Overdue Call to Action, Real Opportunity for Kids
More than a decade ago, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) filed a lawsuit against then Governor Jodi M. Rell. The Plaintiffs alleged that the state’s failure to properly fund public schools inadequately prepared students for higher education and employment opportunities, violating the state constitution. After years of litigation, the case went to trial in 2016.
On September 7, 2016 Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued a sweeping opinion in the CCJEF v. Rell case in an unprecedented three-hour televised reading of the decision. The ruling caught the state’s and the nation’s attention (see here and here, for example) and put Connecticut’s education system in the spotlight.
Moukawsher laid bare what education advocates like you have known for years: far too many Connecticut children are not getting the education they need to succeed, graduating from high school unprepared for the challenges ahead. He ruled that the way Connecticut funds its public schools is systematically unfair, lacking verifiable connection to student learning needs. But, Moukawsher didn’t stop there. He ordered the state to develop “rational, sustainable, and verifiable” plans to: establish a new education funding formula that takes student need into account and progressively directs dollars to students with greater learning needs; define elementary and secondary education so that necessary action steps are identified that ensure students are ready in each step of their education and so that ensure high school diplomas truly indicate readiness for college and career; replace current seniority-based hiring, promotion, pay and evaluation systems with systems that take student outcomes and growth into account; and fund, identify, and provide special education services so that students who needs high-quality special education services get them.
Although the ruling is being appealed to the Supreme Court, it blew open a window of opportunity to make long-needed improvements to our state’s education system and to provide kids with a real chance at success in college and career. In fact, in the state’s appeal, Attorney General Jepsen said “Nothing about this appeal prevents policymakers from immediately addressing those challenges, and I urge them to do so without delay”.
The ruling was a call to action. Thanks to your support, ConnCAN and our partners immediately answered that call and sprung into action because our kids’ and our collective future depend on it. With your support, immediate actions were taken to raise awareness, strengthen coalitions and show broad support for action. On September 30, ConnCAN to presented research and information related to the Court’s ruling at the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus’ forum on the state’s public education funding system. (ConnCAN CEO, Jennifer Alexander’s testimony starts at 57:00.) In October, we partnered with Benenson Strategy Group to release the results of a public opinion poll that found an overwhelming majority of Connecticut voters support Moukawsher’s decision and want the General Assembly to take immediate action to improve education for our kids. Thanks to you, over the past several years, ConnCAN has helped to support and amplify the advocacy of clergy leaders across the state. On October 26, over 100 clergy leaders sent an open letter to our state leaders calling for action. Rev. Danny Bland, who signed on to the letter and is pastor of Mt. Calvary Revival Center in New Haven, followed up with an opinion piece in the New Haven Register. In November, we supported clergy leaders in coordinating press events to call for fair, equitable education funding in Norwalk and New Haven. At the Norwalk press event, Senator Bob Duff and Representatives Gail Lavielle and Bruce Morris joined clergy leaders and publicly called for action on the ruling. None of these efforts would have been possible without your support. We are grateful.
With your help, we will continue to fight to ensure that the General Assembly takes action so that every child has access to the quality education they need and deserve.
To learn more about the CCJEF v. Rell case and how you’ve helped answer the call to action, click on the links below: