In 2016, more so than ever, there were more revelations about our society and more of those revelations highlighted the importance of easily accessible equitable education experiences for all students. What we have in Connecticut is a system that provides great amounts of opportunity to some and still others with none at all. Closing the gaps will not be easy. Therefore, our work with parents, students, educational professionals, and policy makers will have to be highly organized and deliberate.
First, is the creation of a new funding formula that will address student need as well as ensure taxpayers that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently. We need to act now before the hubris of a colorblind constitutionalism sanitizes this opportunity. In September,Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsherruled on the CCJEFcase in a provocative manner. His ruling contained a thoughtfulness as well as a carefulness that we must use a guide going forward.
Funding education fairly, especially for urban centers like Waterbury so that educational outcomes improve is the non-delegable duty of the state.
Our goal is to promote a funding formula that makes educational equity a reality. In short, we want equity not equality in school funding.
Locally, we need swift and decisive action. Waterbury’s total grant payments have increased over the last five years by $36 million. However, an analysis done by theCT School Finance Project has determined that Waterbury is underfunded by over $50 million. This is caused by a dysfunctional legislative process that has abandoned an irrational funding formula. We must urge our elected officials to act now.
Total State Payments to City of Waterbury
Comparing ECS Grant Payments
Second, we need to take a true step towards equity in Waterbury. The Waterbury Public Schools struggle to provide equitable access to high-level educational experiences to all students; especially students of color, English Language Learners, and SPED students. There are discipline disparities and rates of suspension that are not being addressed with an urgency that reflects the magnitude of the well-known impacts of the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Additionally, Waterbury Public Schools’ students lack accessibility to a diverse educator workforce. This dilemma impacts school connectedness for students and parents. We need to take risks and create solutions as well as oversight to ensure we diversify the educator workforce. We urge parents, students, and educators to sign our petition to improve minority teacher recruitment.
Suspension Rate Comparison
CHRO Hearing Testimony
SPED Suspension Rate Comparison
Comparing Teacher Demographics
Moving forward we must be willing to challenge every policy and practice that allows educational inequity to persist. Exclusionary discipline policies have to be eliminated; educators must be evaluated in ways that reflect the importance of dissipating discipline disparities as well as disparities in student performance; and districts, schools, and classroom teachers must be assisted in developing the skills to deal with complexities of the modern urban student through compulsory cultural competency training. We will be engaging parents, challenging educators, and urging legislators to make the necessary changes to improve governance as well as educational practices.
On September 7, 2015 there was a moment when interest-convergence was happening right in front of us. As Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher read his ruling on CCJEF v. Rell, advocates like myself started to believe that remedies for inequality were being granted permission to stand up and be recognized. To my consternation an appeal was filed. I believe the appeal filed by Attorney General Jepsen represents an unqualified dismissal of potential remedies. (Read Appeal)
Law professor, civil-rights attorney, and Critical Race Theorist Derrick Bell defines interest-convergence as the moment when “white people will support racial justice only to the extent that there is something in it for them.” In 1980, while writing a piece called Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma, professor Bell warned us that “Policies necessary to obtain effective schools threaten the self-interest of teacher unions and others with vested interests in the status quo.” The appeal filed by Attorney General Jepsen, with approval from Republicans and Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly, is a response to the threat of the lily-white special interests of teacher unions, and the threat to the vested power of the legislature, the Education Committee included. Neither group has had its constitutionally given rights or obligations challenged because Judge Moukawsher repeatedly demands collaboration on proposals. The appeal is nothing more than an attempt at whitewashing the educational dilemmas affecting non-white, poor, and special education students in our state.
In his application to appeal, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen embraces a malignant narrative of color-blind constitutionalism (see Ian Haney-Lopez’s, White By Law) to dismiss over 5,000 exhibits, 2,000 fact admissions, 826 full exhibits, 50 witnesses, including nearly 20 education and financial experts, and 1,060 individual findings of fact as useless byproducts of a rogue judge. Among other things, he asks for a “reasonable timeframe,” and a “stay.” This appeal is a primal call for what Judge Moukaswher refers to as the “idiosyncratic status quo.” This analysis is eerily reflective of Derrick Bell’s criticism from thirty years ago.
