The Connecticut Supreme Court was asked Friday to reconsider its recent decision that the state provides students from impoverished communities the minimally adequate education the state Constitution requires.
In making their request, lawyers representing the coalition of parents, teachers and local elected officials who sued the state argue the trial in the case provided abundant examples of deficiencies in school districts – from a Bridgeport high school that had no certified math teachers to East Hartford High School, where textbooks were so old the lesson about technology referred to floppy disks and didn’t mention the internet.
The coalition also asks the court to reconsider its conclusion that the state is not constitutionally responsible for paying to help students overcome societal deficiencies such as poverty and other issues at home. They asked the court to adopt a standard set forth in a dissenting opinion in the case that would require the state to “take into account any special needs of a particular local school system.”
“The majority fails to appreciate that its holding constitutes an unequivocal statement to tens of thousands of at-risk youths that their individualized educational needs are constitutionally irrelevant,” attorneys representing the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding wrote in its late-day motion to the court. “For the majority, if the resources provided are sufficient for children who face no such impediments to learning, then the state’s constitutional duty has been met, regardless of those left behind. For districts overwhelmed by the needs of disadvantaged students, who require additional resources to have any real access to an opportunity for a minimally adequate education, the majorities constitutional floor offers them no protection.”
The plaintiffs argued that there might not be a statewide deficiency in overall education spending, but there are major deficiencies in the most impoverished districts, which struggle to raise revenue locally. “The question is not merely whether Connecticut residents, in the aggregate, receive adequate school,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.
They pointed to the trial judge’s findings that money is”desperately needed” in some of the state’s low-income districts, that some schools are “utterly failing,” and that for “thousands of Connecticut students, there is no elementary education.”
“Those are forceful and unequivocal findings of ultimate facts,” the plaintiffs said.
The state attorney general’s office has until Wednesday to respond to the plaintiffs’ request for a rehearing. There is no deadline for a Supreme Court decision.