Dianne Kaplan deVries, the driving force behind the coalition that won a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that the state pay for every child to receive an adequate education, died Sunday from cancer.
“If it wasn’t for her that coalition would never have gotten off the ground. There is no question about it,” said Jim Finley, the former executive director of Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and now a consultant for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the organization deVries founded in 2004. “Her passion was contagious… She had a powerful sense of the need to correct an injustice.”
Kaplan deVries made it her life’s work to bring together an unlikely coalition to sue the state for what she decried as the state’s “chronic underfunding” of education. That coalition included parents, teachers’ unions, school boards and city leaders. She secured free services from both Yale Law School and the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton to represent the coalition in court.
“This appalling disregard for poor, minority, immigrant and disabled students has simply got to end. We’ll see you in court,” she told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director in July 2012.
The state’s high court ruled in 2010 that the state is responsible for providing a quality education for all students, but a lower court has yet to determine whether the state is meeting that obligation.
The start of that trial has been delayed multiple times, including once last year after it was discovered that Kaplan deVries had instructed people to delete their emails because they may be used at trial. That trial is now set to begin Jan. 11.
“Our friend and colleague will be sorely missed. In this sad time, all of us in CCJEF rededicate ourselves to ensuring that her dream of equal educational opportunity is realized,” said Herbert C. Rosenthal, the president of the coalition.
“Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries will be in the forefront when the history of equal educational opportunity in Connecticut is written,” said Finley.
Kaplan deVries, the coalition’s longtime executive director, spent countless hours driving from her home in New Hampshire to her apartment in Hartford so she could work for CCJEF for a small stipend. She continued to work even as she struggled with her health. She held a doctorate in education policy from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
“She sacrificed a lot of her personal life to dedicate her full time efforts to CCJEF,” said Finley.
Kaplan deVries leaves behind her husband, two sons and three grandsons.
A service is scheduled to be held at noon on Thursday at Purdy Funeral Services in Dover, New Hampshire.