December 23, 2011
State leaders have steadfastly resisted and rarely embraced equity in educational
opportunity for millions of the schoolchildren whose rights they are sworn
to uphold. Recent events in Colorado, Connecticut, and New York underscore
that, yet again, this resistance is deep and bipartisan.
As ELC's Executive Director, David Sciarra, lead counsel in the seminal Abbott
v. Burke educational equity litigation, has said, "There is a
decades-old and stubborn unwillingness by governors and legislators in
state capitols to remedy the stark disparities in educational opportunity
that mark the education landscape in most of our states."
Hickenlooper has decided to appeal the landmark Lobato
v. State ruling, where the trial court found the state school funding
system unconstitutional. The court wrote that "Colorado public school children
are not receiving the thorough and uniform educational opportunities mandated
[by] the Education Clause" of the state constitution. And, the court added, "the
irrational and inadequate school funding system prevents school districts from
implementing the Education Clause mandate at [the] local level ... ."
As reported in the Denver Post, Kathy Gebhardt, one of the lead attorneys
in Lobato, said she is disappointed but not surprised by the
appeal. "We believe we have proved there is a sense of urgency to fixing this
problem, that kids have been attending substandard schools," Gebhardt said.
Prolonging the suit merely hurts kids now in Colorado schools, she said. "Justice
delayed is education denied." The state board of education, meanwhile, postponed
its own decision on pursuing an appeal until next week.
While the court declared the evidence proving the funding
system irrational was "essentially undisputed," the governor has chosen to
Connecticut's Gov. Malloy is fighting against a similar lawsuit brought on
behalf of schoolchildren in his state, CCJEF v. Rell, where the
governor is trying to prevent the court from even hearing evidence on the benefits
of preschool. See Letter
to the Editor in the Stamford Advocate, pointing out that "A half century
of research and experience supports the fact that preschool is a basic building
block of an adequate education. For Governor Malloy, a longtime champion of early
childhood education, to now contend that preschool is not part of an adequate
education is a betrayal of our children and our economic future."
Another member of the Hall of Shame is New York's Governor Cuomo, who cut
funding to education, most deeply slashing low-wealth and middle-class school
districts. Even worse, he put in place a new funding system---with the bipartisan
NY legislature---that prevents sufficient or equitable funding for many years
to come, IF left unchanged. NY advocates for
fair funding and equal opportunity are calling on the Governor and the State
Legislature to change the state school funding formula to place greater priority
on funding high-need and average-need schools.
All three of these governors are Democrats who, like Republican Governors
Kasich in Ohio and Corbett in Pennsylvania, are thwarting educational opportunity,
especially for the most vulnerable children in their states.