Rational, Substantial, and Verifiable: Do Not Appeal
Last week there were clear, and unambiguous directions given to the Connecticut State Department of Education, and the Connecticut General Assembly. Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher didn’t tell this group of policy makers, and educational professionals to indiscriminately raise the amount of educational funding. However his directives carried far, and wide an indictment of the education being provided to students enrolled in the status quo by stating:
“The state is torn between the need for communal and objective standards and the apparently irresistible pressure for the idiosyncratic status quo. Instead of the state honoring its promise of adequate schools, this paralysis has left rich school districts to flourish and poor school districts to flounder.”
At its worst his ruling is an affirmation for change, but at its very best his ruling offers hope. Some of us are hoping that this once-in-a-generation opportunity won’t be smashed in to tiny pieces by special-interest groups. Educational advocates are hoping it will be used to propel our educational system in to a multi-faceted, justice delivering juggernaut. (Read the entire ruling here: CCJEFvRELL.PDF)
The Legislature Must Spend at Least Enough-It Does
Judge Moukawhser made it very clear that the state spends more than the minimum required to provide an adequate public school education. He noted, “the state has not violated the constitution by devoting an overall inadequate level of resources to the schools,” and “that Connecticut is spending enough to meet a low constitutional threshold is made even clearer by the host of extras the state provides beyond the conservative minimum.” At this point Judge Moukawsher begins highlighting the complexity of this case, and states, “beyond a reasonable doubt, Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction.” A new funding formula will have to be created. This new formula will have to address distribution of funds as well as amounts to be distributed. In our opinion this will require substantial efforts to ascertain the effectiveness of spending on education as well as what amount of spending will have to be shifted, and from whom it will be shifted from.
Cotton Candy in a Rainstorm
The efforts to ascertain the effectiveness of spending will be centered on verifying what works, and what is not working within the current teaching and learning paradigms. This is a difficult task, but it is the “non-delegable duty” of the state to do so. Numerous sets of data were used to illustrate how ineffective schools are, and at times were called “incontestable facts” by Judge Moukawsher. One focused on Waterbury, and it revealed that only 15% of students scored as “College Ready” on the SAT. Judge Moukawsher clearly identifies one of the problems, and it’s not a test when he states:
“It is also undisputed that good teachers are the key to a good school system. The problem is that in Connecticut there is no way to know who the best teachers are and no rational and substantial connection between their compensation and their effect on teaching children.”
We think Judge Moukawsher clearly stated that educator evaluations are empty vessels with little or no connection to student outcomes. In an attempt to highlight this he stated, “teacher evaluation is still almost entirely local and the state standards are almost entirely illusory.” We have always supported fair, flexible, and comprehensive evaluations for educators, but edcuator evaluations must be connected to student performance. Judge Moukawsher takes a more hardline tactic by stating current evaluations are “virtually useless,” and are “a gutted system” that has “turned to slush.” We strongly agree with Judge Moukawsher’s opinion that educator evaluations have to be rationally (legally), substantially, and verifiably linked to student learning. Having “uselessly perfect” evaluations, like the one given to the Waterbury Superintendent of Schools, is an unfair burden for parents and students to take on. Students and parents are all potential victims in the current evaluation systems. Students and parents must be reassured that a rigorous, and “serious” educator evaluation system is implemented. This new system must be leveraged to provide a maximum amount of protection for students who have the most amount of need. Transparency must be non-negotiable in the new evaluation systems, so that the state’s promise of an adequate public school education is kept.
So Change Must Come-180 Days
Keeping our promise as educational advocates has been made much easier by Judge Moukawsher’s ruling. The same can’t be said for the state. The state will have to submit proposals that satisfy the courts “marrow-deep” understanding of these educational dilemmas. Proposals for defining a “relationship between the state and local government in education; an educational aid formula; a definition of elementary and secondary education; standards for hiring, firing, evaluating, and paying education professionals; and funding, identification, and educational services standards for special education” will start being submitted in 180 days. After the court receives these proposals the plaintiffs will have 60 days to respond. If there is NO APPEAL, Judge Moukawhser’s court will maintain jurisdiction, and this will assure us that schools can be for kids again.
Do Not Appeal
The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) has dragged our entire state to the brink of educational equity. Judge Moukawhser’s ruling has illuminated a path towards educational justice. As advocates, parents, students, educators, and politicians we must embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity. There is no reason to appeal. An appeal will distract us. An appeal could weaken or even strip this ruling of its laser-like focus on students. An appeal places the wants and needs of adults over students. Most importantly an appeal will place an entirely new generation of students at risk of being under-educated by the irrational, unsubstantial, and unverifiable educational system of the status quo. Contact your local state legislator and tell them NO APPEAL on CCJEF. Look up your legislator here: CBIA
Robert M. Goodrich
Co-Founder of Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education
Categories: Current Issues