On August 23, 2016, four Connecticut parents, on behalf of themselves and their seven children, filed a 71-page complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against Governor Dannel Malloy and Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell, among others, alleging that the state’s educational system violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that it violates Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.
A press release from Students Matter, the non-profit entity funding the suit, states that the complaint is aimed at challenging three sets of state laws: (1) a moratorium which Students Matter argues the state has placed on new magnet schools; (2) laws preventing the creation or expansion of high-performing charter schools; and (3) the state’s inter-district Open-Choice enrollment program.
The complaint seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973), which held that the system of funding public education used by most states did not violate the United States Constitution. Among the complaint’s specific allegations are:
- The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment grants all students a right to a substantially equal educational opportunity and that Connecticut’s moratorium on inter-district magnet schools violates this clause by depriving poor and minority students of educational opportunities “available to their wealthier and predominantly white peers;”
- Connecticut’s statutes governing the method of funding and approving charter schools deter the creation and expansion of charter schools, effectively capping the number of charter schools, thus restricting the supply of high-performing schools available to poor and minority students;
- The state, through its system of school zoning, essentially forces low-income and minority students to attend public schools that the state knows are failing, “while simultaneously impeding the availability of viable education alternatives;”
- Connecticut’s education system violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by (in addition to the arguments discussed above) capping Open Choice enrollment, restricting the supply of high-performing schools available to students while failing to provide a meaningful education to students in inner-city schools; and
- The state’s education system unfairly punishes low-income and minority students “for their parents’ residential address and wealth, and deprive these children of their liberty . . . [b]y forcing students to attend public schools that [the State] knows are failing.”
As of the time of the writing of this post, the defendants had not yet filed a response to the complaint.