The Connecticut Education Association, the city of Torrington, the towns of Brooklyn and Plainfield, as well as teachers, students, and parents in those municipalities are taking the state to court over the loss of millions in education funding.
Today, the group filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court seeking an injunction against Governor Malloy’s executive order that strips more than $557 million in education funding from the majority of the state’s public schools and puts children’s futures at risk.
“We can’t sit by and watch our public schools dismantled and students and teachers stripped of essential resources,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “This injunction is the first step toward ensuring that our state lives up to its commitment and constitutional obligations to adequately fund public education.”
The suit seeks to halt the Governor’s executive order that eliminates education funding in 85 cities and towns and severely cuts funding in another 54 towns, including those with high levels of poverty. These cuts would jeopardize school districts’ ability to provide quality education, thereby shortchanging Connecticut students’ futures.
The lawsuit contends that in the absence of a state budget, the governor does not have the authority to cut education funding. Even Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has questioned the legality of the governor’s executive order.
“Connecticut statutes require that the state provide education funding to our towns, and they specify the amount of that assistance,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “The executive order creates chaos. In the absence of a budget, the state must live up to its commitment to adequately fund public education and provide the educational funding that the state promised—and not let our schools and the education of our students be a political football.”
Cities and towns, students, parents, and teachers are concerned about the impact of these cuts.
“Our public schools can’t absorb these devastating cuts, and it is our children who are being punished,” said Brooklyn parent Louise Morrison, who joined the suit on behalf of her son and daughter. “Our children and our public schools are too important to cast aside and just hope for the best. We need a fair budget that invests in education and our children.”
“We have to protect our critical services, especially education for our children,” said Plainfield Central Middle School teacher Janet Piezzo. She is concerned about the potential loss of thousands of teachers across the state and how that will impact students.
“We are already doing more with less, and our schools can’t absorb more cuts,” she said. “I fear for my students, who will be crammed into larger classes with fewer resources.”
Veronica Gelormino, a Torrington Middle School teacher, agreed. “Every student matters and every teacher matters. We need teachers in the classroom who can help our students achieve. We need funding to keep high quality education in our state.”
“If these massive cuts go through, I know I will lose my job, along with thousands of other hard-working, dedicated teachers,” said Michael McCotter, a Torrington fourth grade teacher. McCotter, who has been teaching for four years, said cuts of this magnitude will be incredibly harmful and disruptive to students. “I am more concerned about my students and all the other students in schools across the state who will be negatively impacted by these cuts. Losing their teachers will impact their classroom environment and put their learning at risk, all in the middle of the school year.”
“My teachers make a difference in my learning and my future,” said Caylee Morrison, a third grade student at Brooklyn Elementary School. She and her 6-year-old brother Keegan, a kindergartner, are also part of the suit. “I love my teacher and going to school, because I want to be a fireman or policeman when I grow up,” Keegan said.
Torrington, Brooklyn, and Plainfield, which all rank high in levels of poverty, were the first three municipalities to join the suit.
Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone, First Selectmen Paul Sweet of Plainfield, and Rick Ives of Brooklyn said the massive cuts to their communities would cause irreparable harm to students, teachers, and public schools. They also note that these devastating cuts would also result in serious setbacks for residents and the municipalities’ ability to continue to provide much-needed resources and critical programs to their residents. All three leaders spoke of the real possibility of property tax hikes.
Under the executive order, all three municipalities sustained major cuts:
- Torrington went from $24 million to $4 million, a $20 million cut
- Brooklyn went from $7 million to $4 million, a $3 million cut
- Plainfield went from $15 million to $9 million, a $6 million cut
These three communities are among hundreds across the state that lack the wealth and reserve funds to support the millions of dollars in cuts to their public schools.
The municipal leaders said, while they understand that there are tremendous challenges this year, they also know that there are critical services, including education, that must be supported. Until the state finds a solution, it can’t decimate education budgets in cities and towns, creating chaos within our local public schools and our communities.
Carbone, Ives, and Sweet all agreed, “Funding must be maintained by state statute at the same level as last year. Education is a critical service for our children. They depend on it, and it must be delivered.”
“Great public schools are a basic right of every student. To deny students a quality public education is to deny their humanity. This failure of our state government to live up to its promise to Connecticut’s children is an outrage and should anger every resident living in our great state,” said Cohen. “CEA is working tirelessly to ensure that our state does the right thing for the well-being of our students, their families, our teachers, and our communities.”
Williams emphasized, “This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is a public education issue. This is about doing what’s best for our children, our schools, and our teachers. There is nothing partisan about it. This impacts every single person living in Connecticut, and every single person should demand more from our political leaders. We live in one of the wealthiest states in the country. Our residents, especially our children, deserve much more.”
“We are hopeful that the court will approve our injunction application and rule that the executive order education cuts are not valid,” stressed Cohen. “We ask the court to restore the education funding our communities and children expect and deserve.”