Rather than properly rule that Connecticut’s historic under-funding of its public schools is unconstitutional and that Connecticut’s state government is failing to ensure that every child is receiving their constitutionally guaranteed access to a quality education, a former state legislator and now Superior Court Judge handed Governor Dannel Malloy a victory – of sorts- in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit by ruling that although Connecticut’s school funding formula was irrational and illegal, the amount of funding that the state provides Connecticut’s schools was “adequate.”
In his controversial ruling, Judge Thomas Moukawsher fixated on the need to teach children literacy and math, dismissing the importance of a comprehensive education or the availability of services such as guidance counselors and the broader array of programs that Connecticut’s public school students need and deserve.
In addition, in what may have been the most disturbing aspect of this decision, the judge blasted Connecticut’s special education programs and suggested that a number of children simply didn’t deserve or need to have access to special education programs because, in his view, it was a waste to try and teach them.
Now, the federal government is responding to Judge Moukawsher’s inappropriate and heartless attack on children who require special education services.
As the CT Mirror reports in, Feds have concerns with judge’s special education ruling,
The U.S. Department of Education wrote the state’s education commissioner this week to share concerns about a state judge’s order telling Connecticut lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.
Moukawsher found fault with large sums going toward “those in special education who cannot receive any form of elementary or secondary education… 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 education.”
The U.S. Department of Education took issue with his ruling, saying it was concerned with those portions that “suggest that a school district need not provide programming or services to all [special education]-eligible children in all areas of need.” Ruth E. Ryder, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs pointed to various federal court rulings requiring school districts to provide services for all the needs of disabled students, including academic, physical, emotional or social needs, so that they have an opportunity to learn.
“Contrary to the lower court’s view, Connecticut and its school districts may not choose to provide special education and related services only for those students whom local educators believe may ostensibly benefit more from a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program,” Ryder wrote. “Rather, they have an obligation to provide special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities, including children with more severe or significant disabilities.”
Federal law requires school districts to provide an “appropriate education” to disabled students – but what exactly that means is unclear. Federal courts are divided on the issue. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in January over what kind of services must be provided to a Colorado student with autism.
As the CCJEF v. Rell goes, on appeal, to the Connecticut Supreme Court, it is good to know that the federal government, at least for now, is standing up for Connecticut students and their parents.
To read and comment on the full CT Mirror story about the federal government’s letter on special education go to: http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/15/feds-have-concerns-with-judges-special-education-ruling/