OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc is a 501(C)3, 100 percent volunteer organization serving Greater New Haven and the broader CT community since 1996. Please visit our YouTube channel to see examples of our work: https://goo.gl/q3YhD6 Education and Civic Engagement are two areas of focus. Visitors can learn much more about OneWorld’s investment in education by visiting: http://www.oneworldpi.org/education/
September 7, 2016 should go down in the anals of Connecticut Public Education history as being close to the significance of the ruling on Brown Versus the Board of Education, or the decision in Sheff V. O’Neil. However, those who have lived through those rulings are painfully aware that these rulings are more easily issued than they are adherred to. We sincerely hope that this time will be the exception, and that those who control the purse strings will not be as successful in beating the system as have happened in the past. We also hope that parents and advocates will be more involved — on a consistent basis — and be more balanced and truly informed in dealing with the political, legislative, and social and mental infrastructures of racism that exist in Connecticut. We hope that discipline and rigorous academic standards will again be the norm in all public schools.
Teachers should be able to teach and not have to spend 50 percent of their time on trying to create a learning environment because too many children are behaviorally out of conrol. Teachers should not have to tolerate abuse and blatant disrespect from students. It is impossible to teach children who will not pay attention, or who are so hyperactive they cannot sit still.
Parents need to do their jobs in teaching discipline, respect and cooperative behaviors at home, so their children know how to conduct themselves in the classroom. There needs to be more team-building between the home and the school. Sadly, some children have a roof over their heads but no guidance, support, love or direction at what passes for home. Successfully addressing these issues pose enormous challenges; however, if our education system is to succeed in adequately preparing the majority of our students, we must succeed in creating a positive learning environment in all schools. Cooperative teamwork between parents and teachers is central to that success. Here are a few examples from programs produced by OneWorld: “Parents & Teachers, Working Together, Help Students’ Succeed” https://youtu.be/b_vjtSflhe0 School districts in several other states (none in CT) have requested DVD copies of this program. The complete program is on our YouTube channel. The next program is an 11-mins TED talk.
Building Relationships Between Parents and Teachers: https://youtu.be/kin2OdchKMQ TED In this TED talk Megan Olivia Hall talks about the relationship between resources, opportunities and academic success. Connections bridge the academic gap.
In 2016, NHPS principals talk about “Building Success Pathways for ALL Students” https://youtu.be/nXeZgf7VXNk In all of our urban districts there are students who are succeeding academically. Granted, many are failing. The question then has to be – why are some children (sitting in the same classes with the same teachers) succeeding while others are not? Clearly, it is not that they are not being taught; it might be that some children do not arrive at school prepared to learn. It might also be that some teachers have given up because the challenges they face in some of our urban classrooms are too debilitating.
How do we fix all of these problems? And fix them we must. America’s future depends on it.
- Some of the comments in the first video linked above address this very issue.
- Identifying those students and arranging special classrooms for them might be an answer. However, the fix might be far more complex and need more input and joint efforts by parents.
- Without an enormous amount of financial commitment by the state, far more education resource from a variety of sources, and effective partnerships with parents, the urban school districts will not accomplish the order issued by the Judge Moukawsher today.
Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for CT Public Schools
Declaring that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty” to fairly educate its poorest children, a Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to come up with a new funding formula for public schools.
Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s unexpectedly far-reaching decision also directed the state to devise clear standards for both the elementary and high school levels, including developing a graduation test. He also ordered a complete overhaul of Connecticut’s system of evaluating teachers, principals and superintendents. And he demanded a change in the “irrational” way the state funds special education services.
Moukawsher’s mandates come with a tight deadline: The remedies he is ordering must be submitted to the court within 180 days. It is unclear how the state Department of Education, the legislature and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will come up with solutions, within six months, to complicated problems that have plagued public education in Connecticut for decades.
“Nothing here was done lightly or blindly,” Moukawsher said, reading his entire 90-page decision from the bench, a highly unusual undertaking that took close to three hours. “The court knows what its ruling means for many deeply ingrained practices, but it also has a marrow-deep understanding that if they are to succeed where they are most strained, schools have to be about teaching children and nothing else.”
The much-anticipated decision is the culmination of an 11-year legal battle between the state and the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, an alliance of municipalities, boards of education, teachers’ unions and education advocacy groups. The coalition filed a lawsuit against then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, alleging that the state’s education cost-sharing formula violates the state constitution and places an unfair burden on local property taxes to support school spending.
A spokesman for Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office defended the state in the case, declined to say whether the office intends to appeal the ruling.
“We are reviewing this decision in consultation with our client agencies and decline to comment further at this time,” spokesman Samuel Carmody said.
Moukawsher did not stipulate what the state’s level of funding for public schools should be, but he declared that the current system is failing Connecticut’s students.
“So change must come. The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible,” Moukawsher said.
Members of the coalition praised the judge’s ruling. “This is a landmark victory for Connecticut’s public school students,” said the group’s president, Newtown Selectman Herb Rosenthal. “The court’s decision will have a significant impact on education funding and opportunities in Connecticut.”
Municipal leaders also praised the breadth and scope of Moukawsher’s decision. A stunned Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who sat in the wood-paneled courtroom as the ruling was read, called it “a sweeping indictment of the education system in Connecticut. … He left no stone unturned.”
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who was also in court, called the decision “a huge game changer … I think it compels action.”
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said the ruling means “the state can no longer ignore its poorest cities and lowest-performing education systems. The biggest piece is the achievement gap: In Connecticut you have the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.”
And Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the ruling “shines a bright light on the profound inequalities that exist between school districts and holds out the promise of real reform to our educational system and funding structure.”
But other members of the diverse coalition that brought the lawsuit viewed the ruling more critically. Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, expressed disappointment that Moukawsher failed to prescribe a fix for the funding disparity between wealthy and poor school districts.
“Unfortunately, the court declined to provide any remedy for the disparity in resources and revenue for students in the state’s poorest communities — the essence and heart of the … litigation,” Cohen said. “Also, the court’s attempt to impose one-size-fits-all mandates that erode flexibility and local education control penalizes the majority of Connecticut’s schools.”
In his ruling, Moukawsher branded the teacher evaluation process “dysfunctional” and said it is based on inflated standards that have resulted in nearly every educator graded as proficient or exemplary. This drew a sharp response from Jan Hochadel, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut.
Moukawsher’s comments regarding accountability and teacher evaluations “were not just disappointing, but disrespectful of education professionals.”
The extraordinary ruling orders the state to revamp virtually all areas of public education — from the hiring and firing of teachers, to special education services, to education standards for elementary and high school students. He also criticized the state’s generous reimbursement policy for school construction projects, especially in an age of decreasing enrollment.
“To get rid of an irrational policy, adopt a rational one,” Moukawsher said in his ruling. “It’s the court’s job to require the state to have one. It’s the state’s job to develop one. The court will judge the state’s solutions, and if they meet the standards described in this decision, uphold them.”
The case highlighted longstanding inequities between Connecticut’s urban and largely poor school districts and the state’s wealthier — and higher achieving — suburban school districts. Moukawsher was sharply critical of Connecticut’s “befuddled and misdirected” education policies that have left cities without adequate resources and denied children their constitutional right to an equal education.
“We are very, very happy that very soon, we hope, the situation for Connecticut students will dramatically improve,” Joseph Moodhe, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said outside the courthouse, moments after Moukawsher finished reading his decision. “We are confident that the educational department, as well as the legislators and the executive branch, will give careful consideration to the findings … and make appropriate efforts to address them in the coming months.”
Malloy, who has made education policy a cornerstone of his administration, said he welcomes the “conversation this decision brings.”
“Since I took office, the state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in education with an overwhelming share directed at supporting our students who need it the most,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “These investments are working – students across the board are showing growth in math and reading on recent state tests. At the same time, we know there is more work to do and we remain resolute in our commitment to improve educational outcomes for all our students.”
The ruling sets the stage for a showdown at the Capitol over education policy when the legislature convenes in January. “We want to use this as a moment of positive change,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk. “This could be our clarion moment for education reform.”
Several lawmakers questioned the tight time frame set by Moukawsher. House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said a six-month deadline to come up with the proposals demanded by the judge was “not realistic.”
