FAILING GRADE

A US state’s school system is so bad, a judge has declared the whole thing unconstitutional

Connecticut got a weird shock this week. A judge, ruling on an 11-year-old lawsuit, declared the entire state’s public education system abysmal—enough so that it’s actually violating the US constitution.

In his decision, superior court judge Thomas Moukawsher agreed with the original argument made by the nonprofit organization Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding in 2005, which is that the state hasn’t been adequately distributing funds across the state to ensure every student’s success.

He pointed to data that showed while kids in the state’s richest towns are faring well, their counterparts in poorer areas are falling dramatically behind. Standardized tests show that roughly 70% of the state’s wealthiest students met third-grade reading goals; pretty much the same percentage of students in the state’s least wealthy areas did not.

Moukawsher ordered Connecticut officials to have plans ready for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the state’s education system within the next six months, adding:

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.

Officials across the state are calling the order a “game changer.” That’s pretty accurate—though half a year isn’t much time for Connecticut to scramble together a perfect redesign of its school system by any means, whatever attempt it does manage could inspire dozens of other half-broken school systems to change as well.

And the US’s public-education system could take all the help it can get right now.

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