A judge will issue a ruling next week in a decade old education funding case against the state. The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding sued the state in 2005 arguing that Connecticut failed to fund schools adequately or equitably. The group was formed in part by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. The lawsuit was initially dismissed, but the plaintiffs won on appeal in the state supreme court, which sent it back down to the lower court for trial.
The new trial started earlier this year. Danbury is a lead plaintiff. Boughton called the September 7th ruling date a big day for the City in its fight for education funding fairness. The judge will issue an oral decision, to be followed up in writing. Boughton will travel to Hartford to hear the ruling.
Danbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sal Pascarella was among those who testified. He was on the stand for several days.
State officials deny the claims and say more money doesn't necessarily lead to higher test scores.
The coalition of municipalities, education groups, parents and students says the state was violating the Connecticut constitution by not providing enough aid to municipalities to allow them to properly educate students. The coalition cited vast differences in test results between rich and poor towns. CCJEF says that because public school funding in the state heavily relies on local property taxes, students in wealthy towns receive a much better education.
Boughton says there are three possible outcomes. The judge could order the legislature to craft a comprehensive approach to education funding, a realignment across the state. The judge could also decide that the four lead plaintiffs made a good argument and order the legislature to fix education funding for Danbury and the three other communities.
The other possibility is that the state isn't in the wrong. Boughton doesn't think that the judge will rule in favor of the state. Whatever decision comes down, it's probable that the state will appeal and the case could end up in the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The state is being called on by Danbury officials to come up with a more fail-safe funding method for school districts based on students' learning needs. During a community meeting in October in Danbury about school funding, the District said they have the 7th lowest per student spending in Connecticut at $12,684, relying heavily on local funding. Danbury contributes $9,061 per student, or 70 percent. School officials say that's nearly twice that of a similar district.
School officials say Danbury remains 50-percent underfunded by the state, with City taxpayers picking up 70-percent of the cost to educate each student.