Deputy Majority Leader Bob Godfrey of Danbury agreed and said nothing is likely to happen before March.
“We’re already a quarter of the way through the fiscal year. We can’t go to small towns and say, ‘Give us back the money.’ School is in session. This is going to be a lengthy debate, and it won’t be limited just to the formula.”
Godfrey said the ruling corrects the huge gap in education funding between rich and poor communities. “The political problem is getting 76 votes in the House and 19 in the Senate to reform it because [lawmakers] are never going to cut education spending to their towns,” he said. “But we’re going to be forced to do exactly that.”
New Britain school board President Sharon Beloin-Saavedra said she hopes the General Assembly doesn’t allow politics to derail the drive for education funding reform, but acknowledged the likelihood of suburban legislators working to maintain their communities’ state aid.
“If the state can’t afford additional dollars and it’s a reallocation of the existing pie, you’ll have people screaming – the people who are going to be losing a share,” she said.
In addition to a lengthy battle at the legislature, the ruling could set off more legal scuffling. During the trial, which lasted 60 days, lawyers in the attorney general’s office argued that the state’s investment in education is enough to provide an adequate education. They cited the substantial resources Connecticut devotes to its public schools, including hundreds of millions of additional dollars directed to low-performing districts in recent years.
Moukawsher was unimpressed. “Too little money is chasing too many needs,” he said, warning lawmakers not to make a “mockery of the state’s constitution.”
In urban districts, “most of the students are being let down by patronizing and illusory degrees,” Moukawsher said. “The state is failing poor students by giving them unearned degrees” by graduating them without the skills needed for higher education.”
In particular, the judge noted a dysfunctional teacher evaluation system where “everyone succeeds” and where student success isn’t considered. “Good teachers can’t be recognized and bad teachers can’t be removed,” Moukawsher said.
Moukawsher blasted the General Assembly for a recent round of cuts to public schools in the state’s poorest cities. “There could not be a worse time to move education money from struggling school districts,” Moukawsher said. “But the state did it anyway.”
The court cannot dictate the amount of education spending, Moukawsher concluded, “but spending … must follow a formula influenced only by school needs and good practices.”
The sweeping implications of the case, which began as a project for Yale Law School students, were evident from the start, said David Rosen, a New Haven lawyer who teaches at the school’s Educational Adequacy Project. “This was a high stakes case from Day 1,” he said. “The fact that the court has now ruled in favor of Connecticut’s children is simply momentous.”
Courant staff writers Christopher Keating, Jenna Carlesso, Matthew Kauffman, Kathleen Megan, Kathleen McWilliams, Don Stacom and Shawn R. Beals contributed to this story.
Other related coverage regarding this ruling can be found at:
STATE FACES BIG TASK COMPLYING WITH JUDGE’S RULING
- What does Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling do?
- Declaring that “change must come,” the Superior Court judge ordered far-reaching changes in public education, including creating a more equal and “rational” system for distributing billions in state funds to local schools.
- What was the basis for the judge’s ruling?
- The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that unequal educational performance in Connecticut, notably in the state’s largest and poorest cities, is the state’s responsibility and that the “irrational” education system that exists in Connecticut violates students’ constitutional right to an adequate education.
OneWorld community television programs and forums focus on three areas.
1) Improving Education (at every level). We work with students, parents, educators and education specialists to address issues that are intended to inform and engage– thereby having a positive impact. Link to Education Agenda: http://www.oneworldpi.org/education/
2) Health Literacy: We work to promote overall good health; reduce disparities in health care outcomes by promoting health literacy, working to improve access, and encouraging proactive behaviors, and
3) Civic Engagement: We strive to Strengthen Families and Communities by focusing on the constructive and productive ways we can all work together to make a positive difference in our communities.
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc is a 501(C)3, 100 percent volunteer organization serving Greater New Haven and the broader CT community since 1996. We produce three categories of television programs: health literacy, education and civic engagement. We also engage the community, and particularly students, in critical-thinking forums, an oratory competition and radio discussions. What we do depends largely on what we can financially afford to do at any given time and on an ongoing basis. We invite and appreciate technical and financial support.
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