be enrolled in racially integrated schools by this year, but recent research shows it that only 9 percent of the city’s students attend schools that have enough white students to qualify as racially integrated under the 2003 Sheff agreement.

Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said he was concerned that either Rose or Mayor Perez didn’t bring the settlement agreement to the city council for approval.

“The Mayor’s office and my office had reservations about the agreement,” Rose said.

Thursday’s meeting between Hartford officials and the Education Committee will be held at 2 p.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.