A state Superior Court judge has rejected the state's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the adequacy and equity of education funding to Connecticut's public schools.
The 34-page decision by Judge Kevin G. Dubay last week means the 9-year-old case will go to trial on July 1, 2014.
The lawsuit, filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, has 18 plaintiffs, including parents from Bridgeport, Danbury and seven other communities. The suit also has the support of 10 municipalities and the state's two teachers' unions.
"Connecticut will finally get their day in court," said Dianne deVries, project director of the coalition. "This decision should send a powerful wake-up message to the state in terms of what it's going to take to meet its constitutional obligation to provide all children with quality education in this state."
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who sat in the front row in September when arguments were heard in the case, was pleased with the decision.
The "ruling is a tremendous victory for schoolchildren throughout the state, and particularly for our children in Bridgeport," Finch said. "This decision validates what we've been fighting for -- the belief that every child deserves a high-quality education regardless of their zip code or their family's income."
The state had argued that a trial would be premature since the adoption of school reform measures in 2012 had yet to take hold. Those changes include more funding for preschool slots, a change in the way teachers are evaluated, and increased focus and support on schools in urban areas where test scores are the lowest.
The plaintiffs countered that merely pushing through reform legislation at the 11th hour, adding new money with strings attached, and ignoring the heavy reliance on property taxes in Connecticut for funding local schools was not the way to solve the problem.
The coalition wants more aid and a new funding formula that takes municipal wealth into account. It would shift the burden of funding for public education away from local property taxes.
The current system, plaintiffs say, penalizes cities such as Bridgeport that have limited taxable real estate in relation to the needs of their schools.