Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell

Supreme Court of Connecticut

January 17, 2018

CONNECTICUT COALITION FOR JUSTICE IN EDUCATION FUNDING, INC., ET AL.
v.
GOVERNOR M. JODI RELL ET AL.

          Argued September 28, 2017

          Joseph Rubin, associate attorney general, with whom were Beth Z. Margulies, Eleanor M. Mullen, and Darren P. Cunningham, assistant attorneys general, and, on the brief, George Jepsen, attorney general, and John P. DiManno, former assistant attorney general, for the appellants-cross appellees (defendants).

          Joseph P. Moodhe, pro hac vice, with whom were David N. Rosen, Olivia Cheng, pro hac vice, and Christel Y. Tham, pro hac vice, and, on the brief, Edward Bradley, Gregory P. Copeland, Cara A. Moore, Megan K. Bannigan, pro hac vice, Emily A. Johnson, pro hac vice, John S. Kiernan, pro hac vice, Dustin N. Nofziger, pro hac vice, David B. Noland, pro hac vice, and Alexandra S. Thompson, pro hac vice, for the appellees-cross appellants (plaintiffs).

          Nancy B. Alisberg and Samuel R. Bagenstos, pro hac vice, filed a brief for the National Disability Rights Network et al. as amici curiae.

          James P. Sexton, Emily Graner Sexton and Marina L. Green filed a brief for The Arc of the United States et al. as amici curiae.

          Wendy Lecker filed a brief for the Education Law Center as amicus curiae.

          Gabrielle Levin and Joshua S. Lipshutz, pro hac vice, field a brief for the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now et al. as amici curiae.

          Michael Roberts and Scott Madeo filed a brief for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities as amicus curiae.

          Andrew A. Feinstein and Jillian L. Griswold filed a brief for twelve individuals with severe disabilities who have filed in fictitious names as amici curiae.

          Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, Robinson, Vertefeuille, Alvord and Sheldon, Js. [*]

          OPINION

          ROGERS, C. J.

         ‘‘Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither justice nor freedom can be permanently maintained.'' Letter from James A. Garfield accepting the presidential nomination (July 12, 1880), The American Presidency Project, available at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ ws/index.php?pid=76221 (last visited January 17, 2018). In the present case, we acknowledge that the plaintiffs have painted a vivid picture of an imperfect public educational system in this state that is straining to serve many students who, because their basic needs for, among other things, adequate parenting, financial resources, housing, nutrition and care for their physical and psychological health are not being met, cannot take advantage of the educational opportunities that the state is offering.[1] We are highly sympathetic to the plight of these struggling students. Indeed, we join our voice to the voices of those who urge the state to do all that it reasonably can to ensure not only that all children in this state have the bare opportunity to receive the minimally adequate education required by article eighth, § 1, of the Connecticut constitution, [2] but also that the neediest children have the support that they need to actually take advantage of that opportunity. It is not the function of the courts, however, to create educational policy or to attempt by judicial fiat to eliminate all of the societal deficiencies that continue to frustrate the state's educational efforts. Rather, the function of the courts is to determine whether the narrow and specific criteria for a minimally adequate educational system under our state constitution have been satisfied. Once a determination of minimal adequacy has been made, courts simply are not in a position to determine whether schools in poorer districts would be better off expending scarce additional resources on more teachers, more computers, more books, more technical staff, more meals, more guidance counselors, more health care, more English instruction, greater preschool availability, or some other resource. Such judgments are quintessentially legislative in nature. Because we conclude that the trial court was correct in its initial determination that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the state's educational offerings are not minimally adequate under article eighth, § 1, and in its determination that the state has not violated their equal protection rights under the state constitution, the plaintiffs cannot prevail on their claims that the state has not provided them with a suitable and substantially equal educational opportunity.

         The individual plaintiffs[3] and the named plaintiff, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. (Coalition), brought this action seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment that the defendants, various state officials and members of the State Board of Education, [4] failed to provide suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities to the individual plaintiffs in violation of article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20, of the Connecticut constitution, as amended by articles five and twenty-one of the amendments[5] Applying the controlling legal standard, as set forth in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc v Rell, 295 Conn. 240');">295 Conn. 240, 342-43, 990 A.2d 206 (2010) (Palmer, J, concur ring in the judgment), the trial court held that the plaintiffs have not established that the state has failed to provide children in any school district in this state with minimally adequate teachers, educational facilities and instrumentalities, as required by article eighth, § 1. In addition, the court concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to establish a violation of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, article first, §§ 1 and 20. The trial court then proceeded to apply, however, a new legal standard that is not supported by our precedent, pursuant to which that court considered numerous educational policies and practices that are not part of the controlling standard, and held that the state's educational policies and spending practices violate article eighth, § 1, because they are not ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to creating educational opportunities for children.''

         The defendants appeal from the trial court's decision that they have violated article eighth, § 1, and the plaintiffs cross appeal from the trial court's rulings that they did not establish that the state has failed to provide minimally adequate educational opportunities to the children in any school district in the state and have not violated the plaintiffs' equal protection rights under the state constitution.[6] We conclude that the trial court properly found that the plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence that the state is not providing children in this state with minimally adequate educational resources that satisfy the requirements of article eighth, § 1. We further conclude that, having made this determination, the trial court should have held that the defendants have not violated that constitutional provision, and it should not have gone on to apply a new constitutional test. Finally, we conclude that the trial court properly found that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the state has violated the equal protection provisions of the state constitution. We therefore conclude that the plaintiffs have failed to establish that the defendants have violated the plaintiffs' rights under article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following procedural history and facts that either were found by the trial court or are undisputed. In 2005, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging, among other things, that the defendants had violated article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§1 and 20, of the state constitution by ‘‘failing to maintain a public school system that provides [them] with suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities . . . .'' Thereafter, the defendants filed a motion to strike certain portions of the complaint, claiming that these state constitutional provisions do not confer a right to ‘‘ ‘suitable' '' educational opportunities and do not ‘‘guarantee equality or parity of educational achievement or results.'' The trial court concluded that the plaintiffs' claims were justiciable, but that article eighth, § 1, did not guarantee a right to a suitable public education. Accordingly, the trial court granted the defendants' motion to strike the portions of the plaintiffs' complaint making that claim.

         Thereafter, the Chief Justice granted the plaintiffs' application for certification to appeal to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 52-265a. See Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 243-44. In a split opinion, a majority of this court concluded that the trial court had improperly granted the defendants' motion to strike. Id., 320; id., 320-21 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). As the following discussion of the positions taken by the justices in their respective opinions makes clear, because Justice Palmer's concurring opinion provided the narrowest grounds of agreement, it was controlling. See State v. Ross, 272 Conn. 577, 604 n.13, 863 A.2d 654 (2005) (‘‘[w]hen a fragmented [c]ourt decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of [a majority], the holding of the [c]ourt may be viewed as the position taken by those [m]embers who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds'' [internal quotation marks omitted]), quoting Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188, 193, 97 S.Ct. 990, 51 L.Ed.2d 260 (1977).

