Free Meals for All Hartford Students

Every student attending a Hartford Public School will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, regardless of family’s income or student’s home address, for at least the next four years.

Besides eliminating any remaining stigma for those receiving free meals, this cuts the excess paperwork — and associated costs —  for the school system. Administered by the USDA,  the Community Eligibility Provision, a regulatory change that took place as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, now makes it possible for districts in high poverty areas, to offer free meals to all students without processing individual families’ paperwork. The 2014-2015 school year was the first time schools could participate. Continue reading “Free Meals for All Hartford Students”

Please follow and like:

Conversations with the Candidates: Impressions

“Why isn’t the mayor here?”

That was the first question asked by an audience member, before the official time for questions began — before anything really began — at the Business for Downtown Hartford’s “Candid Conversations” event. Continue reading “Conversations with the Candidates: Impressions”

Please follow and like:

Silence on Saving the Salvation Shelter

Keeping homeless shelters open is not a new struggle in Hartford, but this time, the some $100,000 that was expected for the Salvation Army Marshall House vanished between the recommended budget and the adopted budget. A mere five-minute walk from what will be the CTfastrak Sigourney Street Station, the Marshall House has provided shelter for single women and families since 1974.

The adopted budget for the “Senior and Community Services Program” is $2.13M, down from the $2.2M in the recommended budget. This is where budgeting for the Marshall House, which serves as a no-freeze shelter for families, can be found in the City document. The 2013-2014 budget was $2.36M and reasons for the decrease in funding have been vague; the spending difference is explained only for the Health and Human Services budget as a whole. Continue reading “Silence on Saving the Salvation Shelter”

Please follow and like:

It’s Called the Heartbeat for a Reason

By now, you’ve probably heard that Hartford was placed on a controversial list. It’s funny how some have latched right on to the notion, but when Hartford makes other lists, its presence on them is instantly dismissed.   For example, CNNMoney.com named Hartford as one of the best places to start a small business. The posting of this link to a friend’s Facebook page was followed by immediate reactionary comments, dismissing the ranking. But between CNN and a source I had never heard of, I am going to typically find CNN to be more reliable. The opposite seems to be true for many; they believe whichever source reaffirms their own beliefs. Yet, how is it that multiple pieces of evidence are routinely ignored? Forbes.com placed Hartford on a list of Best Cities to Find a Job. On another list, Hartford moved from #149 (out of 200) in 2008 to #49 in 2009 Best Performing Cities. Those are just three lists that refute the claim that Hartford belongs on a “worst” list based on its economy. Hartford is known for its insurance industry, but insurance is not the only game in town. The economy is also not the only way to take a city’s pulse. A neighborhood in Hartford was named on “Best Places for First-Time Buyers to Get an Old House” published on This Old House. But that’s a positive story, so there’s nothing to see there. Right?

Live in Hartford, a local blog, has published a number of articles which implicitly, and at times explicitly, make the case that Hartford is very much alive. Heck, the name of the blog itself, no matter which version of “live” one reads it as, makes this exact point. While some are using economics as the way to take a city’s temperature, Emily and Julie measure life in another way. In an article published yesterday, Emily directly addresses the recent controversial list. In March, she took a similar approach by listing the plethora of arts and entertainment activities happening within city limits. In January, Julie wrote about the standpoint theory, and described how someone from not here referred to Hartford as a cosmopolitan city. Going back to June 2009, Julie shows what a party for the brand new science center looks like. A piece from March 2009 talks about what it is like to live here as young(ish) professionals. This is just a sampling of what a single blog has done to describe, in words and pictures, Hartford, at length. There are no bait-and-switch tactics, no sensationalism, and no appeals to emotions used here (well, except for when the bloggers try to find homes for dogs). It’s honest. But as Emily writes, “what do I know, I just live and work and shop and play here.”

Every so often a major media outlet declares something dead. Or, they will mask a statement by turning it into a question. They will ask if  God is dead, or feminism is dead. Egregious claims and controversial debates sell copies, more than nuanced argument will. Take for example the claims made by a District Attorney candidate in that state just to our north. Continue reading “It’s Called the Heartbeat for a Reason”

Please follow and like:

Old School, New School

Entering The Hartford Club reminded me of how I felt during my first year of college. It was a monumental crossing of a threshold that seemed so off limits to me. While The Hartford Club is far more opulent than my alma mater, my anxiety level was nearly the same when approaching both places. Would it be obvious that I did not belong? I would learn, of course, that there were others like me — first generation college students. First time Hartford Club crashers. Trespassers. There was paperwork proving my right to enter, but still, a trespasser at heart.

