Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut residents support a September ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court that mandates reforms to educational inequality in the state, according to recent data from the research firm Benenson Strategy Group.
Based on a poll of 600 residents early this month, 68 percent of voters support the decision, and 57 percent want immediate action to be taken. In 2005, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding — a group of educators and ordinary citizens — filed the case arguing that the state was misallocating public school funding across districts. More than a decade later, Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled that state officials would have 180 days to fix its spending, but Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen appealed the decision, saying the judge had overstepped his role by forcing officials to change their policies.
“[There is a] broad sense that schools are failing,” said Danny Franklin, managing partner at Benenson Strategy Group.
The data also show that 18 percent of voters believe Connecticut public schools are doing well, and 71 percent believe the state government has not done enough to strengthen all schools equally
Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer at ConnCAN, said the ruling was a “bold call to action” that shed light on long-standing issues in Connecticut education.
The poll showed that most people believe the decision was appropriate, legitimate and not a breach of judicial power, Franklin said.
According to the poll, 87 percent of voters believe that to have a strong economy, Connecticut must have a public school system that prepares every student to succeed in college and in the workforce. This opinion was shared across the party spectrum, Franklin said, adding that people see education as linked to their futures.
Franklin said there is a low degree of confidence in the Connecticut school system. As the workforce becomes more competitive, citizens expect the quality of public schools to constantly improve, he said.
Because people are more likely to immediately say they want schools to improve, Benenson had people hear arguments for both sides of the issue before they responded, Franklin said.
Survey respondents were not asked where they would like to see education funds come from, Franklin said. The arguments presented to poll takers also did not include debates on disability education funding.
According to Nancy Alisberg, managing attorney at Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities, the court’s call for standardization of disability education could leave many children behind.
Laurence Grotheer, director of communications for New Haven, said city officials have generally supported the ruling since it might eventually provide more stable and equitable funding and help bridge the achievement gap that exists in New Haven and other urban districts.
The poll has a 3.4 percent margin of error.