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Trial Over Connecticut's Public School Funding System Begins

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A trial over whether the state adequately funds its public schools began Tuesday with lawyers debating in opening arguments about the role of money in education.

A coalition of municipalities, education groups, parents and students sued Connecticut in 2005, alleging the state wasn't providing adequate education funding to cities and towns and wasn't meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with adequate educations.

The group, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, says vast differences in test results, graduation rates and other factors between rich and poor towns show the funding system isn't fair. It says the state has never fully funded its Education Cost Sharing system, depriving cities and towns of about $2 billion in state education aid a year.

Coalition lawyer Joseph Moodhe said a lack of resources directly impairs school districts' ability to suitably educate their students, the Connecticut Post reported. He said schools can't provide enough preschool, textbooks and other necessities without enough money.

"It's not the root of all evil," Moodhe said during opening arguments. "Resources cost money."

Connecticut officials deny the coalition's allegations and note the state has one of the best-funded and most effective public education systems in the country.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Rubin, representing the state, acknowledged the achievement gap but argued test scores don't go up just because funding increases, the Post reported.

The intention of the state's Education Cost Sharing school funding program, which began in 1988, was to split school costs 50-50 between the state and municipalities, a goal that's never been reached. The complicated funding formula considers the number of students in a city or town, the municipality's wealth or poverty and other factors.

While wealthy towns receiving state education aid can boost school funding to levels they want through higher property taxes, many lower-income municipalities can't afford to do that, plaintiffs in the lawsuit say.

The trial before Judge Thomas Moukawsher is scheduled to run into May.

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