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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."

Colorado's Gov. 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 appeal.

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.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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