Martinez v. Malloy
Every child deserves to go to a quality public school that helps him or her achieve the American Dream. Unfortunately, for too many Connecticut students, that isn’t the reality. That’s why a group of parents and students filed Martinez v. Malloy, a federal lawsuit against the State of Connecticut challenging a set of state laws and policies that knowingly and actively prevent students from accessing even minimally acceptable public school options.
Throughout Connecticut and across the country, many public schools — including magnet, traditional and charter schools — are delivering a world-class education to students of all backgrounds. With the same amount of public funding, students in high-performing schools are learning Mandarin, playing instruments, coding and computing, thinking critically and preparing to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We know what works. But miles-long waitlists prove that while there is an overwhelming demand for great schools across the state, we just don’t have the seats to accommodate every child.
Why don’t we have enough quality public schools?
Why aren’t we expanding and replicating success so that every student in every community has access to the golden ticket of an excellent education?
Despite the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and due process, the State of Connecticut has created a public education system in which zip code and luck of the draw determine whether students have a shot at a quality public education. Broken, outdated policies have limited the opening of new public schools, and capped enrollment at existing quality public schools — especially those serving the state’s urban centers.
This broken system has created one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, denying students of color and those from low-income families the equal opportunity they deserve.
It’s time for the state’s leaders to justify to Connecticut parents why our education system limits the size and expansion of quality public schools, while thousands of students languish on waitlists with no access to an adequate education. Specifically, Martinez v. Malloy challenges the following state laws:
- Moratorium on New Magnet Schools: Connecticut has instituted a moratorium on new magnet schools (Public Act No. 09-6, 22; Public Act No. 15-177, § 1), despite the fact that Connecticut’s magnet schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools.
- Cap on Charter Public Schools: Connecticut’s laws governing charter public schools (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-66ee(c)-(d), 10-66bb(a), 10-66bb(g)) prevent high-performing schools from opening or expanding in the State, despite the fact that Connecticut’s few charter public schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools.
- Open-Choice Enrollment Penalties: Connecticut’s inter-district Open Choice enrollment program ( Gen. Stat. §§ 10-266aa(c), 10-266aa(e), 10-266aa(f), 10-266aa(g), 10-266aa(h)) penalizes school districts that accept students from inner-city school districts, thus dooming the viability of the very program designed to provide Connecticut’s students with quality public school options.
Every family deserves a quality public school in their neighborhood. Martinez v. Malloy is about parents standing up and demanding answers for a broken system.
The Martinez v. Malloy Plaintiffs are supported by Students Matter, the organizational sponsor of the landmark Vergara v. California lawsuit. During the Vergara trial, parents forced the State of California to defend, under oath, laws and policies that are not in the best interests of students. The lack of any student-centered justification for those laws — put on display for the public to see — changed the national conversation about teacher quality. We hope to have the same effect in Connecticut and across the country when discussing barriers and access to quality schools.
Students’ Rights Under the U.S. Constitution
Martinez v. Malloy was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The student plaintiffs argue that Connecticut’s actions, which the State knows are causing severe harm to tens of thousands of students of color and those from low-income families, infringe upon the constitutional rights of Connecticut children. Specifically, the challenged laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
After the State’s repeated failure to ensure that all Connecticut children have access to quality public schools, the student plaintiffs have asked the federal court to intervene. We have seen what excellent public education looks like. It’s time for parents to buck the system and demand more great schools for our students.