A school board in Darien, an affluent Connecticut suburb, has rejected a school choice plan that would have had it take in 16 students from the city of Norwalk.
The Darien Board of Education voted 5-4 Tuesday not to participate in a pilot Open Choice program, which was supported by the superintendent of schools and the board’s chairman.
The program, designed to deal with the issue of racial and economic disparities between city and suburban schools, would have allowed up to 16 kindergartners from Norwalk to attend Darien elementary schools in the fall.
“This is our opportunity to show our students we are serious about supporting their voices, that we’re serious about change and that we’re serious about supporting diversity,” School Superintendent Alan Addley told the board.
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Opponents cited larger class sizes, uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the possible financial burden on the town in rejecting the plan.
“Fundamentally where I come down is, I don’t think this is the year,” said Jill McCammon, the board’s vice chair.
Supporters say the plan noted it would be paid for with state grants and could actually be a revenue driver.
The vote comes less than a week after state and Hartford officials announced an agreement to vastly expand school choice in Connecticut’s capital city and end more than 30 years of litigation in the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case. That deal, which will provide funding to suburbs accepting school choice students from that city, must be approved by the legislature.
It came more than 25 years after the state Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut’s district school system resulted in an unequal education for Hartford students, in violation of the state’s constitution.