I would observe how others moved about, spoke to one another, sat in certain groupings. In both experiences, even when I gained cultural literacy, when I began to blend, I knew that at the end of the day, there was part of me that would never, ever, feel at home. Today, as I walked home from The Hartford Club, it became much more apparent. The achievement gap that was being spoken of was purely academic for much of the audience. It was one thing to talk about discrepancies in performance and economics; it is quite another for these disparities to be palpable. In the Georgian Revival private club on Prospect Street, there is mouthwash in the “ladies lounge.” In my neighborhood, there is litter strewn across the school lawn. The litter has been there all summer long and the school is one of the lowest ranked in Hartford. It remains so, even after being shut down and later reopened as a “new school.” The kids who can not read, who are dropping out, who are creating all the financial burdens we heard about in this morning’s forum — they are not some sad abstract statistic; they are the kids that I pass every time I take a walk around the block.

Slamming the Door on the Achievement Gap

The MetroHartford Alliance forum held at The Hartford Club this morning was titled Hartford Public Schools Education Reform and Next Steps. Presenters included Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools, Dr. Steven J. Adamowski; Executive Director of Achieve Hartford!, James L. Starr; and the Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Connecticut, Michael P. Meotti. All speakers addressed the issue of closing Connecticut’s achievement gap.

The very phrase “achievement gap” softens the issue. Education Week explains the achievement gap as:

[…] the disparity in academic performance between groups of students. It is most often used to describe the troubling performance gaps between many African-American and Hispanic students, at the lower end of the performance scale, and their non-Hispanic white peers, and the similar academic disparity between students from low-income and well-off families. The achievement gap shows up in grades, standardized-test scores, course selection, dropout rates, and college-completion rates. It has become a focal point of education reform efforts.

While National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results have shown that, over time, black and Hispanic students have made great strides in narrowing the breach that separates them from their white peers, that progress seems to have come to a halt since the mid-1980s.

The achievement gap, to put it in more direct terms, refers to the racial and economic disparities in educational outcome. Connecticut has the dishonor of having the greatest achievement gap in all 50 states, based on the NAEP results. The Superintendent stated that there is a 93% poverty rate within the Hartford school district, based on eligibility for free/reduced school lunch. There are correlations between poverty and other social problems: of those in Hartford who have dropped out of school, 60% have been incarcerated. Continue reading “Old School, New School”

Please follow and like:

No Homeless: The Special Just-in-time-for-Thanksgiving Edition

Two days ago Cityline published a letter that Rich Wareing sent to numerous individuals regarding the plan to house a “no freeze” shelter at the Center Church downtown. He wrote:

Indeed, that Mr. McGovern would seriously consider locating a facilty which the City estimates will be 50% utilized by registered sex offenders across the street from two apartment buildings, three blocks from a magnet high school, and right in the middle of the most signficant business and entertainment district in the city, speaks volumes about  the City’s disregard for the welfare of its voters, taxpayers, visitors, and children.

While keeping sex offenders away from youth sounds like an altruistic goal, I believe this argument is deceptive. Here’s why:

In the past, Hartford has had a no freeze shelter. This is not a brand new creation. The previous one was housed at 255 Washington Street, but a mile — if walking —  from the new one. I even created a map to show this:

View homeless shelters in a larger map

What do you notice about the location of the old shelter on Washington Street? For someone with no familiarity with Hartford, the only two things that really should grab his attention would be that it was located in a very residential area, as one can see a number of houses nearby, and that it was very close to the Connecticut Childrens Medical Center.
Continue reading “No Homeless: The Special Just-in-time-for-Thanksgiving Edition”

Please follow and like:

“There’s too many cracks in the structure”

A follow-up piece on Nick Carbone, the man who was mugged on his way to breakfast a few weeks ago, is the headline story of the Courant today. The most interesting parts, of course, got buried toward the end of the story, so I’m going to highlight them here:

On the morning of his attack, Carbone said, he was thinking through how state lawmakers could assist people losing their homes because of predatory lending practices and subprime lending. The subject was one of the many issues Carbone has taken on in recent years. He has also been a significant player in the federal court dispute between city officials and citizens who have complained about police brutality.

His attack has not left him bemoaning his fate, but instead thinking about the root causes [bold in quoted material is mine, for emphasis] of urban pathology.

For about two hours Monday, Carbone focused his conversation with a reporter on factors that he thinks have fueled urban violence: predatory lenders; teenage pregnancy; incarceration; the release of inmates into the city by the state Department of Correction; failing schools and judicial systems. Continue reading ““There’s too many cracks in the structure””

Please follow and like: