Sometimes you’re just left shaking your head; wondering what on earth has happened to our “Leaders.”
A few months ago, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the direct approval of Governor Dannel Malloy, filed a legal motion in an attempt ensure that Early Childhood Education was not included in the definition of what the Connecticut Supreme Court called the “adequate education” that is guaranteed in the Connecticut Constitution.
Now, Attorney General Jepsen has filed an unprecedented subpoena seeking tens of thousands of pages of documents belonging to ten of the school districts that brought the now-famous CCJEF vs. Rell lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to define what an “adequate education” meant.
At the very same time that Governor Dannel Malloy says that reforming education in Connecticut includes reducing red-tape and paperwork, his own Attorney General is taking an action that could cost the ten towns as much as a million dollars to find, copy and deliver these documents to Jepsen’s Office.
Dianne Kaplan deVries, the executive director of CCJEF, called the unwarranted attack nothing short of “harassment” of those school districts that had the courage to stand up for Connecticut’s children. She added “No district could be expected to comply with such an enormously onerous production order.” (Jepsen’s office has ordered them to turn over all records within 30 days).
Speaking for Jepsen, his associate attorney general said that “The Office of the Attorney General is obligated to defend the lawsuit” pointing out that it was school districts that filed the “unprecedented and far-reaching lawsuit against the state, alleging that the state has failed to provide adequate education to school children and seeking court orders dramatically expanding the state’s financial support of local education.”
Of course it was the towns that filed the lawsuit. Governors Weicker, Rowland and Rell, along with the support of Democratic legislatures, consistently reduced state support for education. It was the state government that was breaking the law and failing to fulfill its “Constitutional responsibilities”. The towns did what they had to do in order to force the state to do the right thing.
With a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Attorney General, both of whom have repeatedly said education is a top priority, now is the perfect time to finally settle the case and move forward with building a better and more effective system of education In Connecticut.
Instead, George Jepsen (with the support of Governor Malloy) is spending millions of dollars trying to remove early education from the definition of what children are entitled to and is attempting to punish the people trying to ensure that “education is a “top priority.”
A good summary of this latest fiasco can be found at CTNewsjunkie http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/education_group_calls_state_subpoena_of_schools_harassment/#.TzEDvTalHRI.facebook.
But first, please read the following. It makes it painfully clear that when it comes to politics and policy there are people out there who say one thing and do another;
In 2005, a coalition of municipal and education leaders came together to confront the greatest challenge of our times, how to develop and fund an education system that provides all children with the knowledge and skills to compete in the decades ahead. The very future of our economy and our quality of life rests with whether we develop or undermine our state’s greatest natural resource…that being the talents of our citizens and future generations.
It was truly an historic moment and Dan Malloy, the Mayor of Stamford, was there. Not only was Mayor Malloy one of the founding members but he was “the first mayor to join the effort to join the committee dedicated to equal education for all.” Today over 100 municipalities have joined the cause.
The foundation upon which this historic effort is built was a lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF). Known as CCJEF vs. Rell, the coalition sued the state of Connecticut claiming that the state’s approach to funding education failed to provide students with their right to “adequate educational opportunities”.
While the initial court ruled that “students in Connecticut do not have a fundamental right to equal education opportunities under the state constitution,” the Connecticut State Supreme took on the case.
Twenty three months later, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court and determined that the Connecticut State Constitution “guarantees all schoolchildren an adequate education, one that prepares them to participate in democratic institutions, obtain gainful employment, and continue on to higher education.”
Across the state and across the nation the decision was heralded as one of the most important education cases in history.
Back in 2005, when the suit was filed, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy published a commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that called on the state to immediately increase its level of state funding for education to 50 percent of the total costs associated with funding the state’s primary and secondary schools. (Over the past two decades, the state’s share had dropped from a high of 44 percent to a new low of about 35 percent).
Malloy wrote “The Rowland and Rell administrations have very deliberately and systemically under-funded local education in the state budget as a means of shifting costs to local government. Quite frankly, that’s why we have a property tax crisis in this State. While John Rowland bragged about tax cuts, local government picked up the burden — and the result is a combination of inadequate education and skyrocketing property taxes.”
And Malloy added “Connecticut has a moral obligation to provide every child with an adequate education — regardless of race, income, or geography. We are saying today that Connecticut also has a Constitutional obligation. In the absence of gubernatorial leadership on this issue, the lawsuit filed today calls attention to one of the most significant problems existing in Connecticut today.” (Dan Malloy 2005)
Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy said “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.” (Dan Malloy 1/23/2010)
A few months later, State Senator Andrew McDonald, who now serves as Malloy’s Legal Counsel called the lawsuit the single greatest hope for change saying “This litigation effort holds the promise of a wholesale redefinition of how education is funded in the state” (Andrew McDonald 5/10/2010)
So here we are in 2012. Time after time our elected officials and their senior advisers have said this suit was vitally important and now – when they have a real opportunity to make the difference they promised – they are squandering it.
They are squandering the opportunity of a lifetime.