A poll of 600 Connecticut voters shows 68 percent support a judge’s recent decision calling for a new education funding formula for the state’s public school system.
Further, the poll shows that 57 percent of voters want the General Assembly to take immediate action to address what respondents said are a myriad of problems with the state’s education system, rather than wait for the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision on the state’s appeal of trial Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling.
The poll was paid for by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).
“These results show that there is a clear consensus for action to fix the way Connecticut funds local public schools so it’s fair for every student,” said Danny Franklin, managing partner of Benenson Strategy Group, which conducted the poll. “Not only do a strong majority of voters support the decision, but they believe the General Assembly should take action to create a plan for improving Connecticut’s public schools, not delay while the ruling is appealed.”
Just 36 percent of voters said the General Assembly should wait until the Supreme Court rules on the appeal.
In September, Moukawsher ruled that the state’s method for distributing education aid is unconstitutional. He ordered the General Assembly to come up with a plan for distributing billions in state education aid, a new teacher evaluation system, new high school graduation requirements, and a special education funding formula. He gave lawmakers 180 days to take action.
The judge, in his ruling, said the school systems with the greatest need are not adequately funded.
The lawsuit, which had been winding its way through the courts for more than a decade, was brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.
Eight days after Moukawsher’s Sept. 7 ruling, Attorney General George Jepsen appealed it to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
“This decision would wrest educational policy from the representative branches of state government, limit public education for some students with special needs, create additional municipal mandates concerning graduation and other standards, and alter the basic terms of educators’ employment — and entrust all of those matters to the discretion of a single, unelected judge,” Jepsen said at the time of the appeal.
But Franklin said his company’s polling results show, clearly, that Connecticut voters back the judge’s sentiments.
“What’s troubling is that the respondents see the schools falling short of their expectations,” Franklin said.
Jennifer Alexander, executive director of ConnCAN, said: “The results of this poll are a call to candidates and General Assembly members that Connecticut voters want action now on the education equity issues so poignantly laid out in Moukawsher’s decision.”
She added: “The poll shows a clear, strong consensus for action, this legislative session, to adopt a fair funding formula that ensures that all of Connecticut’s students, across all types of public schools, have access to the great public education guaranteed by our state constitution.”
Alexander said ConnCAN conducted the poll, because: “Even though the state is appealing the ruling, we were interested in whether the voters supported the ruling.”
Franklin said the ConnCAN poll was deliberately taken a month after the judge’s ruling, “to let his decision sink in.” He added that those who were questioned were not asked to factor in the costs of making any improvements to education systems in Connecticut.
Other poll findings included:
—Only 18 percent of voters say public schools in Connecticut “are doing a good job educating Connecticut’s children,” while 38 percent say the schools have “urgent problems” to address immediately and another 38 percent say the schools face “some problems to be addressed eventually.”
—71 percent of voters agree that state government hasn’t done nearly enough to fix and strengthen Connecticut’s public schools, and they need to stop delaying and take action now.
—63 percent of voters agree that the way Connecticut funds local schools is fundamentally unfair and denies children in poorer areas a fair chance to succeed.
—59 percent of voters agree that the way Connecticut distributes funds to public school districts is arbitrary and not based on a real plan to help all students succeed.
—87 percent of voters agree that for Connecticut to have a strong economy, we need a public school system that prepares every student to succeed in college and in good careers.
The poll of 600 Connecticut voters was conducted by telephone from Oct. 5-9, and has a 3.4 percent margin of error.