On September 7, 2015 there was a moment when interest-convergence was happening right in front of us. As Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher read his ruling on CCJEF v. Rell, advocates like myself started to believe that remedies for inequality were being granted permission to stand up and be recognized. To my consternation an appeal was filed. I believe the appeal filed by Attorney General Jepsen represents an unqualified dismissal of potential remedies. (Read Appeal)


Derrick Bell

Law professor, civil-rights attorney, and Critical Race Theorist Derrick Bell defines interest-convergence as the moment when “white people will support racial justice only to the extent that there is something in it for them.” In 1980, while writing a piece called Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma, professor Bell warned us that “Policies necessary to obtain effective schools threaten the self-interest of teacher unions and others with vested interests in the status quo.”   The appeal filed by Attorney General Jepsen, with approval from Republicans and Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly, is a response to the threat of the lily-white special interests of teacher unions, and the threat to the vested power of the legislature, the Education Committee included. Neither group has had its constitutionally given rights or obligations challenged because Judge Moukawsher repeatedly demands collaboration on proposals. The appeal is nothing more than an attempt at whitewashing the educational dilemmas affecting non-white, poor, and special education students in our state.

In his application to appeal, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen embraces a malignant narrative of color-blind constitutionalism (see Ian Haney-Lopez’s, White By Law) to dismiss over 5,000 exhibits, 2,000 fact admissions, 826 full exhibits, 50 witnesses, including nearly 20 education and financial experts, and 1,060 individual findings of fact as useless byproducts of a rogue judge. Among other things, he asks for a “reasonable timeframe,” and a “stay.” This appeal is a primal call for what Judge Moukaswher refers to as the “idiosyncratic status quo.” This analysis is eerily reflective of Derrick Bell’s criticism from thirty years ago.

Bell’s 1980 criticism rings an even louder truth if we include his analysis about judicially provided remedies, which is what the legislature and the educational professionals are really afraid of. Bell states “a judicial remedy providing effective racial equality for blacks where the remedy sought threatens the superior societal status of middle and upper class whites” will be fought like a plague. This appeal represents a defense of white privilege. As Bell did in 1980, I will state that little has changed.


Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen

Incredulously, Jepsen and our legislators both agree with Judge Moukaswher’s qualified claims for rational, substantial, and verifiable changes to Connecticut’s educational system(s). They disagree with his methods, to the degree change has to happen, and hide behind a privileged veil of color-blind constitutionalism. Judge Moukaswher’s ruling highlights one of Derrick Bell’s primary concerns. Bell, as is Moukashwer, is willing to sacrifice local control of schools if and when it is merited. In the status quo there are vibrant examples where local control needs to be wrested away. Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Hartford public schools are a few of those examples. It’s merited because Black and Brown students are disproportionately at risk to be victimized by a system of oppression that is unchecked. No other reason is needed.

In his ruling, Judge Moukaswher urges our elected officials to do it now and in front of the court. Our hope is that elected officials, those individuals who have been, and who will be, the locus for educational policy still believe rational, substantial, and verifiable policies will reverse the systemic ills that make inadequate educational opportunities the bedrock for inequality in Connecticut.   Simply and productively so, he put them on the clock. As advocates we can’t support any other position.

According to Jepsen’s logic, supported by our elected officials, non-white, poor, and special education students, as well as their families who are under-educated, under-served, and routinely victimized by the current system, should get to the back of the bus. This appeal is more dangerous than the status quo.


Written by our Co-founder

Robert M. Goodrich


Rational, Substantial,and Verifiable: Do Not Appeal the CCJEF vs RELL Ruling

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.”


Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher

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


Visit CCJEF.ORG for more info

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 

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