Elizabeth Harris with the New York Times wrote that Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s 2016 CCJEF v. Rell decision could “fundamentally reshape public education in Connecticut.” Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim called the ruling “a game changer.” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk said the decision might be the “clarion moment for education reform.”
A year later and none of that has panned out.
After an almost 13-year legal battle, the Connecticut State Supreme Court rejected the lower court’s ruling that state’s education funding system is “irrational” and “unconstitutional.”
To add insult to injury, the court ruled that while that the CCJEF plaintiffs, a coalition of poorer towns and other stakeholder groups, “convincingly demonstrated” that there are major gaps in educational achievement between the poorest students and their affluent peers, those disparities are not proof that “Connecticut violated the equal protection clause.”
The majority opinion goes on, insisting that “it is not the function of the courts …to eliminate all of the societal deficiencies that continue to frustrate the state’s educational efforts.”
Translation: We absolutely know there is something seriously wrong with the way we dole out education funding, but sorry kids, fixing it is someone else’s job!
If you’d like to read the full State Supreme Court’s majority opinion, here’s a link to the transcript
That “someone else” is our legislature. In other words, Connecticut kids are at the mercy of state lawmakers. The same state lawmakers who spent the last year either bickering or promising more education funding, only to then make last-minute cuts.
Meanwhile, in Bridgeport, school board members are looking at potentially $15 million in cuts to existing programs. And, that’s just one city. Hartford’s consolidating schools and places like Hamden just announced layoffs.
The CCJEF ruling was supposed to upend business as usual, but it came to nothing.
I think the take away here isn’t that it’s hopeless, but that the courts have failed the children of Connecticut.