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State Supreme Court Hears School Funding Suit

Student achievement gaps between rich and poor school districts in Connecticut are among the largest in the nation. (markusspiske/Pixabay)
Student achievement gaps between rich and poor school districts in Connecticut are among the largest in the nation. (markusspiske/Pixabay)
September 28, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – A lawsuit challenging Connecticut's public education funding system goes before the state Supreme Court Thursday.

The suit originally was filed in 2005, and a year ago a trial court judge ordered the state to submit proposals to overhaul the system of education aid to cities and towns, develop high school graduation standards, and more. The state appealed that ruling.

According to James Finley, principal consultant with the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, which brought the suit, the state constitution guarantees every student in the state an equitable and adequate opportunity to get a good education.

"We believe that opportunity doesn't exist everywhere in Connecticut, and particularly our poor and minority students are being denied their constitutional rights," he states.

Responding to last year's court order, state Attorney General George Jepsen said setting education policy is the responsibility of the governor and the legislature, not an unelected judge.

But Finley says the current funding system for public schools is outdated and has contributed to one of the largest student achievement gaps in the nation.

"We are the tale of two Connecticuts,” he states. “The very successful, relatively affluent Connecticut, and the abject poor and special needs students, particularly our English language learners, that aren't getting the education they need to succeed in life."

Finley says differences between rich and poor districts in test scores, graduation rates and other factors clearly show the impact of inequitable school funding.

Finley points out that the lawsuit was filed 12 years ago, before the start of the great recession, and a solution to the state's school funding problems is long overdue.

"We've already lost a generation of students, and the longer the court system allows the other two branches of government to shirk their responsibilities, the more students will suffer in Connecticut," he stresses.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT