After 13 years, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding’s fight for an overhaul of the state’s education funding system is set to continue.
On Friday, the umbrella education reform organization, filed a motion to reconsider a Jan. 17 Connecticut Supreme Court decision overturning a historic lower-court decision that would have instituted sweeping changes to how the state allocates its education funding. In a split ruling, the court concluded that Connecticut had met the minimum standard set out in the state constitution for the education of its constituents.
“It is my sincere belief that the majority’s holding constitutes an unequivocal statement to tens of thousands of at-risk children that their individualized educational needs are constitutionally irrelevant,” said Matthew Nguyen LAW ’19, a student director of the Yale Law School’s Education Adequacy Project Clinic.
Nguyen said CCJEF decided to file motion to reconsider because the coalition believes the majority court opinion relied on faulty evidence from the trial court. A motion to reconsider must be filed within 10 days of the opinion, and the state’s attorney has until Wednesday to respond to the motion, Nguyen said. He added that the motion represents a “long shot” but that the CCJEF hopes to persuade one justice and sway the previous 4–3 ruling in their favor.
The motion filed by CCJEF rejects the court’s finding that the state provided “adequate” education to all students. Thousands of Connecticut students are not obtaining the intended benefits of a public school education, according to the motion, which says the majority of the court failed to consider the diverse needs of the state’s student population.
“For the districts overwhelmed by the needs of disadvantaged students, who require additional resources to have any real access to an opportunity for a minimally adequate education, the majority’s constitutional floor offers them no protection,” the motion reads.
The Jan. 17 state Supreme Court ruling overturned a September 2016 decision by Judge Thomas Moukawsher that ruled that, because of the large differences in college readiness between students with different income levels, the state had failed to fulfill its constitutional duty to educate children from low-income households. The decision mandated broad reforms to the state’s system for funding public schools.
CCJEF’s case was originally filed in 2005 against then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, according to Jim Finley, principal consultant for CCJEF. Five years later, the state Supreme Court ruled that “adequacy” in education was a right protected by the state constitution. After the 2010 ruling, the case was sent to a trial court, where Moukawsher eventually made his broad-reaching decision.
The minority opinion in the Jan. 17 ruling, written by Justice Richard Palmer, said the state must act “rationally” in implementing a public education system that allows all students to receive a minimally adequate education.
The motion contends that the Court did not apply the correct legal standard to the trial and that the majority opinion did not correctly apply the “minimum adequacy education” standard set in 2010 by Justice Palmer.
Representatives from Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, which filed an amicus brief to the case, also expressed concern over the Jan. 17 decision.
“The status quo is failing far too many kids who are graduating from high school without the knowledge or skills that they need to be successful in college or career,” Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, said in a statement. “We need to fairly fund kids across all types of public schools and ensure that all students have access to great teachers, leaders, and schools, and that there is transparency and meaningful accountability for results.”
Nguyen said the Education Adequacy Project Clinic drafted the original co-bylaws in 2003 and prepared the coalition’s original 2005 complaint.
Isabel Bysiewicz | email@example.com