The decision on CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs Rell lawsuit was announced and should have significant impact on educational funding in Connecticut. The decision is far reaching and looks to change not only how schools are funded but also priorities in funding allocation.
Here are the key components of the decision:
- A ruling that it is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the state to have a public education financing system that is NOT based on the amount of money it takes to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.
- A ruling that the present system for funding public education in CT is unconstitutional because it is irrational. The judge gave the State 180 days to submit to the plaintiffs in the case a system that is rational.
- An apparent ruling that the State has to develop a system for requiring students to actually demonstrate that they have mastered specified content and skills before being awarded a high school diploma and a requirement that there be a State graduation exit exam established for this purpose.
- An apparent ruling that the current system for teacher evaluation be revamped so that compensation is based on the results of teacher evaluation.
- An apparent ruling that would require the State not to program for children whose special needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence the quality of their lives.
Appeals in the case are likely but it would appear at this juncture all school districts will face significant changes in the future. Under the ruling, gone would be the days of social promotion and high school diplomas presented with little basis in merit.
Teacher compensation currently structured by contractual obligations rather than individual productivity or merit would be changed to a system based on results of teacher evaluation. In the land of steady habits, it will be difficult to facilitate real change and not window dressing to institute a realistic system of evaluation and compensation.
Special education would no longer be required for children whose needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence their quality of life. This may not be as clear cut as it sounds and remains open to some interpretation. Currently special education costs for a single student can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The “irrational” system for funding education must be changed in Connecticut. The new formula, under this decision, will not be based on a false premise of a constitutional guarantee to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.
One thing for sure lobbyist and special interest groups will be active to pressure our legislature to preserve, protect and promote their positions as new policies are written.