On Monday afternoon, a group pastors gathered on the steps of Grace Baptist Church in Norwalk, calling on Connecticut’s General Assembly to take immediate action to fix the state’s broken school funding system.
“I implore each citizen of Connecticut to rise up,” said the Rev. Carl McCluster of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport. “Not against the fair and equitable national election, but against the unfair and inequitable education system fueled by the cancerous funding formula that has continued to cripple the ability of schools to put their best feet forward.”
This call to action, organized in conjunction with the education advocacy group Connecticut Coalition For Achievement Now (ConnCAN), comes after over 100 faith leaders throughout the state signed an open letter issued to the General Assembly on October 23rd, 2016.
In the letter, they urge state leaders to act on the recommendations laid out by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s groundbreaking ruling in the CCJEF v. Rell funding case. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
“We the undersigned members of our state’s faith-based community call upon the General Assembly to seize this rare opportunity this coming session to fix Connecticut’s education problems and not wait for another courtroom decision. We all recognize that the problems in our education system didn’t happen overnight. This is not about assigning blame. At the same time, we recognize that this court case has taken over a decade to get to a decision and we know that our children cannot wait another decade for someone else to decide they deserve great schools. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to make right what is not right, to fix what all know to be broken, and give back to our children the great education that they need so that they can truly fulfill their God-given potential…”
In September, Judge Moukawsher made national headlines after issuing an unexpectedly sweeping decision that gave Connecticut legislators six months to overhaul nearly every aspect of the state’s education system — including the way in which the state doles out education funding.
The State Attorney General George Jepsen filed an appeal of Moukawsher’s decision with the state supreme court on September 15th. In the letter, faith leaders say they’re worried the appeal will delay progress, jeopardizing efforts to fix long-standing problems.
“This is not new, folks,” said State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), who was in attendance on Monday with her Democrat collogues, State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140), Chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, and Senate Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).
“This is something that we have been trying to do for some time,” said Lavielle, referring to an unsuccessful push to reform the Education Cost Sharing grant (ECS) during the 2012-2013 session.
On Thursday, another group of pastors gathered in New Haven with similar aims. Among those in attendance was former Bridgeport Board of Education member Pastor Kenneth Moales, Jr., Of Bridgeport’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
“There can be no question that too many of Connecticut’s students of color in communities like Bridgeport and New Haven attend public schools that are not giving them the education they need to succeed,” said Rev. Moales on Thursday.
“That’s just not right. It’s not equal. And it’s why now is the time for the General Assembly to adopt a fair funding formula that gives all of our students’ access to the quality education guaranteed by our state’s constitution.”