Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union and three municipalities are seeking a court order to stop Gov. Dannel P. Malloy from cutting $557 million from the majority of school districts, saying the reductions will be devastating to public education.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Hartford Superior Court, the Connecticut Education Association and the towns of Brooklyn, Plainfield and Torrington contend the Democratic governor does not have the authority to slash the state education funding. Malloy is running the state government using his limited executive authority because Connecticut does not yet have a new, two-year budget. The state has been without a budget since July 1.
“We have taken this action to prevent our schools from being stripped of critical resources because that will do irreparable harm to our students,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen, during a news conference outside of the court building. She was joined by individual teachers and parents who also are part of the legal action, which would require the state to fund the schools at last fiscal year’s level.
The lawsuit comes as Democratic and Republican legislative leaders continued closed-door talks at the state Capitol into Wednesday evening in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement on a new two-year budget. The lawmakers have reported progress in recent days.
Malloy, a Democrat, said it was premature for the union to sue. He said, “under normal circumstances,” the education grant funds aren’t awarded to municipalities until the end of the month.
“They would be hard-pressed to say they have standing any time before the check would otherwise go out,” Malloy said.
But Donald Williams, CEA’s executive director and a former Democratic president of the state Senate, said Brooklyn, Plainfield and Torrington already have received much smaller amounts of state aid this month than expected. Torrington, for example, recently received $1.2 million when it typically receives a $7 million to $8 million payment at this time of year.
“These cuts are real, and the damage that is rolling out as we speak is catastrophic,” he said.
Lawmakers have been hopeful that a bipartisan deal may be reached soon, but it remains uncertain when or if a vote might take place. Malloy said he plans to soon release a revised version of his own budget “as a basis for further discussions.”
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