         Justices Norcott, Katz and Schaller concluded in a plurality opinion that the plaintiffs' claims were justiciable and, therefore, that this court had subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal. See Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 269 (plurality opinion). The plurality then agreed with ‘‘the New York Court of Appeals' explication of the ‘essential' components requisite to this constitutionally adequate education, namely: (1) ‘minimally adequate physical facilities and classrooms which provide enough light, space, heat, and air to permit children to learn'; (2) ‘minimally adequate instrumentalities of learning such as desks, chairs, pencils, and reasonably current textbooks'; (3) ‘minimally adequate teaching of reasonably up-to-date basic curricula such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies'; and (4) ‘sufficient personnel adequately trained to teach those subject areas.' [Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 86 N.Y.2d 307, 317, 655 N.E.2d 661, 631 N.Y.S.2d 565 (1995) (Campaign I)]; see also, e.g., [Abbeville County School District v. State, 335 S.C. 58, 68, 515 S.E.2d 535 (1999)] (state constitution requires provision to students of ‘adequate and safe facilities in which they have the opportunity to acquire: [1] the ability to read, write, and speak the English language, and knowledge of mathematics and physical science; [2] a fundamental knowledge of economic, social, and political systems, and of history and governmental processes; and [3] academic and vocational skills'); Pauley v. Kelly, 162 W.Va. 672, 706, 255 S.E.2d 859 (1979) (provision of constitutionally adequate education ‘implict[ly]' requires ‘supportive services: [1] good physical facilities, instructional materials and personnel; [2] careful state and local supervision to prevent waste and to monitor pupil, teacher and administrative competency').'' Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 316.

         The plurality further concluded that ‘‘article eighth, § 1, entitles Connecticut public school students to an education suitable to give them the opportunity to be responsible citizens able to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting. A constitutionally adequate education also will leave Connecticut's students prepared to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise contribute to the state's economy. To satisfy this standard, the state, through the local school districts, must provide students with an objectively meaningful opportunity to receive the benefits of this constitutional right.'' (Footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 314-15.

         The plurality emphasized, however, that a public education system ‘‘need not operate perfectly'' to be constitutionally adequate; (internal quotation marks omitted) id., 315-16, quoting Neeley v. West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, 176 S.W.3d 746, 787 (Tex. 2005); and that constitutional adequacy is determined not by ‘‘ ‘what level of achievement students reach, but on what the state reasonably attempts to make available to them, taking into account any special needs of a particular local school system.' ''Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 316, quoting Sheff v. O'Neill, 238 Conn. 1, 143, 678 A.2d 1267 (1996) (Borden, J., dissenting); see also Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 318-20 (discussing cases supporting notion that article eighth, § 1, was not intended to require state to provide remedies for all social ills that might hinder ability of students to take advantage of educational opportunities). Thus, the plurality recognized that ‘‘the education clause [of our state constitution] is not a panacea for all of the social ills that contribute to many of the achievement deficiencies identified by the plaintiffs in their complaint . . . .'' Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 320. Having concluded that the plaintiffs' claims pursuant to article eighth, § 1, were justiciable and that the constitutional provision contains a qualitative component, the plurality concluded that the trial court had improperly stricken the plaintiffs' claims pursuant to that provision. See id.

         In his concurring opinion, Justice Palmer agreed with the plurality that the plaintiffs' claims were justiciable, although he did not entirely agree with the plurality's analysis of that issue. Id., 322 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). With respect to the ‘‘qualitative component'' of the right guaranteed by article eighth, § 1, Justice Palmer concluded that that provision ‘‘requires only that the legislature establish and maintain a minimally adequate system of free public schools.'' Id., 332. Specifically, Justice Palmer agreed with the four criteria adopted by the New York Court of Appeals in Campaign I, supra, 86 N.Y.2d 317, and adopted by the plurality as part of its constitutional standard. See Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 342 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). In addition, Justice Palmer concluded that ‘‘a safe and secure environment also is an essential element of a constitutionally adequate education.''[7] Id., 342 n.15. Justice Palmer ultimately concluded that, although ‘‘portions of the plaintiffs' complaint reasonably may be read as asserting a right to a quality of education under article eighth, § 1, that exceeds the parameters of the right'' as he conceived it, their allegations were sufficiently broad to withstand a motion to strike under this standard. Id., 346 n.20.

         Justice Palmer expressly rejected, however, the plurality's suggestion that it was appropriate ‘‘to craft the constitutional standard in broad terms.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 342 n.17 (Palmer, J., concurring in the jugment); see also id., 317 (plurality opinion) (‘‘[w]e recognize that our explication of a constitutionally adequate education under article eighth, § 1, is crafted in broad terms''). Justice Palmer contended that, ‘‘the broader the standard, the more vague it is likely to be. In addition, the broader the standard, the more difficult it will be for the parties and the court to understand and apply it. . . . Although some constitutional standards must be defined in broad terms because of their applicability to a vast number of fact patterns, this is not such a case; for purposes of a case like the present one, in which it is critically important to give as much guidance to the court and the parties as possible, the more clearly defined the standard, the better. Cf. Moore v. Ganim, 233 Conn. 557, 629, 660 A.2d 742 (1995) (Peters, C. J., concurring) (‘well established jurisprudential doctrine counsels us to construe ambiguous constitutional principles narrowly').'' Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 342-43 n.17 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment).

         In addition, Justice Palmer disagreed with the plurality's decision to the extent that it could be interpreted to require the courts to examine educational outputs when determining the constitutional adequacy of the state's educational offerings.[8] See id., 345 n.19 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment) (rejecting plurality's assertion that ‘‘[a] constitutionally adequate education . . . will leave Connecticut's students prepared to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise contribute to the state's economy'' because court's focus should be on adequacy of educational inputs, not level of achievement [internal quotation marks omitted]). This is because, although ‘‘schools are important socializing institutions in our democratic society, they cannot be constitutionally required to overcome every serious social and personal disadvantage that students bring with them to school, and that seriously hinder[s] the academic achievement of those students.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 344-45 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). ‘‘[B]ecause student achievement may be affected by so many factors outside the state's control, including, perhaps most particularly, the disadvantaging characteristics of poverty . . . educational inputs must provide the primary basis for that determination.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 345 n.19 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment).

