By PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS Connecticut and AP) – An 11-year-old legal fight over education funding in Connecticut comes to a head Wednesday, when a Superior Court judge is supposed to rule from the bench on whether the state has done enough to support its poorer school systems.
The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding filed its lawsuit in 2005, arguing that Connecticut relies too much on property taxes to fund its schools, resulting in more money for wealthy districts, while poorer ones suffer.
“We believe we made the case that the finance system is both inequitable and inadequate to ensure student success,” said Jim Finley, the coalition’s head of operations and government relations.
The state argues that it has met its obligation to provide adequate funding to all schools and that pumping more money into poorer school districts won’t necessarily result in higher test scores.
“The plaintiffs have presented no evidence other than conclusory anecdotes claiming that if the districts had more money they would improve student performance,” Attorney General George Jepsen wrote in the state’s post-trial brief. “In contrast, the defendants have offered unrefuted reliable scientific evidence that demonstrates that in Connecticut, there is no relationship between spending more money per pupil and improving student growth in achievement.”
The case was mired in the legal system for years with arguments over evidence and what exactly the state was legally required to provide its 500,000 public school students under Connecticut’s constitution.
The state Supreme Court took up that issue. It remanded the case for trial in 2010 after ruling that the state must provide children not only equal access to a public education but also to an “adequate” education, one that prepares them for life after school.
A five-month trial that began in January included testimony from 52 witnesses, including state educational officials and superintendents from districts across the state.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher has said he will issue his decision at 11 a.m. Wednesday. That spoken decision is expected to be followed later by a more detailed written ruling.
But that is not expected to be the final word on the lawsuit. Finley said whichever side loses the case is expected to file an appeal that will eventually end up back before the Supreme Court.
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