Bell’s 1980 criticism rings an even louder truth if we include his analysis about judicially provided remedies, which is what the legislature and the educational professionals are really afraid of. Bell states “a judicial remedy providing effective racial equality for blacks where the remedy sought threatens the superior societal status of middle and upper class whites” will be fought like a plague. This appeal represents a defense of white privilege. As Bell did in 1980, I will state that little has changed.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen
Incredulously, Jepsen and our legislators both agree with Judge Moukaswher’s qualified claims for rational, substantial, and verifiable changes to Connecticut’s educational system(s). They disagree with his methods, to the degree change has to happen, and hide behind a privileged veil of color-blind constitutionalism. Judge Moukaswher’s ruling highlights one of Derrick Bell’s primary concerns. Bell, as is Moukashwer, is willing to sacrifice local control of schools if and when it is merited. In the status quo there are vibrant examples where local control needs to be wrested away. Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Hartford public schools are a few of those examples. It’s merited because Black and Brown students are disproportionately at risk to be victimized by a system of oppression that is unchecked. No other reason is needed.
In his ruling, Judge Moukaswher urges our elected officials to do it now and in front of the court. Our hope is that elected officials, those individuals who have been, and who will be, the locus for educational policy still believe rational, substantial, and verifiable policies will reverse the systemic ills that make inadequate educational opportunities the bedrock for inequality in Connecticut. Simply and productively so, he put them on the clock. As advocates we can’t support any other position.
According to Jepsen’s logic, supported by our elected officials, non-white, poor, and special education students, as well as their families who are under-educated, under-served, and routinely victimized by the current system, should get to the back of the bus. This appeal is more dangerous than the status quo.
Rational, Substantial, and Verifiable: Do Not Appeal
Last week there were clear, and unambiguous directions given to the Connecticut State Department of Education, and the Connecticut General Assembly. Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher didn’t tell this group of policy makers, and educational professionals to indiscriminately raise the amount of educational funding. However his directives carried far, and wide an indictment of the education being provided to students enrolled in the status quo by stating:
“The state is torn between the need for communal and objective standards and the apparently irresistible pressure for the idiosyncratic status quo. Instead of the state honoring its promise of adequate schools, this paralysis has left rich school districts to flourish and poor school districts to flounder.”
Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher
At its worst his ruling is an affirmation for change, but at its very best his ruling offers hope. Some of us are hoping that this once-in-a-generation opportunity won’t be smashed in to tiny pieces by special-interest groups. Educational advocates are hoping it will be used to propel our educational system in to a multi-faceted, justice delivering juggernaut. (Read the entire ruling here: CCJEFvRELL.PDF)
The Legislature Must Spend at Least Enough-It Does
Judge Moukawhser made it very clear that the state spends more than the minimum required to provide an adequate public school education. He noted, “the state has not violated the constitution by devoting an overall inadequate level of resources to the schools,” and “that Connecticut is spending enough to meet a low constitutional threshold is made even clearer by the host of extras the state provides beyond the conservative minimum.” At this point Judge Moukawsher begins highlighting the complexity of this case, and states, “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.” A new funding formula will have to be created. This new formula will have to address distribution of funds as well as amounts to be distributed. In our opinion this will require substantial efforts to ascertain the effectiveness of spending on education as well as what amount of spending will have to be shifted, and from whom it will be shifted from.
Cotton Candy in a Rainstorm
The efforts to ascertain the effectiveness of spending will be centered on verifying what works, and what is not working within the current teaching and learning paradigms. This is a difficult task, but it is the “non-delegable duty” of the state to do so. Numerous sets of data were used to illustrate how ineffective schools are, and at times were called “incontestable facts” by Judge Moukawsher. One focused on Waterbury, and it revealed that only 15%of students scored as “College Ready” on the SAT. Judge Moukawsher clearly identifies one of the problems, and it’s not a test when he states:
“It is also undisputed that good teachers are the key to a good school system. The problem is that in Connecticut there is no way to know who the best teachers are and no rational and substantial connection between their compensation and their effect on teaching children.”
We think Judge Moukawsher clearly stated that educator evaluations are empty vessels with little or no connection to student outcomes. In an attempt to highlight this he stated, “teacher evaluation is still almost entirely local and the state standards are almost entirely illusory.” We have always supported fair, flexible, and comprehensive evaluations for educators, but edcuator evaluations must be connected to student performance. Judge Moukawsher takes a more hardline tactic by stating current evaluations are “virtually useless,” and are “a gutted system” that has “turned to slush.” We strongly agree with Judge Moukawsher’s opinion that educator evaluations have to be rationally (legally), substantially, and verifiably linked to student learning. Having “uselessly perfect” evaluations, like the one given to the Waterbury Superintendent of Schools, is an unfair burden for parents and students to take on. Students and parents are all potential victims in the current evaluation systems. Students and parents must be reassured that a rigorous, and “serious” educator evaluation system is implemented. This new system must be leveraged to provide a maximum amount of protection for students who have the most amount of need. Transparency must be non-negotiable in the new evaluation systems, so that the state’s promise of an adequate public school education is kept.
