Dianne Kaplan deVries, the woman who led a coalition to change how Connecticut’s education system is funded, died Sunday after a battle with cancer.
Kaplan deVries founded the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding 11 years ago and won a historic pre-trial Supreme Court decision in 2010. She died before the trial was scheduled to begin.
The trial is the culmination of the Supreme Court decision that found public education not only has to be free and equal, but adequate. The trial is expected to start in January 2016. That’s 10 years after the coalition of students, parents, and school boards that Kaplan deVries organized filed their lawsuit against then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The lawsuit is centered on how the state of Connecticut funds public school children and whether the funding formula it uses gets public school children an “adequate” education.
The start of the trial was delayed several times over the years, including once recently because deVries instructed coalition members and potential witnesses to delete emails.
“Dianne Kaplan deVries was a tireless advocate for the rights of all Connecticut public schoolchildren — regardless of economic background, race or town of residence — to receive the quality education our state constitution promises and requires,” Herbert C. Rosenthal, president of the organization, said. “The passion, intelligence and commitment that Dianne brought to educational equity and adequacy is unsurpassed. Our friend and colleague will be sorely missed. In this sad time, all of us in CCJEF rededicate ourselves to ensuring that her dream of equal educational opportunity is realized.”
James Finley, a lobbyist for the organization, said it was at great personal sacrifice that Kaplan deVries devoted herself to the cause of adequate school funding.
“Dianne dedicated over 17 years of her life to righting the wrongs of our state’s PK-12 education finance system. It is because of her singular and indefatigable efforts that the work of CCJEF will continue,” Finley said.
Kaplan deVries’ battle for Connecticut school children started long before she formed the coalition.
From 1998 to 2003, she served as the education adequacy consultant to Updike, Kelly & Spellacy in another adequacy and equity lawsuit brought by the firm on behalf of a dozen municipalities and their school children. When that case was withdrawn for lack of funding, she proceeded to build a much larger statewide coalition and to secure the pro bono services of both Yale Law School and the prestigious New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton to represent plaintiffs in a comprehensive constitutional challenge to the state’s education funding system.
Kaplan deVries also occasionally submitted passionate editorials on the issue of school funding to CTNewsJunkie.com.
Kaplan deVries is survived by her husband, Willem Anton deVries of New Hampshire, two grown sons, and three grandsons.
Services will be held at noon, Thursday at the Purdy Funeral Services at 655 Central Ave in Dover, New Hampshire.