Connecticut’s Education System Is Flawed, But Not Unconstitutional

More to Think About: Education

Supreme Court: Connecticut’s Education System Is Flawed, But Not Unconstitutional

by Christine Stuart

HARTFORD, CT — The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Connecticut’s education system is imperfect, but not unconstitutional.

The decision may signal the end of 12 years of litigation over whether the state has been providing enough funding for its poorest school districts.

In a 4-3 decision in which three of the justices concurred and dissented with parts of the ruling, the majority concluded that it’s not the function of the courts to create educational policy “or to attempt by judicial fiat to eliminate all of the societal deficiencies that continue to frustrate the state’s educational efforts. Rather, the function of the courts is to determine whether the narrow and specific criteria for a minimally adequate educational system under our state constitution have been satisfied.”

The justices, in overturning Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling, wrote that “although the plaintiffs have convincingly demonstrated that in this state there is a gap in educational achievement between the poorest and neediest students and their more fortunate peers, disparities in educational achievement, standing alone, do not constitute proof that our state constitution’s equal protection provisions have been violated. The plaintiffs have not shown that this gap is the result of the state’s unlawful discrimination against poor and needy students in its provision of educational resources as opposed to the complex web of disadvantaging societal conditions over which the schools have no control.”

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, which brought the case against then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell and worked for years to get it to trial, was deeply disappointed with the decision.

“CCJEF believes a case of this landmark magnitude should not be left dangling on such a close vote but requires instead the kind of clarity for the future of the State’s educational system that only a new trial and a definitive majority can establish,” James Finley, chief consultant for the group, said.

Finley said the coalition expects to file a motion for reconsideration.

“For over twelve years CCJEF has been battling in the Connecticut courts to ensure that every K-12 public school student in our state has the opportunity to receive their constitutionally guaranteed right to an adequate and equitable education,” Finley said. “Our courts are the backstop to ensure that state constitutional rights are protected when the other two branches of state government fail in their duty to do so.”

However, there are some in the executive and legislative branches of government who would be happy to put this case in the rearview mirror in order to move forward with changes.

“This decision concludes this landmark case regarding education funding,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was once a plaintiff in the case a mayor of Stamford before being elected governor to then become a defendant in the case. “At the same time, the urgency to continue the fight to distribute greater educational dollars where there is the greatest need has not diminished.”

He said no court “can mandate political courage, and it is my hope that current and future policymakers continue to make progress with a more fair distribution of educational aid.”

Senate President Martin Looney, a Democrat from New Haven, said the court’s decision “reaffirmed that local education funding is firmly in the purview of the General Assembly.”

But the legislature, according to the coalition of plaintiffs, has failed to create a system that provides every student with an adequate education.

“Every child in Connecticut deserves a first class education,” Looney said. “Our job will not be complete until we eliminate the inequities inherent our educational system and ensure that children in every city and every town across Connecticut receive a fair shot at academic success.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, said the ruling provides an opportunity for the legislature.

“Everyone involved is frustrated that a comprehensive solution to this matter has eluded us,” Klarides said. “Disparities in our schools exist and that is not acceptable. But there is the will to bring the spectrum of stakeholders together and this offers new opportunities to address solutions in a comprehensive manner.”

But some stakeholders aren’t as optimistic about what the ruling means.

“Communities all over the state have already seen the state withdraw from its obligation to fund our public schools,” Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen said. “Rather than protect the quality of education in our communities, this decision allows the governor and the legislature to continue to slash funding to our schools and children. If Connecticut is to be an educational leader now and in the future, it will require that elected officials honor their duty to provide the equitable funding and resources all children deserve.”

Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), seemed to agree, even though her group is often at odds with the teacher’s union.

“Today’s ruling from the State Supreme Court in no way absolves the state from fixing the persistent and alarming problems in our education system that Judge Moukawsher cited in his ruling,” Alexander said. “The status quo is failing far too many kids who are graduating from high school without the knowledge or skills they need to be successful in college or career.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, whose city is a member of the CCJEF coalition, said he’s also disappointed in the decision.

“We strongly believe that Judge Moukawsher was right when he ruled that while there may be enough resources overall spent to create an adequate education for all Connecticut public school students, the way in which the state has chosen to distribute these resources is irrational, and unconstitutionally disadvantages students from poor and challenged districts such as Bridgeport,” Ganim said. “How can you say that the state is meeting its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education to Bridgeport’s 22,000 public school students when it only spends $14,000 per pupil, and in better off communities nearly double is spent on every student?”

AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel, whose organization joined the lawsuit 13 years ago, said the decision puts the “responsibility for addressing and resolving the underlying cause of Connecticut’s broken education funding system on our elected leaders.”

She said the court “essentially issued a renewed call to action.”

The question remains whether the legislature has the political will to make the necessary changes to how education is funded.