         Justice Palmer also repeatedly emphasized that ‘‘the legislature is entitled to considerable deference with respect to both its conception of the scope of the right and its implementation of the right''; id., 332 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); because ‘‘courts are ill equipped to deal with issues of educational policy; in other words, courts lack [the] specialized knowledge and experience to address the many persistent and difficult questions of educational policy that invariably arise in connection with the establishment and maintenance of a statewide system of education. . . . Thus, these issues are best addressed by our elected and appointed officials in the exercise of their informed judgment.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 335-36 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); see also id. 321 (courts should not ‘‘second-guess the reasoned judgment of the legislative and executive branches with respect to the education policy of this state''); id., 328-29 (courts should defer ‘‘to the reasoned determination of the political branches with respect to the precise parameters of the right'' to free public education); id., 335 (courts should defer ‘‘to the reasoned judgment of the political branches with respect to the determination, in practice, of the parameters of the right'' to free public education); id., 336 (‘‘within the limits of rationality, the legislature's efforts to tackle the problems [of education] should be entitled to respect'' [internal quotation marks omitted]); id., 335 (‘‘[t]he judicial branch must accord the legislative branch great deference in this area''); id., 336 (‘‘[s]pecial deference is warranted in the present case due to the fact that the framers reserved to the legislature the responsibility of implementing the mandate of a free public education''); id., 337 (‘‘[a]nother compelling reason for judicial restraint in matters relating to educational policy is the potential that exists for a costly and intrusive remedy''); id., 338 (‘‘the significant separation of powers issues that any . . . remedy invariably would spawn must be given due consideration in determining the scope of the right'' to free public education); id., 341-42 (courts must employ ‘‘a mode of constitutional interpretation that affords considerable deference to the legislature with respect to the manner in which the right to a minimally adequate free public education is conceived and implemented''); id., 344 n.18 (approach of New York Court of Appeals in Campaign I ‘‘gives due regard to the prudential considerations that militate strongly in favor of judicial restraint in such matters''). Indeed, Justice Palmer recounted that ‘‘education . . . presents a myriad of intractable economic, social, and even philosophical problems. . . . The very complexity of the problems of financing and managing a statewide public school system suggests that there will be more than one constitutionally permissible method of solving them, and that, within the limits of rationality, the legislature's efforts to tackle the problems should be entitled to respect. . . . On even the most basic questions in this area the scholars and educational experts are divided.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 336 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). ‘‘In such circumstances, the judiciary is well advised to refrain from imposing on the [state] inflexible constitutional restraints that could circumscribe or handicap the continued research and experimentation so vital to finding even partial solutions to educational problems and to keeping abreast of ever-changing conditions.''[9] (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id. (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment).

         Thus, a majority of this court-Justices Norcott, Katz, Palmer and Schaller-agreed that the trial court had improperly struck the plaintiffs' claims, although Justice Palmer did not agree with the qualitative component of the right to free public education under article eighth, § 1, as described in the plurality opinion. Accordingly, this court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings on the claim that the defendants had failed to provide the plaintiffs with a suitable public education.

         Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint containing four counts, which is the operative pleading for purposes of this appeal.[10] The plaintiffs claimed that ‘‘[b]y failing to maintain a public school system that provides the plaintiffs with suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities, the state is violating article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20, of the state constitution'' (first count); ‘‘[b]y failing to maintain a public school system that provides the plaintiffs with suitable educational opportunities, the state is violating article eighth, § 1, of the state constitution'' (second count); ‘‘[b]y failing to maintain a public school system that provides the plaintiffs with substantially equal educational opportunities, the state is violating article eighth, § 1, and article first §§ 1 and 20, of the state constitution'' (third count); and ‘‘the state's failure to maintain a public school system that provides the plaintiffs with suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities has disproportionately impacted African-American, Latino, and other minority students in violation of article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§1 and 20, of the [s]tate [c]onstitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983'' (fourth count).[11]

         The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiffs' claims were not ripe for adjudication in light of certain education reforms that the legislature enacted in 2012, that their claims were moot in light of these reforms and that the Coalition lacked associational standing to raise claims that its rights under article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20, had been violated. The trial court, Dubay, J., deferred ruling on the first two claims until a full trial on the merits had occurred and denied the motion to dismiss the Coalition's claims for lack of standing.

         Thereafter, the case was tried before the court, Moukawsher, J.[12] In their posttrial brief, the defendants renewed their jurisdictional claims and, in addition, claimed that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing because, among other reasons, they had failed to establish any harm to any specific plaintiff. The trial court rejected the defendants' jurisdictional claims. The court then determined that Justice Palmer's concurring opinion in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 320, provided the narrowest grounds of agreement among the four justices who had concluded that the plaintiffs' claims were justiciable and that article eighth, § 1, contains a qualitative component, and, therefore, his opinion was controlling. See State v. Ross, supra, 272 Conn. 604 n.13. Applying the Campaign I criteria that Justice Palmer had adopted, [13] the trial court specifically found that (1) ‘‘[t]he plaintiffs [have not] proved by a preponderance of the evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt, that the state's schools lack enough light, space, heat, and air to permit children to learn, '' (2) ‘‘the plaintiffs have not proved by a preponderance, and certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is a systemic problem that should spark a constitutional crisis and an order to spend more on [desks, chairs, pencils and reasonably current textbooks], '' and (3) ‘‘the plaintiffs have plainly not met their burden to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Connecticut lacks minimally adequate teaching and curricula, nor have they proved it by a preponderance of the evidence.''[14] Accordingly, the court held that the Campaign I criteria were satisfied.

         The court then observed that, since 2012, the state had funneled ‘‘over $400 million in new money'' into the state's thirty lowest performing school districts. In addition, the state had provided $13 million in financial support to fourteen ‘‘failing schools, '' plus $4 million per year for school improvement grants to approximately thirty ‘‘high needs'' schools. Finally, the court noted that there are numerous state and federal programs that are designed to provide meals to needy students, even during the summer, to invite parents into schools to share in learning, to attend to the needs of homeless students, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, to attend to the needs of young parents and pregnant students, and to provide mental health support. The court found that ‘‘[a]ll of this extra spending benefits poor districts but not wealthier districts. [This] is on top of basic education aid that has a history of strongly favoring poor districts over wealthier ones. This heavy tilt in state education aid in favor of the state's poorer communities shows the state is devoting to needy schools a great deal more in resources than is required by the modest standard [set forth by the Campaign I criteria and adopted by Justice Palmer].'' Thus, the trial court expressly found that the state's educational offerings in needy districts are constitutionally adequate under Campaign I.[15] The court also concluded that this ‘‘tilt'' was ‘‘fatal to the plaintiffs' equal protection claim'' under article first, §§ 1 and 20, that the state has failed to provide substantially equal educational funding to needy and wealthy school districts.

         The trial court then concluded, however, that, notwithstanding its conclusion that the state had satisfied the Campaign I criteria set forth in Justice Palmer's controlling opinion, the state's educational system would not satisfy the requirements of article eighth, § 1, unless the state ‘‘deploy[ed] in its schools resources and standards that are rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children.'' The trial court apparently derived this standard from Justice Palmer's statements that the state's educational programs and policies would be unconstitutional if they were ‘‘so lacking as to be unreasonable by any fair or objective standard''; Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 321 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); and that the state must operate ‘‘within the limits of rationality.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 336 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). The trial court reasoned that this rationality standard could not be the same as the low ‘‘[r]ational basis'' standard for determining the constitutionality of legislative acts; State v. Long, 268 Conn. 508, 535, 847 A.2d 862 (‘‘Rational basis review is satisfied so long as there is a plausible policy reason for the classification . . . . [I]t is irrelevant whether the conceivable basis for the challenged distinction actually motivated the legislature.'' [Internal quotation marks omitted.]), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 969, 125 S.Ct. 424, 160 L.Ed.2d 340 (2004); because this court held in Horton v. Meskill, 172 Conn. 615, 646, 376 A.2d 359 (1977) (Horton I), that ‘‘in Connecticut the right to education is so basic and fundamental that any infringement of that right must be strictly scrutinized.'' Applying this ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected'' standard that had not previously been specified in Justice Palmer's concurring opinion, the trial court concluded that the state's current ‘‘school program'' is unconstitutional because ‘‘[the state] has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction, '' it has no ‘‘objective and mandatory statewide graduation standard, '' ‘‘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, '' and the state's program of special education spending is irrational. The court ordered the defendants to submit to the court plans to remedy these constitutional deficiencies within 180 days of the date of the judgment.[16]

