BREAKING NEWS: CCJEF Project Director commences weekly CTNewsJunkie op-ed column to focus on school finance issues. Follow the issues and add your voice by responding online at www.ctnewsjunkie.com.
East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey was elected by acclamation of CCJEF members attending this year’s sixth annual meeting at The Lyceum in Hartford Friday, April 16. Bristol Public Schools Superintendent Philip Streifer was chosen as Vice President, New Britain parent Merrill Gay becomes Treasurer, and Bridgeport Community Organizer Marilyn Ondrasik will serve as Secretary of CCJEF.
The Supreme Court’s announcement of the most important education decision in three decades was covered throughout Connecticut. The decision guarantees all schoolchildren an adequate education, one that prepares them to participate in democratic institutions, obtain gainful employment, and continue on to higher education. This decision is a major victory for education in Connecticut. For more expansive coverage of the decision in the press, see below:
State High Court Ruling Cites Need for Quantifying Education Quality
After 25 Years, Broken Education System Remains the Same
Yale Law Clinic Wins Landmark Schools Ruling
New Haven Independent
Court Ruling Could Bring Vast School Reforms
New Haven Register
State Schools Missing Mark: Unequal Education at Center of Case
New Haven Register
Supreme Court Says Students Guaranteed ‘Suitable’ Education
Connecticut Law Tribune
Conn. High Court Sets Minimum Education Standard
Court Sanctions Challenge to State School Equity, Funding
Law Students Help Win Education Suit
Yale Daily News
School Decision Presents Another Challenge to Cash-Strapped State
RADIO AND TV
Ned Lamont, Dannel Malloy on CCJEF Court Decision; Blumenthal Says Ruling Lack a Majority for Clear Result
Major State Supreme Court Ruling on Education in CCJEF Case; Hartford Receiving About $187 Million in ECS Funds
Hartford Courant Capitol Watch Blog
Connecticut High Court Says Constitution Guarantees College or Job Readiness
Get Schooled Blog, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Connecticut Supreme Court Rules that Public Schools Must Provide an Adequate Education
Chronicle of Higher Education Blog
The Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches issued the following press release following the decision in CCJEF v. Rell.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Monday, March 22, 2010 John Brittain, 832-687-3007
CT Supreme Court Supports NAACP Move, Education Funding Coalition Lawsuit
HARTFORD – The Connecticut Supreme Court today voted in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, which claimed unequal education on behalf of schoolchildren and parents. The State NAACP had filed a friend of court brief in support of the CCJEF in its case against the State and its Governor, M. Jodi Rell.
“The NAACP has stood behind the Coalition’s efforts to ensure adequate education for each and every child in the state,” NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said. “And we stand ready to fight for the right of every child to graduate from high school, succeed in college and compete in our global economy.”
Connecticut is home to the worst achievement gap between poor and non-poor children, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The State has also been slow to satisfactorily address the Connecticut Supreme Court’s order to reduce the ethnic and racial isolation and unequal educational opportunities outlined in the Sheff v. O‘Neill case.
John Brittain, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, lauded the Supreme Court decision. “Article 8 of the Connecticut Constitution states that children have a fundamental right to an adequate education,” Brittain said. “This decision marks the first time that the Supreme Court has acknowledged this right in broad terms, and adds to decisions such as Sheff and Horton v. Meskill in extending the right to adequate education.”
It’s been more than a year since the state Supreme Court heard arguments in an important lawsuit challenging the way Connecticut funds public education. Plaintiffs continue to wait for the high court ruling.
Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding versus Rell could be the most far-reaching state education lawsuit since the Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation case. A coalition of municipalities, boards of education, parents and teachers say that under Connecticut’s constitution, the state must provide children with an equitable and adequate education. They say that means that students should be prepared for college and to become effective citizens. A Superior Court judge dismissed the “adequacy” portion of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed to the CT Supreme Court. Five justices heard oral arguments in April 2008. A few months ago, the court added two more judges to the case, so a full seven-member bench will ultimately issue the decision.
Yale Law School Clinical Professor Robert Solomon is the attorney for the plaintiffs. He’s not surprised by the long wait for a ruling. “Given that Kerrigan, the same sex marriage case took equally as long and it’s a major constitutional decision I as a litigant would hope we would have heard by now but I can’t say its shockingly long.”
Lawyers for the state argue that it’s the responsibility of the legislature and not the Supreme Court – to address quality of education issues. Once a decision is announced, the case will go to trial.
One year ago, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a major constitutional case that could change the way public school education is funded in the state – when it’s finally decided. The state’s highest court has now delayed its ruling once more.
CCJEF v. Rell is probably the single most important education case since the landmark desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill, which was filed 20 years ago this week.
While the full seven-member bench could have heard CCJEF last year, two justices decided not to sit, leaving five members to decide the case.
That was then.
Two weeks ago, as the year April 21st anniversary approached, Michele T. Angers, the court’s chief clerk, wrote a letter to attorneys announcing that the Court has ordered an “en banc” court. That is, instead of letting the five justices who heard the case rule on the case, it had decided to add two justices to the case in order to create a full seven-member bench.
“The urgency of our claims should be obvious,” said Dianne Kaplan deVries, the CCJEF project director. “While we’ve waited these past 12 months for a decision from the Supreme Court, thousands of students have dropped out of our public schools, with Latino students leaving at four times the rate of their white peers, and blacks and American Indians at three times the white dropout rate.
“Also this past year some 47,000 schoolchildren failed to score at even the “basic” reading level on the state’s assessments, and 40 percent of all Connecticut schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.”
Yale Law School Clinical Professor Robert Solomon, who has overseen the CCJEF case, told the Eagle: “We are certainly pleased that a major constitutional case will be resolved en banc, but it is an important case that still has to go to trial, and we hope we can get a Supreme Court decision as quickly as possible.”
Municipal leaders and education advocates used a lot of metaphors Wednesday to describe state and local budget problems.
“You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.”
“We’re facing a tsunami.”
Public education is a ship in troubled water, heading straight toward an iceberg without radar or binoculars.
The bottom line: We need more money from the state or we need relief from unfunded mandates. And we need it now.
“The governor and General Assembly must recognize that the bulk of education costs cannot continue to be passed on to cities and towns,” said Dianne Kaplan deVries, the project director for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.
DeVries was one of several speakers at a press conference hosted by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. Municipal and school leaders from across the state gathered at the Legislative Office Building to urge lawmakers to give more relief to towns and cities that don’t feel they can raise taxes any higher to balance budgets.
Education leaders argued that municipalities need more money from the state’s Education Cost Sharing grants. In their budget proposals, both Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Democrat-led legislature proposed keeping funding the same as last year for the grants.
“We appreciate flat funding,” said Cal Heminway, president of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and a member of the Granby Board of Education. “But understand that flat funding is actually a cut on a local level.”