With Integrated Schools Out Of Reach, Segregated Options Gain Favor

Imperfect Choices: With Integrated Schools Out Of Reach, Segregated Options Gain Favor

Connecticut’s network of regional magnet schools, long hailed as a national model for voluntary integration, still serve only a fraction of Hartford students a generation after their racial isolation was deemed unconstitutional. And those magnets, slipping in their effort to meet racial quotas after the 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill ruling, are now quietly tilting admission preferences to favor white suburbanites, even as thousands of black and Latino students are left out.

That leaves two public-school options for families desperate for a way out: Open Choice, a $35 million-a-year Sheff program that buses Hartford students to predominantly white suburban schools, and taxpayer-funded charters that are the most segregated schools in the state.

Neither option meets the ideals of integrated education, where robust numbers of blacks, whites and Latinos learn side-by-side. But in a world of imperfect solutions, Hartford families are flocking to choices where integration is absent — or actively spurned.  Read more here.





Struggling to cope with past sexual abuse and a mother who works long hours at a low-wage job, Alex regularly breaks down while at school.

The screaming, crawling and crying of this 5-year-old at North Windham Elementary School – and the arrival of an ambulance when he sometimes begins to hurt himself – are disruptions that make it hard to keep other students focused.

“It’s a continued struggle to survive emotionally,” said Catina Cabán-Owen, the only social worker at her school of 466 students. “This child does not have the support, because the mother cannot provide it.”

Alex, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, is watched by a neighbor while his mother works. His father is not around.

A student walks by one of the many boarded up houses in an impoverished neighborhood in Hartford on the way to school.

While Alex’s struggle is extreme, his basic story – a student living in poverty who needs help coping with trauma – is common. He is among many students for whom poverty creates or exacerbates obstacles to learning. Read more here. 

FREE Construction & CNA Job Training Program

Image result for community renewal team hartford ct

Community Renewal Team (CRT) Capital City YouthBuild AmeriCorps program is currently recruiting young people from Hartford, between the ages of 18-24. The participants selected will have the opportunity to obtain their high school diploma and develop skills for success while pursuing a career in Construction or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  Participants who have their high school diploma, will work mainly on completing the training of their choice while developing their skills for success as they transition to employment, post-secondary education or additional training.

All selected participants have the opportunity to receive their OSHA-10 certificate, Home Builders Institute (HBI) PACT certification, CPR, CNA and ServSafe certification depending on their certification selection. All participants will be eligible for a stipend and incentives.

If you know anyone interested, applications can be picked up at CRT Youth Artisan & Technology (YAT) Center located at 1443 Main Street in Hartford.
If additional information is needed, please feel free to contact Cynthia Baisden via email at

Meditation Not Detention

Image result for dalai lama

The Dalai Lama said: “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

This school replaced detention with meditation. The results are stunning.


Imagine you’re working at a school and one of the kids is starting to act up. What do you do?

Traditionally, the answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or suspension.

But in my memory, detention tended to involve staring at walls, bored out of my mind, trying to either surreptitiously talk to the kids around me without getting caught or trying to read a book. If it was designed to make me think about my actions, it didn’t really work. It just made everything feel stupid and unfair.

But Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been doing something different when students act out: offering meditation.

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. Read more here and here.

The School of the NY Times

The School of The New York TimesThe School of The New York Times

Upcoming Weekend Courses
For students ages 13–18 | From 4 weeks to 12 weeks
Meet thought leaders shaping a wide range of industries and explore topics you won’t find in a typical high school setting. From sports management and the environment, to arts, culture and more, our weekend courses provide access and insights that set students apart as they prepare for college and beyond. Upcoming featured courses include:
Climate and Sustainability
The Future of Fashion
Reporting in New York
Writing for Television
Social Media Essentials
Sports Statistics
Personal Essay Writing
Jane Austen in the 21st Century

Fuller Scholarship Fund

Frank Roswell Fuller Scholarship Fund
Bank of America, Trustee
c/o Trinity College
Hartford, CT

Origin of the Fuller Scholarship Fund

Frank Roswell Fuller was born in Hartford on August 23, 1873, and attended local public schools. He went to New York City at the turn of the century and commenced a long and successful career in the brokerage business. He later formed his own company at 40 Wall Street known as Fuller & Company, which operated from 1904 to 1920. When he retired, he came to live in West Hartford where he purchased several large farms in the northwest section of the town. He died on March 1, 1957. Mr. Fuller was always interested in helping “needy, deserving” students obtain the education that he had not been able to enjoy himself. His will, probated in the Probate Court for the District of Hartford, establishes a substantial scholarship fund with the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company, now Bank of America, as Trustee. A committee of five was appointed by the will to determine the scholarships.

