In the State

What A Year! Education CT’s Top Ten Highlights Of 2016

I think it’s safe to say, 2016 has been a tough year for many of us.

I hate to start this article off on a sour note, but reflecting back it’s hard not to focus on the loss, the rising tension and the unrest — including within the education world.

Looking back, it’s clear there have been setbacks, but there’s also been a lot of good. 

From the CCJEF trial, to New Haven students taking to the streets calling out their school’s hiring practices, to parents rallying against dysfunction in Bridgeport — It’s been quite a year.  

In the interest of reflecting on the past year (and hopefully encouraging you to feel a bit more hopeful for the next one!) here are some highlights of 2016:

A Good Year For Education Lawyers

BRIDGEPORT, CT - AUGUST 24: Jose Martinez (L) and his mother Jessica Martinez, lead plaintiff in Martinez v. Malloy, pose for a photo outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on August 24, 2016 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Martinez v. Malloy is a federal education equality lawsuit against the State of Connecticut, filed by a group of students and parents with the support of Students Matter. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Rally)
Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Rally

1.) 2016 was certainly a good year for education lawyers, with multiple major education lawsuits making headlines. In August, with support from Students First, Bridgeport and Hartford parents filed suit against the state, alleging the state’s restrictive school choice laws “knowingly and actively” prevent students from accessing even the minimally acceptable public school options:

Michelle McLoughliln / For The Wall Street Journal /Pool
Michelle McLoughliln / For The Wall Street Journal /Pool

2.) While one lawsuit began, another, Sheff v. O’Neill, reached a milestone. In July, the decision in the landmark school desegregation case turned 20. :

3.) In September, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher sent shockwaves across the nation. The judge’s far-reaching ruling on the decade-old CCJEF v. Rell school funding case,  strike nearly every other aspect of the state’s school system; from the way the state doles out education funding, to teacher evaluations and graduation requirements.

Though the judge’s decision is being appealed by the state and plaintiffs, his ruling opened the floodgates:

4.) In the same month, Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira officially (unofficially) became the lawsuit queen. Pereira, well known for her love of litigation, filed suit against the district in September, the mayor and school board members, after the mayor appointed two members to the school:

Students and Parents Fight Back

Brian Zahn / New Haven Register
Brian Zahn / New Haven Register

5.) It wasn’t all lawsuits.  Parents and students in 2016 fought back on the grassroots level. In May, 100 students at Amistad High School in New Haven protested against the school’s hiring practices, calling the school out for the lack of minority teachers:

6.) In June, Hartford parents and community leaders protested the closing of Martin Luther King School, Jr.:

7.) In October, after a month without board meetings, Bridgeport parents took matters into their own hands. Holding multiple protests, including their own school board meeting in front of Geraldine Johnson Schools, parents demanded that the board get back to work:

8.)  Rounding out the year, In December, parent and student volunteers, spent four days traveling from city to city spreading Holiday cheer. The Parent Express ‘Tis The Season To Be Reading’ Bus Tour this year focused on promoting kindness and empowerment:

Year Of School Board Dysfunction

9.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good year for school boards. In both Bridgeport and New Haven, unrest and dysfunction between board members and school leaders essentially drove out two superintendents:

Charter Schools In Connecticut Celebrated 20 Years

10.) Sheff wasn’t the milestone. June of the same year (1996), Connecticut’s charter school law was signed. Since then 32 schools have opened across the state. One of the first round of schools opened, Jumoke Academy in Hartford celebrated its 20th year:

What do you think?

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