So Change Must Come-180 Days
Keeping our promise as educational advocates has been made much easier by Judge Moukawsher’s ruling. The same can’t be said for the state. The state will have to submit proposals that satisfy the courts “marrow-deep” understanding of these educational dilemmas. Proposals for defining a “relationship between the state and local government in education; an educational aid formula; a definition of elementary and secondary education; standards for hiring, firing, evaluating, and paying education professionals; and funding, identification, and educational services standards for special education” will start being submitted in 180 days. After the court receives these proposals the plaintiffs will have 60 days to respond. If there is NO APPEAL, Judge Moukawhser’s court will maintain jurisdiction, and this will assure us that schools can be for kids again.
The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) has dragged our entire state to the brink of educational equity. Judge Moukawhser’s ruling has illuminated a path towards educational justice. As advocates, parents, students, educators, and politicians we must embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity. There is no reason to appeal. An appeal will distract us. An appeal could weaken or even strip this ruling of its laser-like focus on students. An appeal places the wants and needs of adults over students. Most importantly an appeal will place an entirely new generation of students at risk of being under-educated by the irrational, unsubstantial, and unverifiable educational system of the status quo. Contact your local state legislator and tell them NO APPEAL on CCJEF. Look up your legislator here: CBIA
Robert M. Goodrich
Co-Founder ofRadical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education
Over the last year R. A. C. C. E. has worked hard to gain an understanding of the practices that guide Waterbury Public Schools’ educator staffing demographics; teacher and administrator hiring practices; and the results of recent efforts to increase the amount non-white educators in our schools.
Our efforts, including Dr. Arias’ service on a state legislative task force concerned with minority teacher recruitment and retention, have revealed that the staffing levels suffer due to ineffective hiring practices, which are a primary contributor to low-level of non-white educators being hired and promoted by the Waterbury Public Schools, as well as a small pipeline of certified non-white candidates.
Waterbury Public Schools educator staffing levels reveal that only 8% of the educator workforce is black or Hispanic. It is important to note that having race congruent student-teacher relationships improves student performance, lowers discipline sanction rates, and increases school connectedness for non-white students as much as it does for white students.
Considering the persistent disparities in performance, discipline, and graduation rates for non-white students we believe more resources need to be allocated, and more effective strategies to hire more black and Hispanic educators must be embraced by the Waterbury Public Schools to achieve the desired results.
Therefore, we ask you or your organization to support these (2) actions we are requesting the Waterbury Public Schools take, which we believe will immediately impact hiring and retention rates of non-white educators:
1. The Waterbury Public Schools should implement Rooney Rules. This practice would require at least one non-white candidate be interviewed for each new teacher hire position and promotional opportunity. Legal experts have proclaimed the positive impact and legality of such rules. It’s a reasonable, as well as a good faith effort for Waterbury Public Schools to take.
2. Create a Minority Teacher Recruitment and Retention Performance Advisory Council. This council would be a local body that works collaboratively with the Waterbury Public Schools. It would be charged with reviewing current strategies to increase the effective recruitment and hiring of non-white educators; make recommendation on how to improve recruitment and hiring of non-white educators; would create accountability standards for recruitment and retention efforts in partnership with the Waterbury Public Schools; would work with Waterbury Public Schools to engage private and public enterprises to increase awareness about the efficacy of race-congruent student/teacher dyads; search for and procure additional funding for effective practices that result in an increase in non-white educators being hired and retained; finally the council will act independently to market Waterbury as a preferred destination for non-white educator candidates. These strategies will be multifaceted and could include: housing, tuition reimbursement, social networks and community service opportunities.
The members of this council shall consists of (1) member of private sector that exhibits proficiency in the area of increasing workplace diversity; (1) Board of Education member; (1) Board of Alderman member; (1) state legislator from the Waterbury delegation; (1) WTA appointee; (2) WPS students; and (4) community stakeholders who have content knowledge and/or an established record of working with students or parents.
Sign ourCHANGE.ORGPetition and it will be sent directly to Dr. Ouellette, Mayor Neil O’Leary, and BOE President Brown.
