School funding on trial: High court rejects speeding up appeal

Connecticut Supreme Court chamber

The Connecticut Supreme Court has denied the state’s unusual request that they speed up hearing arguments against a lower court’s controversial ruling that the state’s way of distributing school aid is irrational and unconstitutional.

With the court’s decision not to hear the case the first week of May, the next window for the justices to hear the appeal will be in September – months after the legislative session that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has dedicated to figuring out a new school funding approach is set to adjourn.

It has not been determined which justices will hear the case, but Justices Gregory T. D’Auria and Andrew McDonald have both recused themselves. D’Auria represented the state in the lawsuit during his tenure in the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office and McDonald was Malloy’s chief lawyer.

After hearing months of testimony, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled that the state is spending enough overall on education aid, but the way it is distributed is irrational, and therefore unconstitutional.

“The state of education in some towns is alarming,” Moukawsher ruled. “Too little money is chasing too many needs… If the egregious gaps between rich and poor school districts in this state don’t require more overall state spending, they at least cry out for coherently calibrated state spending” that factors in “the special circumstances of the state’s poorest communities.”

He also ruled, however, that money isn’t the only problem. Rather, the way the state sets some education policies is “so befuddled or misdirected as to be irrational” and thus unconstitutional.