Judge Rules State Education Funding System Unconstitutional

A Connecticut Superior Court judge has ruled that the state's education funding system is irrational and unconstitutional. The mayor of Hartford is calling it one of the most significant Connecticut court decisions in decades.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled Wednesday in an 11-year-old lawsuit that the state must overhaul its education system and come up with a new funding formula within 180 days to ensure the state's poorest school districts have resources to provide an adequate education.

"The only reason for any of the court's legal ruling is the fundamental right to an adequate educational opportunity," the judge said. "Changes must come."

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding filed its lawsuit in 2005, arguing that Connecticut's current system results in more money for wealthy school districts, at the expense of poorer districts. The Supreme Court then sent the case to the Superior Court in 2010 for trial.

The state has said all public schools are adequately funded and there has been no evidence to show that spending more would lead to better test scores.

“We welcome the conversation this decision brings. We know that to improve outcomes for all Connecticut students and to close persistent achievement gaps, we need to challenge the status quo and take bold action," Gov. Dannel Malloy said.

He said the state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in education with an overwhelming share directed at supporting students who need it the most.

"These investments are working – students across the board are showing growth in math and reading on recent state tests," Malloy said. "At the same time, we know there is more work to do and we remain resolute in our commitment to improve educational outcomes for all our students.”

Mayors of cities that lost some of the state aid they'd expected from the legislature in May commended the decision.

“I think this judge, in sports terms, did what's called a game changer with the roadmap to providing the constitutional guarantee to quality education with funding attached to it,” Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said.

The judge cited disparities between students getting diplomas and actually being worthy of graduation, and the superintendent of schools in New Britain said the money has to flow before education improves.

“We're hopeful for that. I would like to see that happen before the structures come in place where we're asking our students by grade 5 to be able to pass on to the middle schools,” New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra said.

The mayor of Hartford also commented on the decision.

“Judge Moukawsher’s decision may be one of the most significant Connecticut court decisions in decades. It shines a bright light on the profound inequalities that exist between school districts and holds out the promise of real reform to our educational system and funding structure. Access to quality education is a fundamental right for all children, no matter what town, city or zip code they live in. I hope this decision will lead to dramatic, long-overdue reforms for the sake of kids in Hartford and around the state,” Mayor Luke Bronin said.

The case is expected to end up before the state Supreme Court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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