New Haven Register: Voters should keep education in mind when they head to the polls
Katie Roy, School + State Finance Project
November 02, 2016 - 3 minutes
With Election Day less than three weeks away, roughly two million registered Connecticut voters will soon have the opportunity to go to the polls and cast their ballots for the candidates and policies they believe will push Connecticut toward an even brighter future.
While November 8 brings an end to an election cycle that, at least on a national level, has been consumed by harmful rhetoric and vitriol, it also provides an opportunity for Connecticut voters to let policymakers know what issues matter most to them and their communities. When voters go to the polling booth this November, Connecticut’s school finance system should be an issue in the front of their minds.
How Connecticut funds its public schools impacts each and every person in our state. No matter where you live, how old you are, or how much money you make, Connecticut’s inequitable school finance system impacts you. And when inequity exists, our whole state loses.
No person or community in Connecticut is an island, and nowhere is this more evident than with education. For Connecticut to remain strong and grow, we need a first-class education system that gives all students a fair chance at success. This starts with finally implementing a fair and equitable formula to fund our public schools.
Connecticut’s current school finance system fails to take student-learning needs into account and does not appropriately consider the wealth and needs of communities. As a result, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher recently found in his wide-ranging ruling in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell that Connecticut is “defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid.”
Sadly, Connecticut has been defaulting on this duty for decades as short-term fixes and patchwork policies have failed to address the roots of inequitable funding across the state’s public schools. As a result, students are funded based on little more than historical precedent, the type of school they attend, and politics; none of which take into account their needs, the needs of their communities, or the changing enrollments and demographics of their schools.
While the State has appealed Moukawsher’s ruling to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Gov. Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen have both called for the General Assembly to take action and finally address the state’s school funding challenges. As Malloy stressed in a press release following the announcement of the State’s appeal: “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...Let us take this opportunity to act on behalf of all of our students.”
Connecticut voters have a chance on Nov. 8 to tell legislators not to let that opportunity pass them by once again. They have a chance to keep education and school funding in the front of policymakers’ minds. They have a chance to exercise their constitutional rights and make sure students receive theirs. And they have a chance to push Connecticut toward an equitable school finance system that works for all students and meets their learning needs and the needs of their schools and communities.
Continuing to use an unfair, illogical school finance system not only means continuing to distribute more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars arbitrarily, it means continuing to deny educational opportunities to thousands of students across our state—educational opportunities they deserve and are entitled to.
Help prevent this continuation and remember Connecticut’s need for a fair school finance system as you head to polls on Nov. 8.