Our primary objective is to practice a composite advocacy that brings about a positive linear social impact. Promoting legislative or policy measures that ensure improved practices will allow the most underserved and underrepresented students to have the benefit of protections that more privileged students already have. Unveiling the data starts the process of changing school professional practices. This process must result in substantial changes to the policies currently in place.
Over the past year R.A.C.C.E has made an attempt to understand the principles that are guiding the Waterbury Public Schools’ (WPS) policies and practices for disciplining its students. It’s partially unclear to us what those guiding principles are. We can see that teachers and administrators use office referrals as one of the primary devices to manage student behavior and ultimately school climate. Nationally, and as we confirmed by looking at the WPS, this type of practice results in disparate results for non-white students. Waterbury Public Schools have decreased total suspension numbers, but non-white students are being suspended at increasingly higher rates than their white counterparts.
Over the last few months we have engaged a process that brings us beyond the numbers and allows to unveil the WPS discipline trends for its male students. We analyzed similar data for WPS female students last year. The results for male students were similarly problematic.
• Over the last three years Black male students were suspended at a rate of 3.5 to 1 to their white counterparts (8792 vs. 2504).
• Over the last three years individual lack male students were suspended at a 2.7 to 1 ratio to their white counterparts.
• Over the last three years 29% of all Black male students were suspended while only 7.2% of all white male students were suspended.
• These data also confirm that Black male students are exposed to a 1.4 disparate impact rate for discipline sanctions over their white counterparts.
“The racial disparity among teachers also makes closing the achievement gap nearly impossible. Although Waterbury has partnered with regional educational non-profits to recruit minority teachers, little has been accomplished. Over the last seven years, Waterbury has hired 1059 white teachers, and in the same time frame 89 Black or Hispanic teachers were hired. It is imperative that the district formulates policies and implement programs that result in greater hiring and retention rates of non-white school professionals.
The disparities between white and non-white teachers has a negative impact on this district, which is concerning and multi-tiered. First, the district’s current hiring practices aren’t effective and have resulted in huge disparities that benefit white teaching professionals. This has been a longstanding trend in the Waterbury school district.”
Dr. Arlene Arias, Co-founder of R.A.C.C.E.
“Our goal tonight is to provide a road map for the commission to continue its inquiry. We have submitted written testimony that pinpoints the type of schools that have failed to diversify their respective staffs, failed to increase the number of Black and Hispanic educators, and those types of schools that have allowed their respective staffs to experience a decrease in diversity.
The individual schools that have had zero non-white educators, and those that have maintained less than two Black or Hispanic educators are also easily noticeable. This is a good place to start. However those schools that have experienced net losses of Black and Hispanic educators is where your inquiry should start. We are prepared to speak with the commission at a later date to discuss our findings.”
In the 2014-15 school year the Waterbury Public Schools experienced a 27% increase in student arrests. The 2014-15 school year was a pivotal year for the Waterbury Public Schools. Despite entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Waterbury Police Department that was supposed to guarantee a graduated response model was to be adhered to-arrests went up. Arrests went up despite promoting there would be a greater reliance on restorative justice models, which were to use local juvenile review boards as a strategy to avoid placing our students into the school-to-prison pipeline. The 2014-15 arrest total was 334 up from 263 in 2013-14.
In the last three years Black students have been arrested at a rate of 5 to 1 to their White counterparts. Black and White students have a 1.2 to 1 population ratio. Hispanic students have been arrested at rate of 7.5 to 1 to their White counterparts. Hispanic and White students have a 2.2 to 1 population ratio. Waterbury Public Schools continue to place our most vulnerable students in harms way. We ask that the Waterbury Public Schools release these data sets to the public in a more timely manner; and we ask the public to continue to show up, and speak out about these educational dilemmas affecting Waterbury students.
“Waterbury police dotted the lines outside and in the gym. There were one or two protesters outside early, including Robert Goodrich, a co-founder of Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education. Goodrich, of Waterbury, held a sign that read “AmeriKKKa” and said he believes Trump is a racist with “violent rhetoric.” “Anybody but Trump,” Goodrich said. “If we have Trump, it will lead to more hate and more division of the country.’”
“In February, the city NAACP branch suggested Connecticut government aid to Waterbury schools be withheld until the district’s “unlawful discriminatory employment practices” are investigated. This proposal, which would ravage the schools if implemented by the state, was presented despite an absence of evidence of lawbreaking.
Unfortunately, city officials aren’t doing much better, preparation-wise. April 11, the Republican-American’s Michael Puffer reported on steps officials have taken to expand the ranks of minority teachers. Among those steps was reducing principals’ role in the interviewing and hiring process.”