Hartford, Connecticut – Today, September 7th, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled on an almost-11-year-old case about the constitutionality of Connecticut’s education finance system: Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell. Judge Moukawsher ruled that Connecticut’s process for allocating education funding is irrational and unconstitutional. In response to the ruling, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:
“CCER agrees with Judge Moukawsher’s finding that Connecticut’s approach to funding public education is irrational. We have repeatedly pointed to the unclear and unjust manner of distributing education dollars through the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. And as unjust as that formula is, Connecticut has not even been using it of late—relying instead on an ad hoc and highly politicized distribution of funds to districts. When gaps in achievement loom as large as they do in Connecticut, it’s patently unfair to underfund these school districts.
“But it is especially noteworthy that Judge Moukawsher did not merely call for additional spending, rather choosing to emphasize the various ways in which our system needs to be re-worked. I am struck by the similarities between Judge Moukawsher’s apparent outlook and CCER’s policy agenda. An offshoot of a gubernatorial commission convened to find solutions to Connecticut’s unenviable achievement gap, CCER has consistently advocated for holistic reform of the public education system, including the need to make our funding structures more transparent and equitable—but not stopping there.
“CCER’s position has always been that, besides requiring funding adequacy and transparency, Connecticut has to do so much more to facilitate learning in our schools. We need structures that will hold teachers and leaders accountable for doing their utmost to meet students’ needs. We need to hold students accountable by setting high expectations for them through rigorous standards and curricula. We need to promote excellent teaching and leadership by holding our credentialing institutions accountable for preparing educators, and by providing suitable opportunities for professional development and compensation. When schools or districts fail to accomplish what they should, we need structures in place to intervene and turn them around.
“Absolutely: we must give public school districts an appropriate level of funding to do all of these things; however, that’s just the first step in narrowing the achievement gap. Funding won’t be enough to solve this problem without systems of accountability in place. It appears to me that Judge Moukawsher’s decision supports that conclusion.
“This reality is typified by Connecticut’s investment of half a billion dollars into the Alliance District program, through which the state’s thirty lowest performing districts have been receiving turnaround grants since 2012. That program has yet to yield the results that had been anticipated, despite an enormous financial investment by our state. This year, CCER is conducting a research study of the Alliance District program, which will include both qualitative and quantitative analyses, in the hopes that we might produce recommendations for how best to leverage education funding dollars.
“We are very enthusiastic about the outcome of the CCJEF trial and hopeful that the state will come up with a more appropriate funding model. When that happens, we also hope that Connecticut’s legislators, educators, and communities will come together to allocate those funds in ways that will best serve our students.”
About the Connecticut Council for Education Reform
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)–a statewide, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) not- for-profit organization–works to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut. The achievement gap is the disparity in academic achievement between children from low-income families and children of color, and their peers. We advocate for state policies and local practices that research shows have the best chance of raising achievement for high-need student populations.
For more information on CCER, go to www.ctedreform.org