friday, 16 september of 2016

Connecticut Appeals Ruling Ordering Sweeping School Changes

Connecticut’s attorney general appealed to the state Supreme Court on Thursday to throw out a lower-court ruling last week that declared portions of the state’s educational system unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling found that the state’s funding program for public schools violated the state constitution and ordered the state to devise a new funding formula.

Attorney General George Jepsen said the lower court exceeded its authority and the ruling would nearly remake the state’s entire public school system at the “discretion of a single, unelected judge.”

“There is no reason to believe that any judge is better qualified to make these decisions than are elected officials,” the state attorney general’s office said in its appeal. “The fact that a judge may believe he can be above politics, which is to say, above the democratic process, does not provide license for a court to go beyond constitutional requirements to impose its vision of best practices in educational policy upon the state.”

The ruling followed a lawsuit filed against the state in 2005 by a coalition of cities, local school boards, parents and their children. The plaintiffs sought to address funding disparities between well-off and low-income school districts.

Jim Finley, principal consultant to the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the lead plaintiff in the case, said the group is discussing its legal options in light of the appeal.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said he accepted Mr. Jepsen’s legal rationale for the appeal. Mr. Malloy also said lawmakers should take steps to address the concerns raised in the ruling even as the appeal goes forward.

“It would be prudent to address the systemic problems in our educational system, particularly fair funding, in a serious manner once and for all in the 2017 legislative session,” Mr. Malloy said. “Legislative action is always preferable to a judicial decision.”

Mr. Jepsen echoed Mr. Malloy’s comments on problems in the educational system and said “nothing about this appeal prevents policy makers from immediately addressing those challenges.”

Judge Moukawsher also ordered Connecticut to establish mandatory standards for high school graduation, define what students must learn to complete elementary school, overhaul evaluations for public-school teachers and create new standards for special education

Judge Moukawsher’s ruling ordered the state to address the issues he raised within 180 days. The attorney general’s office asked the state Supreme Court for a stay on that order.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - September 15, 2016)

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