         The defendants then filed this appeal, in which they renew their claims that the individual plaintiffs lack standing because they have failed to present evidence that any of them has been specifically injured by the defendants' acts or omissions and that the Coalition lacks associational standing to raise claims under article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20. The defendants also claim that, after the trial court found that the state's schools met the Campaign I criteria adopted by Justice Palmer, that court improperly went on to apply a constitutional standard of its own devising. The defendants further contend that, even if the trial court properly adopted this new constitutional standard, it improperly applied it to conclude that the educational system is unconstitutional under article eighth, § 1. On cross appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the trial court improperly concluded that (1) the state's educational system meets the Campaign I criteria for determining the adequacy of the state's schools under article eighth, § 1, and (2) the state's educational system does not violate their equal protection rights under article first, §§ 1 and 20.[17]

         We conclude that all of the plaintiffs have standing. We also conclude that the trial court properly held that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the state's schools do not satisfy the Campaign I criteria, which is the controlling constitutional standard under Justice Palmer's concurring opinion in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. We agree with the defendants, however, that the trial court went on to improperly apply a constitutional standard of its own devising after concluding that the state's schools satisfied the controlling Campaign I criteria. Finally, based on the factual findings of the trial court, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the educational system in this state violates the equal protection provisions of the state constitution by failing to ensure that the poorer school districts had funding that is substantially equal to the wealthier school districts.

         I

         JURISDICTIONAL CLAIMS

         We begin by addressing the defendants' jurisdictional claims that the individual plaintiffs lack standing because none of them has been specifically injured and that the Coalition lacks associational standing to raise its claims pursuant to article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20. We disagree.

         A

         Standing of Individual Plaintiffs

         It is well established that, ‘‘to have standing . . . the plaintiffs necessarily must establish that they are classically aggrieved. In other words, they must demonstrate a specific, personal and legal interest in the subject matter of the controversy and that the defendants' conduct has specially and injuriously affected that specific personal or legal interest.'' Andross v. West Hartford, 285 Conn. 309, 324, 939 A.2d 1146 (2008). ‘‘Standing requires no more than a colorable claim of injury; a [party] ordinarily establishes . . . standing by allegations of injury. Similarly, standing exists to attempt to vindicate arguably protected interests.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Dept. of Education, 303 Conn. 402, 411, 35 A.3d 188 (2012). ‘‘[A] trial court's determination that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction because of a plaintiff's lack of standing is a conclusion of law that is subject to plenary review on appeal.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Isabella D. v. Dept. of Children & Families, 320 Conn. 215, 228, 128 A.3d 916, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 181, 196 L.Ed.2d 124 (2016).

         In the present case, the plaintiffs' complaint alleged that ‘‘[t]he state's failure to provide suitable education opportunities is evidenced by the fact that many plaintiffs attend schools that do not have the resources necessary to educate their high concentrations of poorly performing students'' and that ‘‘[t]he state's failure to provide substantially equal educational opportunities is evidenced by the fact that, when compared to [other] students, a disparate number of the plaintiff students attend schools that do not have the resources necessary to educate their high concentrations of poorly performing students.'' If the plaintiffs had proved these allegations at trial, the trial court could have inferred a specific injury to the individual plaintiffs from the fact that they attended constitutionally inadequate schools. Although we conclude in parts III and IV of this opinion that the plaintiffs failed to prove any constitutional violation, the failure of a plaintiff to prove a colorable claim of specific harm at trial does not deprive the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction. See In re Jose B., 303 Conn. 569, 579, 34 A.3d 975 (2012) (rejecting ‘‘bizarre result that the failure to prove an essential fact at trial deprives the court of subject matter jurisdiction''). Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the complaint raised a colorable claim that the individual plaintiffs' ‘‘specific, personal and legal interest'' in receiving the opportunity for an education that complies with the qualitative component of article eighth, § 1, and their interest in receiving an educational opportunity that is substantially equal to the opportunity received by other public school students in accordance with article first, §§ 1 and 20, was being ‘‘specially and injuriously affected'' by the defendants' acts or omissions. Andross v. West Hartford, supra, 285 Conn. 324.

         B

         Coalition's Associational Standing

         We next address the defendants' claim that the Coalition lacked associational standing. This court has held that ‘‘[a]n association has standing to bring [an action] on behalf of its members when: (a) its members would otherwise have standing to [bring the action] in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the [action].'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Assn. of Health Care Facilities, Inc. v. Worrell, 199 Conn. 609, 616, 508 A.2d 743 (1986) (Worrell). The defendants contend that the Coalition meets none of the prongs of the Worrell test. For the following reasons, we disagree.

         1

         First Prong of the Worrell Test

         The defendants contend that the Coalition does not satisfy the first prong of the Worrell test for associational standing because the only individual members of the Coalition that would have personal standing to raise the claims set forth in the complaint are the members who are the parents of students attending public schools, and the parents ‘‘are not in fact ‘members' in any real sense'' because they lack voting rights in the Coalition.[18] The defendants point out that, when this action was initiated in 2005, the Coalition's bylaws provided that the Coalition ‘‘shall act by and through its [b]oard of [d]irectors. . . . The [b]oard's powers include, but are not limited to, the power to initiate and pursue litigation . . . and to make spending decisions.'' The bylaws also provided for several categories of membership, including individual members, which is the category that would include parents. All classes of membership except the class of individual members had the right to elect a member or members from their class to serve on the Coalition's board of directors.

         The 2013 version of the Coalition's bylaws authorized a membership class specifically for parents. Parent members still did not have the right to vote, [19] but they did have the right to participate in general membership meetings. The bylaws also provided that the powers of all members of the Coalition ‘‘include, but are not limited to, the power to initiate and pursue litigation, to hire experts and other staff, and to make spending decisions.'' In addition, the bylaws provided that two parent members would be members of the Coalition's steering committee, which, among other duties, had the responsibility to oversee the Coalition's routine business, to ‘‘steer policies and promote strategies aimed at ensuring progress toward achieving the goals and objectives'' of the Coalition, to ‘‘provide ongoing direction, advice, and support to [a]gents of the [c]orporation, '' and to ‘‘modify the budget as is reasonable and necessary . . . .''

         The defendants contend that the parents were not true members of the Coalition because the 2005 version of the Coalition's bylaws ‘‘gave the power to initiate and pursue litigation to a board over which the parent members had no voice whatsoever'' because they lacked voting rights. The defendants also contend that, despite the provisions of the 2013 bylaws allowing parent members to belong to the Coalition's steering committee and to have the same powers as other members ‘‘to initiate and pursue litigation, to hire experts and other staff, and to make spending decisions, '' these powers were illusory because the parent members still had no right to vote. Thus, the defendants claim, the parent members are not true members of the Coalition, but ‘‘are simply pawns added in an attempt to provide standing.''