Members of the
Fuller Scholarship Committee
President, Trinity College
Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid, Trinity College
Chairman, Bank of America, Trustee
Master, Connecticut State Grange
Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference of The United Church of Christ
(Congregational Christian Churches)

Eligibility Requirements

In order to meet the eligibility requirements for a Fuller Scholarship you must be:
1. Able to demonstrate financial need (determined by filing the FAFSA)
2. Currently in your senior year at a high school located within Hartford County
3. Maintaining an average of 70 or better (or its equivalent)
4. A member of the UCC/Congregational Church and “professed to be of the Congregational faith”
5. Planning to attend a fully accredited four-year college as a candidate for a baccalaureate degree
The Application Process
If you meet the eligibility requirements of the Fuller Scholarship Fund, you may request an application packet by writing to:
Frank Roswell Fuller Scholarship Fund
c/o Trinity College
Financial Aid Office
300 Summit Street
Hartford, CT 06106-3100
Or email:

Important dates for the award process are as follows:
March 1: Request scholarship packet;
Complete FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
May 15: DEADLINE for submitting the following:
• Application
• High-school transcript
• Church recommendation
• SAR (Student Aid Report)
• College’s Financial Aid Award Notice
June: The Committee meets to select recipients
July: Applicants are notified; recipients must acknowledge acceptance of award and provide final high school transcripts
August-September: Checks are sent from the Fuller Scholarship Fund to the Financial Aid Office at the recipient’s college

Terms of the Award

Fuller Awards are made in the form of a grant (which does not need to be repaid.) The grant award is applied to the recipient’s total expenses for room, board, and travel to and from home to college (one round trip each semester). Fuller grants cannot be used to pay tuition.

Renewal of Awards
Frank Roswell Fuller Awards can be renewed for up to four years of undergraduate study, providing you are maintaining satisfactory progress and continue to demonstrate need. Leave of absence or transfers to another institution must meet with the approval of the committee before an award can be renewed. The Frank Roswell Fuller Award cannot be continued on to graduate school.

IMPORTANT: Renewal candidates must submit a copy of their Academic Transcript each year by July 1st. Renewal candidates who have transferred to a different institution must submit a copy of their college’s Financial Aid Award Notice, an Academic Transcript, and a copy of their SAR by July 1st.

If you have any questions concerning the eligibility guidelines or the application process, please direct them to the Manager of the Frank Roswell Fuller Scholarship Fund at the following address or telephone number:
Frank Roswell Fuller Scholarship Fund
c/o Trinity College
Financial Aid Office
300 Summit St
Hartford, CT 06106-3100
Tel: (860) 297-2046
Fax: (860) 987-6296

The South Isn’t The Reason Schools Are Still Segregated, New York Is

New York City might be a liberal hub, but that doesn’t mean white parents want their children going to school with black kids.

Rebecca KleinRebecca Klein  Editor, HuffPost Education

New York City didn’t experience school desegregation in the 1960s and ‘70s like other metropolitan areas. Unlike in Little Rock, Arkansas, the National Guard was never brought in to make sure black students could safely enter an all-white school. Unlike closer hubs, like Boston, resistance to school desegregation never escalated to a citywide crisis. New York never saw a large-scale integration program, and it was never ordered by courts to make its schools more racially balanced.  In historian Matthew F. Delmont’s new book, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregationhe explains how New York City drove the rhetoric and resistance that allowed school desegregation to falter nationwide. In the late 1950s, years before any serious action was taken to desegregate most schools, New York City parents created the language that would lead opposition to racially mixed schools. This language — which emphasizes the importance of neighborhood schools and opposition to citywide busing — remains the weapon of choice for communities who fight integrated schools today.  Read more HERE.

STEM Programs for Teens

Interested in STEM, teens? Hartford Public Library has programs just for you!

YOUmedia is where teens ages 13 to 19 go to Hang Out, Mess Around, and Geek Out!

Tricia George, Director of YOUMedia & Teen Services, and Gabbie Barnes, Teen Librarian, spent the first week of January in Austin, Tex., meeting with other YOUmedia specialists from libraries, museums, and community organizations across the US. They returned to do a week of planning for the future of YOUmedia Hartford. “We are bolstering our workshop offerings to include a more structured orientation to the space for youth and additional tech workshops in graphic design, Photoshop, and Illustrator,” George says.

Click here to view the YOUmedia program calendar

The Oppressed Majority: A Poignant French Short Film about a World in Which Men Are Subject to Sexism

The Oppressed Majority: A Poignant French Short Film about a World in Which Men Are Subject to Sexism


A tragicomic day in the life of a man who struggles for equality in a mirror-image society dominated by women.

“Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers,” NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam wrote in his extraordinary exploration of society’s hidden biases, “[and] those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.”

Watch this amazing video below. Warning: for mature audiences only. French with English subtitles.