Education Adequacy Project Clinic
The Education Adequacy Project’s current work centers on ongoing litigation against the State of Connecticut. The clinic represents several parents and children who allege that the State is violating its state constitutional duty to provide “suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities.” The parents and children are bringing the lawsuit to ensure that every child in Connecticut, regardless of the child’s city of birth, or the wealth of the child’s parents, is provided a suitable educational opportunity that is equal to the opportunities being provided to children in all areas of the state.
As the plaintiffs’ lawyers, students in the clinic are involved in all aspects of the litigation, including appearing in court, conducting fact finding in local schools, drafting legal briefs, deposing witnesses, and analyzing expert testimony.
Additionally, the clinic also represents the interests of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF), which is an organization consisting of mayors, superintendents, boards of educations, and other education advocates. CCJEF works to raise awareness about the current under-funding of the State’s public schools.
The Education Adequacy Project’s work is part of a national movement that aims to ensure that every child in America receives a suitable educational opportunity. Lawsuits challenging state methods of funding public schools have been brought in 45 of the 50 states. While the Supreme Court has held that education is not a federal right under the federal constitution, almost all state constitutions include education clauses which, to vary extents, oblige states to provide free and adequate educational opportunities.
In state courts, equal protection claims were common in the 1970s and 1980s, but states won about two-thirds of those cases. However, since 1989, plaintiffs have won about two-thirds of the school funding decisions. Many of these victories resulted, in part, from a shift in legal strategy away from "equity" claims to "adequacy" claims.
Recently, plaintiffs in New York won a suit in which the court ordered that New York City public schools receive an additional $5.63 billion for annual operating aid.
The Education Adequacy Project began when a concerned group of mayors, superintendents, and education advocates asked the clinic to act as counsel for an organization that would ultimately be named the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF).
The clinic’s early work included writing CCJEF’s bylaws, drafting and filing its articles of incorporation, and applying for its nonprofit status. Additionally, students informed CCJEF about the various legal claims that could be made against the State of Connecticut with regard to how the State funds and maintains public schools.
In 2005, CCJEF released a study that documented the State’s vast under-funding of public schools. The authors of the report found that the State was under-funding public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With this evidence in hand, CCJEF asked the clinic to draft a complaint, suing the state for failing to provide an adequate education.
Since actual school children, and those children’s parents, are critical to such a lawsuit, clinic students met with parents who had children in public schools and who felt that their children were receiving an inadequate education.
On October 15, 2005, a class action lawsuit was filed against the State of Connecticut. The complaint, which was drafted by students in the clinic, alleges that the State of Connecticut is violating its state constitutional duty to provide “suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities” to all children attending public schools in Connecticut.
Currently, the clinic still represents both CCJEF and the plaintiffs of the ongoing litigation against the State.
Ways to Engage
Yale Law School offers more than two dozen clinics that provide students with hands on, practical experience in the law on a diverse range of subject matters.
Yale Law School offers a suite of innovative simulation courses based on real-world case studies.
We, as lawyers, can be builders too. We can use our tools to build a society in which every member of the new generation can celebrate her graduation –not only with joy but with well-founded hope for the future.”
Professor Anne L. Alstott
Class of 1987, 2013 Commencement Address