         The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, 432 U.S. 333, 343, 97 S.Ct. 2434, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977), from which the Worrell test is derived; see Connecticut Assn. of Health Care Facilities, Inc. v. Worrell, supra, 199 Conn. 615-16; provides some guidance on this issue. In Hunt, the defendant, the governor of North Carolina, contended that the plaintiff, a Washington state agency charged with promoting and protecting the apple industry of the state of Washington (commission), lacked associational standing to bring a claim challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina statute because the commission did not have any personal stake in the outcome of the litigation, and it was not a proper representative of the apple growers and dealers, who might have such a personal stake, because the apple growers and dealers were not members of the commission. See Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, supra, 336-37, 341-42. The United States Supreme Court held that, ‘‘while the apple growers and dealers are not ‘members' of the [c]ommission in the traditional trade association sense, they possess all of the indicia of membership in an organization. They alone elect the members of the [c]ommission; they alone may serve on the [c]ommission; they alone finance its activities, including the costs of this lawsuit, through assessments levied upon them. In a very real sense, therefore, the [c]ommission represents the [s]tate's growers and dealers and provides the means by which they express their collective views and protect their collective interests.'' Id., 344-45. Accordingly, the court concluded, the commission had associational standing. Id., 345.

         We conclude that, contrary to the defendants' claim in the present case, Hunt does not stand for the proposition that the right to vote is an essential characteristic of membership in an association for purposes of establishing the first prong of the Worrell test. Although the court in Hunt observed that the apple growers and dealers elected the commission's members and financed its activities, the court did not say that those facts were necessary to establish associational standing if there was other evidence of representation and control. Rather, the court determined that the facts that the apple growers and dealers served on the commission and that the commission represented their interests and provided a means for them to express their collective views were indicia of membership for purposes of establishing associational standing. See Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York Coalition for Quality Assisted Living, Inc., 675 F.3d 149, 157-59 (2d Cir. 2012) (characterizing Hunt as holding that ‘‘representation and control'' are indicia of membership that gives rise to associational standing); see also Citizens Coal Council v. Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 40 F.Supp.3d 632, 640 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (‘‘[J]ust because [the association's members] lacked voting rights when this [action] was commenced, that factor alone is not sufficient to defeat associational standing . . . . Nothing in Hunt indicates that the factors delineated there are the only factors to be considered. . . . Rather, the purpose of the Hunt inquiry is to determine whether an organization provides its members with the means to express their collective views and protect their collective interests.'' [Internal quotation marks omitted.]).

         In any event, Hunt involved a plaintiff that was not a true voluntary membership association. See Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, supra, 432 U.S. 342 (‘‘the [c]ommission is not a traditional voluntary membership organization such as a trade association, for it has no members at all''). At least one court has held that, when a plaintiff is a true voluntary membership organization, as in the present case, Hunt's ‘‘indicia of membership'' test does not apply. California Sportfishing Protection Alliance v. Diablo Grande, Inc., 209 F.Supp.2d 1059, 1066 (E.D. Cal. 2002) (Hunt's ‘‘indicia of membership'' test does not apply to true voluntary membership association); see Citizens Coal Council v. Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., supra, 40 F.Supp.3d 643 (members' lack of voting rights did not defeat associational standing of voluntary membership association).

         Nevertheless, even if some evidence of representation and control were required to establish membership, even for a true voluntary membership association, we conclude that the fact that two parent members of the Coalition serve on its steering committee provides sufficient evidence of their control, and the fact that the parent members have voluntarily joined the Coalition knowing that it has publicly advocated in favor of specific public school funding policies provides sufficient evidence that the Coalition represents their views. See Citizens Coal Council v. Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., supra, 40 F.Supp.3d 640 (‘‘[t]he affirmative action of an organization's constituents to affiliate with the organization in order to support its advocacy efforts, and to disaffiliate with the organization when they are dissatisfied with those efforts, may provide nearly as much practical influence on management as the bare right to vote for directors'' [internal quotation marks omitted]). Indeed, we cannot perceive why the parent members would, by maintaining their membership status, allow the Coalition to use them as ‘‘pawns . . . in an attempt to provide standing, '' as the defendants claim, if the Coalition was not representing their views or protecting their interests as they perceive them. We conclude, therefore, that the fact that the parent members lack voting rights does not defeat the Coalition's associational standing.

         The defendants also claim, however, that, even if the parent members are now actual members of the Coalition for purposes of the first prong of the Worrell test, because the Coalition had no parent members when this action was initiated in 2005 the Coalition lacked standing at that time, and a subject matter jurisdictional defect that existed when the complaint was filed cannot be cured by a subsequent amendment. The following additional procedural history is relevant to our resolution of this claim. After the plaintiffs filed their original complaint in 2005, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Coalition's claims for lack of standing under Worrell. The trial court, Shortall, J., granted the motion. In his memorandum of decision, Judge Shortall noted that, according to an affidavit filed by counsel for the Coalition, and contrary to the allegations of the original complaint, the Coalition had no parent members when the complaint was filed. Although the plaintiffs had filed an amended complaint alleging that the Coalition now had parent members, and submitted an affidavit to that effect, the amended complaint did not allege that the parent members were ‘‘parents of students in the public schools of Connecticut.'' Accordingly, the court concluded that the Coalition did not meet the first prong of the Worrell test.

         Thereafter, the plaintiffs sought leave to file a second amended complaint in order to cure the standing deficiency by including an allegation that the Coalition's parent members were parents of students in the Connecticut public schools. The trial court granted the request for leave to amend over the objection of the defendants. As we have previously explained in this opinion, the trial court subsequently granted the defendants' motion to strike portions of the second amended complaint, and the plaintiffs appealed from that ruling to this court pursuant to § 52-265a. After this court reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings, the plaintiffs were granted leave to file a third amended complaint and defendants filed another motion to dismiss the Coalition's claims for lack of standing. The trial court, Dubay, J., denied the motion.

         The defendants claim that Judge Dubay improperly denied their motion to dismiss the Coalition's claims because, at the time that the original complaint was filed, the Coalition had no parent members who would have had standing to bring this action in their own right, and a jurisdictional defect cannot be cured retroactively. To support this claim, the defendants rely on Fairchild Heights Residents Assn., Inc. v. Fairchild Heights, Inc., 131 Conn.App. 567, 574 n.8, 27 A.3d 467 (2011) (‘‘[t]he lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . cannot be cured retrospectively'' [internal quotation marks omitted]), rev'd in part on other grounds, 310 Conn. 797, 82 A.3d 602 (2014), and Connecticut Associated Builders & Contractors v. Hartford, 251 Conn. 169, 186, 740 A.2d 813 (1999) (determining subject matter jurisdiction on basis of facts at time that original complaint was filed). We conclude that these cases are distinguishable.

