After months at trial in Hartford Superior Court, the historic education funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, concluded with post trial arguments today. The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF)—a coalition made up of students, parents, towns, and education organizations including CEA—had filed suit against the state of Connecticut for failing to adequately and equitably fund public schools.
As a result of the state’s education funding failure, lawyers for CCJEF argued that many children in high-poverty districts—including Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, New Britain, New London, and Windham—lack the critical educational resources they need to succeed. Additionally, their educational opportunities are significantly unequal and inequitable when compared to those of students in wealthier districts.
In his closing remarks today, Joseph Moodhe, the lead attorney representing CCJEF, told Judge Thomas Moukawsher, “I think, Your Honor, you have before you now, a tremendous body of evidence that shows that we have an inadequate education system that is impacting large numbers of students in this state that cries out for the attention of the judiciary.”
Earlier this week, Moukawsher indicated he struggles with the obligation to uphold the constitution of the state on the one hand, while also not overstepping the court’s proper role.
He said that the way the legislature has often distributed state education aid, “You have no way to understand why one community gets one thing and another community gets another.”
Yet Moukawsher noted, “If I order so many billions to go to education as a whole, are there going to be billions left to desegregate Hartford Public Schools? So too with respect to the Department of Children and Families. The court is telling [the legislature] ‘spend this, spend that.’ How do courts do that in a vacuum? How can a court say, ‘Here’s what you’re going to spend’ without even considering that there are other constitutional rights that you impinge on when doing that?”
Judge Moukawsher now has 120 days to issue a written decision, which he described as a “very interesting and demanding chore.”
Regardless of the outcome in the case, the losing side will almost certainly appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court.