WNPR

As Decade-Old Lawsuit Winds Down, Plaintiffs Say Education Is Path to Cure

Aug 8, 2016

Closing arguments began on Monday in a decade-old lawsuit that claims the state's school funding system is unconstitutional. 

More than 50 witnesses have taken the stand in a marathon trial that's included 60 days of  testimony. The plaintiffs include parents, students, and the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, or CCJEF.

Among other things, the plaintiffs argued that preschool and support services should be universal, and not only available to students in wealthy towns.

In arguing his position in front of Judge Thomas Moukawsher, CCJEF lawyer Joseph Moodhe said these unequal opportunities leave many children unprepared.

"There are lots of students that are not graduating college or career ready, and the state acknowledges that," Moodhe said.

He said many students end up having to take remedial classes because their high school education failed them.

But the state has pointed to several programs either created by the education department or by lawmakers that provide extra money to poor school districts.  It's also argued that education can't be seen as the key to solving all social ills. Moodhe admitted as much.

"Education is not a direct cure for any of those problems, but it is a path to a cure," he said.

The state has not fully implemented its education cost sharing grant in years, leaving many districts without all the money they're supposed to get under state law.

But Judge Moukawsher remained cautious about the court's role in deciding how much to spend on education, given that role is left up to the legislature.

"How can a court say, "here's what you're gonna spend,'" he said, "without even considering that there are other constitutional rights that you impinge on when doing that."

Connecticut is often cited as having one of the best public school systems in the country, but the plaintiffs argue more could be done.