This week, jaw-dropping footage of three Connecticut state police officers appearing to fabricate criminal charges against a protester made international news. Meanwhile, two families lost loved ones to police violence in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Each of these incidents was caught on video. All have inspired outrage from people around the world. It still might not be enough to ensure justice—and that should frighten all of us.
In the wake of the recent CCJEF v. Rell trial court decision on school finance, we should take a moment to consider the continuing benefits of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill decision for low income children in our state, and the importance of keeping this crucial legal mandate in place. The City of Buffalo’s experience with court-ordered integration 30 years ago is a reminder of how these independent constitutional rulings can maintain political will for reforms on behalf of low-income children that would otherwise get lost in the political process.
Today, Truth in Accounting (TIA), a think tank that has analyzed government financial reporting since 2002, released its annual “Financial State of the States” report. Included is the fact that Connecticut ranks 49th for financial health, second to last, and has the second highest taxpayer burden in the country at $49,000 per taxpayer. Taxpayer burden is the amount each Connecticut taxpayer would have to pay the state’s treasury in order for the state to be debt-free.
“If our trains and buses rely on the Special Transportation Fund as it exists and is funded today, we will be back for more hearings like this for years to come. What we need is systemic change in how we fund transit. Yet I know of nobody in Hartford with the guts to be honest with commuters and taxpayers about what is coming.”
Connecticut has finally taken a major step toward fair funding for all public school kids. Ruling on a case filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher denounced the current public school funding formula as unconstitutional and mandated the creation of a new system. Connecticut’s public school funding formula has long denied thousands of students the resources they need to thrive, and, as Judge Moukawsher noted, has especially disadvantaged low-income students.
There‘s a lot of talk in Connecticut about closing the achievement gap between affluent students who are predominately white and poor students who are predominately black or brown, but there have been no effective actions taken and none are on the horizon.
Instead, Connecticut gave up its own well-founded state standards and adopted the narrow and inadequate Common Core Standards, called them rigorous which they are not, and gave students standardized tests to measure their achievement of those quite limited standards. Then Connecticut waited for the test scores to see if the impoverished would catch up to the affluent. They haven’t and they won’t.
On Sept. 7, there was a moment when interest-convergence was happening right in front of us. As Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher read his ruling on CCJEF v. Rell, advocates like myself started to believe that remedies for inequality were being granted permission to stand up and be recognized. To my consternation an appeal was filed. I believe this appeal, filed by Connecticut Attorney General Jepsen, represents an unqualified dismissal of potential remedies.
Despite the best of intentions, in an overly-broad ruling Judge Thomas Moukawsher has prescribed some remedies that I believe would lead us to repeat past mistakes at great cost to many. I respectfully ask the judge and state leaders to seek policies that are not just rational, but ones proven to actually work in practice. Borrowing a phrase from another judge, I argue further that many of his demands are “decided upon an economic theory” which a large part of education research does not entertain.
The recent decision by the Malloy administration to remove services from the most vulnerable citizens in Connecticut is just terrible! The people who are served by the Southbury Training Center participate in day programs which provide them with meaningful activities and in some cases, gainful employment. Day services, as well as mental health services, are often the bright spot in these individuals’ day, but these programs are slated to be cut or eliminated, and all staff will purportedly be laid off by the end of this year.
Last week, Judge Thomas Moukawsher released a siren call of a decision in Connecticut Coalition for Educational Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell, an 11-year-old case that has been working its way through the Connecticut Superior Courts. The recommendations on how public education in Connecticut should be funded and facilitated were detailed, thoughtful, and comprehensive. Most importantly, the court gave legislators in the General Assembly a clear directive: right the ship on school funding and educational opportunity for all students, in all districts, in the next 180 days. Democrats in the state house have the opportunity today to reclaim the mantle of social justice and fight for our children’s most basic civil rights.