         In Fairchild Heights Residents Assn., Inc., the plaintiff claimed that the defendant had violated various provisions of General Statutes § 21-82 (a) governing, inter alia, a landlord's responsibilities in operating a mobile home park. See Fairchild Heights Residents Assn., Inc. v. Fairchild Heights, Inc., supra, 131 Conn.App. 574. The defendant claimed on appeal that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff had failed to exhaust its remedies pursuant to a statutory scheme for addressing complaints related to mobile home parks. Id., 571, 576. The Appellate Court agreed. Id., 577. In a footnote, the Appellate Court noted that, although the trial court had tried the case on the basis of the plaintiff's amended complaint, ‘‘[t]he operative complaint for jurisdictional purposes is that included with the writ of summons. The lack of subject matter jurisdiction to render a final judgment cannot be cured retrospectively.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 574 n.8.

         In Connecticut Associated Builders & Contractors v. Hartford, supra, 251 Conn. 171, the named plaintiff, a trade association, and two plaintiff subcontractors, claimed that the defendant's procedures for bidding on a municipal construction contract violated various state and local statutes as well as the state and federal constitutions. Id. This court concluded that the subcontractors lacked standing because the statutes on which they relied were designed to protect the public, not bidders. Id., 184. This court also concluded that the trade association lacked standing because none of its members would have had standing to challenge the bidding procedures ‘‘[a]t the time of the filing of the complaint . . . .'' Id., 186.

         Thus, Fairchild Heights Residents Assn., Inc. v. Fairchild Heights, Inc., supra, 131 Conn.App. 574, and Connecticut Associated Builders & Contractors v. Hartford, supra, 251 Conn. 169, are distinguishable from the present case because, in both of those cases, the original complaint should have been dismissed because no plaintiff had standing. If the trial court had rendered a judgment of dismissal in those cases, the plaintiffs would not have been permitted to cure the jurisdictional defects with subsequent pleadings because there no longer would have been any pending action in which to file them. In contrast, the original complaint in the present case was not dismissed when the trial court initially determined that the Coalition lacked standing because the individual plaintiffs named in the original complaint still had standing as parents of students in Connecticut schools. Accordingly, the sole effect of dismissing the Coalition's claims was to remove the Coalition as a plaintiff. When the Coalition subsequently gained associational standing to raise the claims, however, we can perceive no reason why it would not have been permitted to join the action as a plaintiff pursuant to Practice Book § 9-3, assuming, of course, that it satisfied all prongs of the Worrell test.[20]We conclude, therefore, that it would elevate form over substance to hold that the trial court improperly allowed the plaintiffs to cure the jurisdictional defect with respect to the Coalition's claims by amending the complaint. The defendants have not explained how allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint, instead of requiring the Coalition to file a motion to join the action as a plaintiff, could have allowed the plaintiffs to reap any procedural advantage or caused any detriment to the defendants. Accordingly, we reject the defendants' claim that the Coalition lacks associational standing under the first prong of Worrell because none of its members had standing to bring this action in their own right when the original complaint was filed.

         2

         Second Prong of the Worrell Test

         The defendants also claim that the Coalition fails the second prong of the Worrell associational standing test, i.e., that ‘‘the interests [that the Coalition] seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose''; Connecticut Assn. of Health Care Facilities, Inc. v. Worrell, supra, 199 Conn. 616; because ‘‘its membership is irremediably riddled with inherent conflicts regarding educational policy issues germane to this case.'' Specifically, the defendants claim that the Coalition's membership includes, among others, municipalities and local school boards with diverse locations and demographics, teachers' unions and parents. The defendants contend that, although all members might agree on one point-the need for the state to put more money into the educational system-they would not agree on how the money should be distributed. The defendants point out that potential changes in funding that would benefit one school district might harm another district. The defendants also point out that one member of the Coalition, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, is opposed to laws governing binding arbitration for teacher pay. According to the defendants, this position is squarely at odds with the interests of the two teachers' unions that are members of the Coalition. As another example, the defendants point out that one member of the Coalition, the city of Bridgeport, has taken the position through the testimony of its superintendent of schools that teacher termination laws and due process requirements should be changed to make it easier to terminate ineffective administrators and teachers, a position with which the teachers' unions also would disagree. We conclude that these potential conflicts do not deprive the Coalition of associational standing.

         As noted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, courts ‘‘have not been uniform in their approach to the presence of conflicts of interest in an association seeking standing.'' Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, 7 F.3d 584, 603 (7th Cir. 1993). Specifically, some courts have concluded that conflicts among the members of an association are simply ‘‘not relevant to whether associational standing ought to be permitted''; id., 603-605 (discussing cases); while other courts have concluded that, under certain circumstances, conflicts of interest may be so profound as to deprive the association of standing. Id., 605-607 (discussing cases).[21]

         The courts that have held that conflicts of interest among members of an association generally do not deprive the association of standing have relied on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. Brock, 477 U.S. 274, 290, 106 S.Ct. 2523, 91 L.Ed.2d 228 (1986) (Brock). See, e.g., Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, supra, 7 F.3d 603-605 (discussing cases). In Brock, the court acknowledged that the position taken by an association in a particular litigation ‘‘might reflect the views of only a bare majority-or even an influential minority-of the full membership.'' Brock, supra, 289. Nevertheless, the court concluded that the potential for a conflict of interest was outweighed by the benefits provided by associational standing, namely, that many associations have ‘‘a [preexisting] reservoir of expertise and capital'' upon which its members can draw and that associations provide people with ‘‘an effective vehicle for vindicating interests that they share with others.'' Id., 289-90. In addition, the court in Brock noted that any harm to a member of an association who did not agree with the position taken by the association would not be irremediable because, if an association is not ‘‘able to represent adequately the interests of all their injured members, '' a judgment won by the association ‘‘might not preclude subsequent claims by the association's members without offending due process principles.'' Id., 290; see also Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, supra, 605 (summarizing authority from United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals that when there is no evidence that position taken by association is ‘‘contrary to the interests of a majority of its members, and there [is] nothing on the record to indicate that [the association] had failed to follow [its] own internal rules before joining the litigation, [a] perceived conflict of interest [does] not bar associational standing''); Humane Society of the United States v. Hodel, 840 F.2d 45, 56 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (If ‘‘forces that cause individuals to band together guarantee some degree of fair representation, they surely guarantee as well that associational policymakers will not run roughshod over the strongly held views of association members in fashioning litigation goals. . . . [The germaneness test] requires . . . that an organization's litigation goals be pertinent to its special expertise and the grounds that bring its membership together.'' [Footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.]); National Maritime Union of America, AFL-CIO v. Commander, Military Sealift Command, 824 F.2d 1228, 1234 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (‘‘the mere fact of conflicting interests among members of an association does not of itself defeat the association's standing to urge the interests of some members in litigation, even though success may harm the legal interests of other members''); Laflamme v. New Horizons, Inc., 605 F.Supp.2d 378, 396-97 (D. Conn. 2009) (same).

