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After Years of Challenges, Decades of an Achievement Gap, Judge Rules CT Education System Unconstitutional

After Years of Challenges, Decades of an Achievement Gap, Judge Rules CT Education System Unconstitutional

For Connecticut residents, access to a quality school system is the luck of the draw. For the fortunate, being born in select affluent Fairfield County school districts means having access to not only the best schools in the state, but in the country. For the less fortunate, being born just down the road in the economically struggling Bridgeport means possibly attending a school where zero percent of students test proficient in math.

Education advocates have been calling attention to the inequity of Connecticut’s education system for years with the statistics to stand by their claims. Most recently, the first results of the state’s first statewide SAT exam provided a sobering picture of just how big the achievement gap really is.

"Only about 3 out of 10 (36.4%) African-American students and about 4 out of 10 (39%) Hispanic students met or exceeded achievement standards in ELA, compared with about 7 out of 10 (77.4%) white students,” said state news outlet WTNH.

Also last month, 11 student plaintiffs supported by California-based advocacy group Student Matters filed a lawsuit against the state for specific education laws they said prevent the state’s students from equal opportunity. Such laws include a moratorium on magnet schools and laws that restrict charter school development growth.

In plaintiff Jose Martinez’s school, Winthrop School in Bridgeport, parents are forced to choose between their student’s safety or education. In July, parents and school leaders met to debate whether parents could be comfortable with letting their children walk over a mile to school because funding could not cover both buses and teaching assistants.

Yesterday, a state judge made a decision that will require state officials to finally address the inequalities affecting students like Martinez.

The decision is in response to a separate lawsuit filed 11 years ago by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.

According to ABC News, "Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher in Hartford ordered the state to submit proposed reforms to the court to revamp its formula for distributing education aid to cities and towns, develop a statewide high school graduation standard such as a test, make eighth-graders show they have acquired the skills to move on to high school and replace what he called an irrational and weak statewide system of teacher evaluation and compensation.”

State officials have six months to make the changes but only 180 days to come up with a draft plan.

"The judge said the state's Educational Cost Sharing formula, which was used for years to distribute education aid to municipalities, was never fully funded and was abandoned by the state in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. In its place, the state legislature has approved set dollar amounts for every town, a system he said lacked reason,” said ABC News.

Governor Malloy responded by saying while the state has invested significant funding in the state’s neediest students since he took office, he welcomes the conversation the decision brings as it will inspire bold action.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

9/8/2016

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