Today marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education — the Supreme Court case that overturned legal segregation in our public schools. Much has changed over the last 60 years, but our schools remain far from equal.
Ending forced racial segregation was indeed a monumental step forward for our country. Unfortunately, the decades since that famous decision have shown that much more is required to provide a truly equal education to all.
This September, the Connecticut Supreme Court will take up the case Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell. CCJEF — a broad-based coalition of municipalities, school districts, parents, and others, including CEA — originally filed suit against the state in 2005, arguing that Connecticut is not meeting its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund its public schools — and that the current system of school finance is unconstitutional.
After accounting for inflation, the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula — the state’s major equalization mechanism for providing aid to towns for their public schools — has remained essentially flat throughout the past quarter-century. Yet we as a society have come to expect more and more from our schools over this same time period.
The cost of educating children far exceeds what ECS or other state grants have funded. Instead, local property taxes have carried the lion’s share of the burden — leaving Connecticut as the state in the nation most reliant on property taxes to fund public education. Because Connecticut towns’ property tax bases differ enormously, this leaves some school districts far behind their wealthier neighbors.
Adequately funding public education isn’t the only remaining piece of the puzzle necessary to solve problems of inequality in our schools — housing and zoning policies are another significant challenge in our state — but it would be a game changer for many Connecticut students.