         Other courts, however, have recognized that there may be circumstances under which conflicts among the members would deprive an association of standing. For example, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that an association lacks associational standing when ‘‘conflicts of interest among members of [an] association require that the members must join the [action] individually in order to protect their own interests'' by taking a position adverse to that taken by the association, and the association initiated the litigation without first informing its membership. Maryland Highways Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Maryland, 933 F.2d 1246, 1252-53 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 939, 112 S.Ct. 373, 116 L.Ed.2d 325 (1991). Similarly, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that an association lacked associational standing when it was ‘‘in effect suing certain of its members on behalf of other members.'' Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, supra, 7 F.3d 606, citing Southwest Suburban Board of Realtors, Inc. v. Beverly Area Planning Assn., 830 F.2d 1374, 1381 (7th Cir. 1987). As noted by the court in Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, supra, 606, in both of these cases ‘‘the conflict of interest among the members was profound. In Maryland Highways [Contractors Assn., Inc.], the [action] not only worked to the direct detriment of the minority members of the [a]ssociation, but was undertaken by the [a]ssociation without observance of its own [bylaws]. In Southwest Suburban [Board of Realtors, Inc.], [the court] noted that ‘what this [action] amounts to is [the association bringing an action against] certain of its members on behalf of other of its members.' '' In addition, in both cases, ‘‘the associations were not really operating along the lines for which they had been organized. In each case, they were operating as less permanent structures merely for litigation purposes and not for the purposes stated in their charters.'' Id., 607.

         With these principles in mind, we address the defendants' claim in the present case that the conflicts of interest among the Coalition's members deprive it of associational standing. Although the defendants' claim highlights the immense complexity of the state's educational system and the wide variety of interests that the state must consider when formulating educational policies-circumstances that certainly support the notion that courts have very limited institutional competence to craft educational remedies for the types of claims raised in the present case and, therefore, must be extremely cautious when inserting themselves into this area-we conclude that the conflicts of interests among the Coalition's members are not so profound as to deprive the Coalition of associational standing. There is no evidence that a majority of the Coalition's members disagrees with the Coalition's claim that the defendants have deprived students in the state's poorer school districts with a suitable and substantially equal educational opportunity in violation of article eighth, § 1, and article first, §§ 1 and 20; the Coalition's primary litigation goal is not directly at odds with the interests of part of its membership; no members objected to the Coalition initiating this action; no member of the Coalition has expressed the belief that the relief sought by the plaintiffs in this action would not be generally beneficial to the state's educational system; there is no evidence that any member has challenged or intends to challenge the Coalition's claims in this litigation in court;[22] there is no evidence that the Coalition is operating for the purposes other than those stated in its bylaws;[23] and there is no claim that the Coalition brought this litigation without first informing its members or following the procedures in its own bylaws. In the absence of any such evidence, any harm resulting to any member of the Coalition as the result of this litigation would be simply ‘‘part of the cost of obtaining the benefits of the association.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Retired Chicago Police Assn. v. Chicago, supra, 7 F.3d 604. Accordingly, we reject this claim.

         3

         Third Prong of the Worrell Test

         The defendants next contend that the plaintiffs cannot satisfy the third prong of the Worrell test, i.e., that ‘‘neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the [action].'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Assn. of Health Care Facilities, Inc. v. Worrell, supra, 199 Conn. 616. Specifically, the defendants contend that a court cannot determine whether the individual members of the Coalition ‘‘have been denied their constitutional right to a substantially equal and minimally adequate public education without considering specific evidence as to those individuals.'' According to the defendants, this is so because ‘‘[t]he minimum services needed for a precocious reader, an ‘average' student, a multiply handicapped student, a student from a troubled home life, a student whose native language is not English, a student with mild cognitive impairment, or any other student, are plainly all different.''

         We disagree that the plaintiffs have not satisfied the third prong of the Worrell test. Nothing in Justice Palmer's concurring opinion in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 320, suggests that the determination as to whether the state is providing a minimally adequate educational opportunity that complies with article eighth, § 1, must be made on a student by student basis, taking into consideration the special needs and abilities of each individual. To the contrary, the Campaign I criteria that Justice Palmer adopted focus exclusively on the characteristics of schools; id., 342 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment) (citing Campaign I criteria); and he emphasized that the focus of the court's inquiry should be on educational inputs, not individual achievement. Id., 345 n.19 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). Accordingly, as we have already explained in part I A of this opinion, injury to all individual students could be inferred from proof that the state's schools do not meet the Campaign I criteria even in the absence of evidence that each individual student has suffered some identifiable harm. Accordingly, we reject this claim.

         II

         WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT APPLIED AN IMPROPER CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARD TO THE PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS PURSUANT TO ARTICLE EIGHTH, § 1

         We next address the defendants' claim that the trial court, after determining that plaintiffs did not establish that the state has failed to provide children in any school district in this state with a minimally adequate educational system under the Campaign I criteria, improperly applied a constitutional standard of its own devising to conclude that the defendants have violated the plaintiffs' rights under article eighth, § 1. The plaintiffs disagree and argue that, if we agree with the defendants' claim, the trial court's interpretation of the Campaign I criteria nonetheless was unduly narrow. We agree with the defendants and conclude that the trial court properly interpreted and applied the Campaign I criteria adopted by Justice Palmer in his concurring opinion in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc., but then went on to improperly apply a constitutional standard of its own devising.

         A

         We begin with the standard of review. The scope of the right guaranteed by article eighth, § 1, is a question of law subject to plenary review. See Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 270-71 (plurality opinion) (considering scope of right guaranteed by article eighth, § 1, as matter of law); id., 342-43 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment) (same).

         As we have previously explained herein, the trial court concluded after a trial that the Campaign I criteria for a minimally adequate system of free public schools were met. The trial court also concluded, however, that the state's educational system would not satisfy article eighth, § 1, unless the state ‘‘deploy[ed] in its schools resources and standards that are rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children.'' The trial court apparently derived this standard from Justice Palmer's statements that the state's educational programs and policies would be unconstitutional if they were ‘‘so lacking as to be unreasonable by any fair or objective standard''; Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 321 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); and that the state must operate ‘‘within the limits of rationality . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 336 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). The trial court concluded that this ‘‘rationality'' requirement could not be the low rational basis standard because this court had held in Horton I, supra, 172 Conn. 646, that ‘‘in Connecticut the right to education is so basic and fundamental that any infringement of that right must be strictly scrutinized.'' Applying this ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected'' standard, the trial court concluded that the state's current ‘‘school program'' is unconstitutional because ‘‘[the state] has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction, '' it has no ‘‘objective and mandatory statewide graduation standard, '' ‘‘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, '' and the state's program of special education spending is irrational.

         The defendants claim on appeal that, once the trial court concluded that the Campaign I criteria were met, that court should have concluded that the state's educational system does not violate article eighth, § 1, and it should not have gone on to consider whether the state ‘‘deploy[ed] in its schools resources and standards that are rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children.'' We agree. We conclude that Justice Palmer's statements that the state's educational programs and policies cannot be ‘‘so lacking as to be unreasonable by any fair or objective standard'' and that the state must operate ‘‘within the limits of rationality'' mean that the efforts that the state makes to comply with its obligations under article eighth, § 1, must reasonably address the minimal educational needs of the state's students, as described in Campaign I, and that the standard applied by the trial court is inconsistent with Justice Palmer's repeated statements that courts are ill equipped to address the complex and intractable problems of financing and managing a statewide public school system. (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 321, 326, 336 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). We further conclude that, having found that the schools are minimally adequate under the Campaign I criteria, the trial court should have determined that the state has fulfilled its obligations under article eighth, § 1, and, therefore, the trial court improperly applied the ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children'' standard to conclude that the state's educational system is unconstitutional.

