WNPR

In School Funding Suit, State Says Connecticut's Funding System Is Among the Best

Aug 9, 2016

Closing arguments continued on Tuesday in the decade-old school funding lawsuit filed against the state. 

Assistant attorney general Joseph Rubin said there's not a single students who's come forward claiming he or she was harmed as a result of a poor public education. Instead, he said, the suit is being driven by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, or CCJEF, which represents special interests and not students.

"I think there's one salient fact that we should begin with, that colors every single Connecticut witness the plaintiffs presented," Rubin said. "And that is this. They all share a common goal: they all want more money."

The state has given more than half a billion dollars over the last several years to the 30 lowest performing districts in the state, known as the Alliance Districts.

"An astonishing amount, and what do they all tell us? They all tell us, 'That's great, but it's not enough,'" Rubin said.  

Rubin showed the court that several studies have ranked Connecticut as having one of the strongest funding systems in the U.S. He also showed a chart that indicated the state is one of only four in the country that increased spending on education during the recession, from 2008 to 2012.

But Judge Thomas Moukawsher asked Rubin to explain recent budget decisions made by lawmakers that cut money to poor towns and gave money to wealthy ones.

"I was hoping that you might be able to explain if there's something in the legislative history," Moukawsher began, "or in some formula, that would explain to me how a rational budget process can allow that in a time of financial crisis to happen."

The state's funding formula is supposed to allocate money based on need, but lawmakers haven't used the formula in years. Judge Moukawsher said the process has become arbitrary, and there's been no rationale to describe how money is distributed.

The judge has to determine whether the funding system is constitutional, but he has expressed concern about the court’s role in deciding matters that are left to the legislature.