The State of Connecticut said on Thursday that it would appeal a sweeping ruling in a schools funding case that ordered it to re-examine virtually the entire education system.
There are strong arguments that the trial court exceeded its authority and the standards articulated by the Connecticut Supreme Court, and so today we are asking that court to review this ruling, Attorney General George C. Jepsen said in a statement.
In the long-running case, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher of State Superior Court in Hartford found last week that Connecticut was defaulting on its constitutional duty to give all children an adequate education because the state was allowing students in poor districts to languish while those in wealthy districts excelled.
Judge Moukawsher gave the state 180 days to revamp teacher evaluations and compensation, school funding policies, special education services and graduation requirements.
The ruling was met with enthusiasm by elected officials in some of the states poorer cities, but others, including the states teachers union, objected. Sheila Cohen, the president of the union, the Connecticut Education Association, in a statement on Thursday called Judge Moukawshers decision broad and overreaching.
Continue reading the main storyAdvocates for people with disabilities were also troubled by aspects of the ruling, which suggested that some students might be too disabled for educational services, while also calling for more equitable access to services.
Nancy B. Alisberg, managing attorney at Connecticuts Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities, part of a national network of civil rights organizations, said she worried that schools could say, Oh no, this child is too disabled, they wont benefit from an education, so we dont have to provide them with anything. It is, frankly, terrifying.
Ms. Alisberg added, I think it boils down to a belief on the part of the court that there are certain students who, based on the level of their disability, dont deserve an education.
The state said in its appeal that Judge Moukawsher demanded changes to educational policies that could be enacted only by the Connecticut General Assembly.
This decision would wrest educational policy from the representative branches of state government, limit public education for some students with special needs, create additional municipal mandates concerning graduation and other standards and alter the basic terms of educators employment and entrust all of those matters to the discretion of a single, unelected judge, Mr. Jepsen, a Democrat, wrote in his statement.
There have been dozens of school funding lawsuits across the country. But this one, known as Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, was set apart by the extent of the changes the judge required, which went far beyond dollars.
The coalition said it was weighing its options.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has stood on both sides of the case. When the lawsuit was filed in 2005, Mr. Malloy, then the mayor of Stamford, spoke out in support. Years later, he appointed Judge Moukawsher to his current seat on the bench. Now the state is resisting the judges decision.
Mr. Malloy said in a statement that he accepted the attorney generals decision to appeal and hoped systemic education problems could be addressed in the coming session of the General Assembly, calling a legislative approach always preferable to a judicial decision.
We hope that this moment marks the start, rather than the stalling, of a statewide dialogue around finding a better way to fund our schools, which ultimately results in a better solution for our students and communities, the governor said. We should act together, and we should do it sooner rather than later.
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