Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Connecticut's Constitution Requires Better Funding for Inner City Education

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has won an historic decision a lawsuit over Connecticut's school systems, and how they are funded.The case is titled Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell. It may prove to be as significant as the Sheff case, or perhaps even more so, in determining the future of education in Connecticut's inner cities.

From the majority opinion:

The plaintiffs allege that the state has failed to provide their children with ‘‘suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities’’ because of inadequate and unequal inputs, which ‘‘are essential components of a suitable educational opportunity,’’ namely: (1) high quality preschool; (2) appropriate class sizes; (3) programs and services for at-risk students; (4) highly qualified administrators and teachers; (5) modern and adequate libraries; (6) modern technology and appropriate instruction; (7) an adequate number of hours of instruction; (8) a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses; (9) modern and appropriate textbooks; (10) a school environment that is healthy, safe, well maintained and conducive to learning; (11) adequate special needs services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.; (12) appropriate career and academic counseling; and (13) suitably run extracurricular activities. These inputs have been recognized by the state board of education in various ‘‘[p]osition [s]tatements’’ as ‘‘necessary components of a suitable educational opportunity.’’

The availability and quality of these essential inputs vary significantly in schools across the state..

At the Roosevelt School in Bridgeport, which includes grades kindergarten through eight, 61 percent of the kindergarten students have attended preschool or Head Start, as compared with 76 percent statewide. The average size for a kindergarten class is twenty-six students there, as compared with nineteen statewide. For a seventh grade class, the average size is thirty students, as compared with twenty-two statewide. The library has nine print volumes per student, in comparison to twenty volumes per student statewide, and thirty-seven non-print materials, as compared to 324 statewide. The library does not subscribe to any periodicals, while the average kindergarten through eighth grade school subscribes to fifteen periodicals. Roosevelt School does not offer any computer education instruction, while other schools statewide provide an average of eighteen hours per year. Roosevelt School also does not provide any world language instruction, while 66 percent of the kindergarten through eighth grade schools statewide do provide such instruction. Finally, each counselor at the Roosevelt School works with 438 students, in comparison to the statewide average of 265...

We conclude that article eighth, sect; 1, of the Connecticut constitution guarantees Connecticut's public school students educational standards and resources suitable to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state's economy, or to progress on to higher education.

The full majority decision is available on the Judicial Deparment's web site, along with a concurrence by Justice Palmer, a concurrence by Justice Schaller, a dissent by Justice Vertefeuille, and a dissent by Justice Zarella .

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