         As we have indicated, under the Campaign I standard, the state must provide (1) ‘‘minimally adequate physical facilities and classrooms which provide enough light, space, heat, and air to permit children to learn, '' (2) ‘‘minimally adequate instrumentalities of learning such as desks, chairs, pencils, and reasonably current textbooks, '' (3) ‘‘minimally adequate teaching of reasonably up-to-date basic curricula such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, '' and (4) ‘‘sufficient personnel adequately trained to teach those subject areas.'' Campaign I, supra, 86 N.Y.2d 317.[24] Inasmuch as the phrase ‘‘minimally adequate'' is not self-defining, a trial court making the determination as to whether this standard has been met necessarily is required to exercise some degree of judgment. It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that Justice Palmer's statements that the state must operate ‘‘within the limits of rationality''; (internal quotation marks omitted) Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 336 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); and that the educational opportunity provided by the state cannot be ‘‘so lacking as to be unreasonable by any fair or objective standard''; id., 321 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment); meant simply that the trial court should determine whether the specific educational facilities, instrumentalities, curricula and personnel that the state is required to provide, as described in Campaign I, reasonably address the minimal educational needs of this state's children, that is, whether the state's offerings are sufficient to enable a student who takes advantage of them to become a functional member of society.[25] For example, if the plaintiffs had shown that the state was providing elementary school students with books and curricula intended for only advanced college students, a court could conclude that the state was not reasonably meeting the minimal educational needs of these students-in other words, that these instrumentalities and curricula were not minimally adequate. Similarly, if no reasonable person could conclude that a single heat lamp is sufficient to heat a classroom during the winter, a school that routinely used this heating method would not be minimally adequate.

         Justice Palmer never suggested, however, that, after determining that the specific instrumentalities, facilities, curricula and personnel that the state is required to provide in its elementary and secondary schools reasonably address the minimal educational needs of their students, the courts must nevertheless examine all of the state's educational policies and programs, such as its funding formulas, school construction policies, graduation standards, teacher evaluation practices, teacher compensation practices and special education policies, to ensure that they are ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children.'' Rather, if the state is providing a minimally adequate educational opportunity to all of its elementary and secondary school students under the Campaign I criteria, the fact that some educational policies and programs are not, in the trial court's personal view, ‘‘rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children'' is constitutionally irrelevant. For example, if a court concludes that the state's educational system satisfies the Campaign I criteria, the fact that the state spends large sums of money on special education that, in the court's personal view, would be better spent on hiring teachers for regular classrooms is no more relevant than the fact that the state spends large sums of money on its Medicaid program or on road construction. It is irrefutable that the court's role is not to determine how programs should be funded, both within the educational system and beyond, but, instead, only to ensure that the state is meeting the minimal constitutional requirements for education.

         Indeed, Justice Palmer expressly recognized that ‘‘courts are ill equipped to deal with issues of educational policy'' and ‘‘lack [the] specialized knowledge and experience to address the many persistent and difficult questions of educational policy that invariably arise in connection with the establishment and maintenance of a statewide system of education.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 295 Conn. 335 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). Thus, the constitutional standard that the trial court applied in the present case would entangle the courts in the very policy determinations that Justice Palmer repeatedly warned against, [26] thereby creating a very substantial likelihood that the court would violate constitutional separation of powers principles. See id., 314 (plurality opinion), quoting Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 8 N.Y.3d 14, 27-28, 861 N.E.2d 50, 828 N.Y.S.2d 235 (2006) (‘‘[t]he role of the courts is not . . . to determine the best way to calculate the cost of a sound basic education . . . but to determine whether the [s]tate's proposed calculation of that cost is rational'' because of ‘‘limited access of the [j]udiciary to the controlling economic and social facts, but also [because of] our abiding respect for the separation of powers upon which our system of government is based'' [internal quotation marks omitted]); see also Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 326 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment), quoting R. Levy, ‘‘Gunfight at the K-12 Corral: Legislative vs. Judicial Power in the Kansas School Finance Litigation, '' 54 U. Kan. L. Rev. 1021, 1033-34 (2006) (‘‘Defining levels of adequacy requires that courts become involved in determining educational policies-the goals and the methods of delivering education-in a way that equity litigation does not. Likewise, fashioning remedies for violations of adequacy requirements is more problematic because legislatures may be reluctant to provide sufficient funding and because judicial enforcement of remedies against the legislature presents practical difficulties and raises serious [separation of powers concerns].''); Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 338 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment) (‘‘the significant separation of powers issues that [crafting a judicial remedy for a violation of article eighth, § 1] invariably would spawn must be given due consideration in determining the scope of the right'').

         Relatedly, requiring courts to determine, as an issue entirely distinct from the question of whether the state is providing minimally adequate schools under the narrow and specific Campaign I criteria, whether the state's educational policies and programs ‘‘are rationally, substantially and verifiably connected to teaching children'' would be entirely inconsistent with Justice Palmer's rejection of the plurality's suggestion that it would be appropriate ‘‘to craft the constitutional standard ‘in broad terms' [because] the broader the standard, the more vague it is likely to be. In addition, the broader the standard, the more difficult it will be for the parties and the court to understand and apply it.'' Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, supra, 342-43 n.17 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). Accordingly, we agree with the defendants that, upon finding that the state's educational system reasonably satisfies the narrow and specific Campaign I criteria, the court should have found that the system is constitutional under article eighth, § 1.

         The plaintiffs contend that this conclusion cannot be reconciled with Justice Palmer's suggestion that an ‘‘education funding system [that] is ‘arbitrary and inadequate, ' and not related to the actual costs of providing an education that meets constitutional standards'' would be unconstitutional. Id., 346 n.20 (Palmer, J., concurring in the judgment). We conclude, however, that, for the reasons that we have already given, this statement merely supports the notion that state funding must be sufficient to allow schools to meet the minimally adequate Campaign I criteria. Indeed, the plaintiffs ultimately contend in their reply brief to this court that the conclusion that the trial court drew from the evidence should not have been that the state's graduation standards, teacher evaluation and compensation schemes, and spending on special education are irrational, but that ‘‘many districts with high needs populations are not receiving adequate resources to provide an adequate educational opportunity to many of their students.''[27] Thus, the plaintiffs appear to concede that, to the extent that Justice Palmer's concurring opinion in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc., contained a reasonableness component, that component is part and parcel of the constitutional standard for determining the minimal adequacy of the state's educational offerings and not a separate rationality test applicable to all educational policies and programs, even when the Campaign I criteria have been satisfied. Accordingly, we agree with the defendants that, having found that the educational resources provided by the state reasonably meet the minimal needs of the state's students-that is, the state's educational offerings, even in the poorest school districts, are sufficient to enable students who take advantage of them to become functional members of society-and that the Campaign I criteria were therefore met, the trial court should have concluded that the state's educational ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.