As the evidence makes clear … the State of Connecticut fails to provide most of its cities and towns with adequate school funding.
Now, in an important but flawed legal ruling, the judicial branch of government is finally making it clear that the state’s unwillingness to deal with this significant problem violates Connecticut law.
Yesterday, September 7, 2016, a Connecticut state judge agreed with a coalition of towns, parents and public school advocates that the actual mechanism by which Connecticut distributes school aid is unconstitutional because it fails to provide poorer communities with adequate resources that are required by the Connecticut constitution. The judge’s proposed remedy, however, was limited (More coming on that front).
While the decision is an important milestone on the school funding issue, Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s Memorandum of Decision is nothing short of absurd, ill-conceived and simply wrong when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the state’s illogical teacher evaluation system and the state’s over-reliance on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and SAT testing schemes.
In his ruling, Moukawsher actually suggests that students should face even more standardized testing in Connecticut’s classrooms.
And of greatest concern is his unwarranted, outrageous and mean-spirited attack on special education services in Connecticut’s schools.
The truth is that Connecticut has actually been a leader when it comes to providing special education services to those who need extra help in the classroom. While issues certainly exist when it comes to adequately identifying and providing services to those students who have special needs, the underlying problem is not that students get special education services, but that Connecticut’s cities and towns are left with an unfair share of the burden when it comes to financing those extra educational activities.
In Connecticut, there has been widespread consensus that society and the state have an obligation to ensure that every child is provided with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to live more fulfilling lives and that includes children with special needs.
Yet in an stunning diatribe, Judge Moukawsher appears to suggest that Connecticut retreat from that commitment.
“Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately proforma efforts..
To suggest that Connecticut public schools do not have an obligation to serve, as best they can, every student is to suggest policymakers retreat from the most basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and that of the State of Connecticut, as well as, from federal law and regulations that apply to those who need extra services.
In today’s world, a policy that seeks to define any children as unteachable is repugnant.
One can only hope that the judge, in his haste to issue a ruling, misspoke or misunderstood his fundamental role in ensuring that the state continue to meet its duty to all of Connecticut’s children, their parents and the broader society.
To reiterate, when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the problem is not that services are provided, but that the state is failing to fully reimburse school districts for those costs.
As a society we must recognize our commitment to every public school student. Stepping back from that commitment is simply not acceptable.
To read the Judge’s entire Memorandum of Decision go to; https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html
More media coverage of the ruling can be found at:
Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools (Hartford Courant)