Norm Pattis, representing plaintiffs challenging state control of the Board of Education, presented his case for relief to the Connecticut Supreme Court today. Pattis was among several lawyers who appeared before the Supremes. The city’s elected BOE claiming an unworkable hostile environment voted to abolish itself in favor of a revamped state-appointed board. BOE members in the minority have challenged the decision. Pattis shares this statement:
The argument went well, but if I knew how to forecast a judicial decision, I would be running the Bridgeport schools. I was relieved that the court was mindful of the great harm done to Bridgeport voters: their vote was stolen from them. There is no evidence to suggest that better management of the board will address the underlying socioeconomic factors that account for the struggling school district. If the state wants to address issues affecting children, it needs to make sure parents have jobs, homes and hope. This bloodless coup by the state board and its corporate sponsors is offensive.
Michele Mount, arguing on behalf of petitioning school board candidates who wanted to run on the slate of Democratic mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster, shares her thoughts about her presentation before the Supremes:
I am very happy with the way that the proceedings went today. I hope the Supreme Court shares my enthusiasm. I felt the Justices asked clear pointed questions that were consistent with the arguments we made.
These are some of the arguments I was putting forth:
This was a clear-cut case of the State Board of Education exceeding its statutory authority and depriving the people of Bridgeport of a say in their local elections.
· A locally elected board of education is entirely consistent with the state’s obligation to provide an adequate education. The City and State’s argument that the board waived a mandatory provision, directed to the State Board of Education was a sticking point with the Justices. We argued that you can’t waive a right you never had and a majority of the Justices questions were regarding that very issue.
No right was created in the local school board to waive the SBOE’s legislative mandate. They can’t cede control to the State, cancel elections, terminate other elected officials and disenfranchise local voters, in the guise of, “this is what is best for the children.” Just because the BBOE didn’t think the medicine would work didn’t mean they didn’t have to take it.
· No evidence as to why an outside, appointed board with private interests, would be effective for public schools at all, let alone better than a newly elected board. Stating that this remedy of reconstitution was best method to help the children when the statute provided 13 other non-constitutionally remedies was a bad argument. Basically you are saying to these children, just because we think the people in your city are not capable of running a school board, it is okay to trample on their rights of free suffrage, due process, equal protection and free speech.
· Inability to pass a budget was offered, as evidence of the so-called dysfunctionality of the board.
· The BBOE had the responsibility not to accept a budget that could not provide for a legally adequate education.
· Eight so-called “dysfunctional people” determined that the budget was insufficient to provide an adequate education. It is entirely probable that the Bridgeport school system was suffering from a chronic lack of funding the reasons cited by the City and State.
· The Bridgeport schools have not received increased funding from the State or City for the past four (4) years. The board was under a directive from the Superintendent not to pass this budget due to its inadequacies.
· The 6-member majority expressed a strong aversion to the sometimes messy democratic legislative process. Fretting over FOIs, amendments, motions, political rhetoric, public discourse and debate, those 6 members refused to carry out the duties that the local parents and taxpayers of Bridgeport clearly expected from them.
Here’s the take from Dan Tepfer, CT Post:
HARTFORD — The state Supreme Court is not expected to announce its decision for some days but if Thursday’s comments and questions from the justices are any indication then the members of the state-appointed Bridgeport Board of Education probably shouldn’t get too comfortable in their seats.