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Supreme Court Strikes Down Gorsuch Ruling on Special Education Funding: Decision Could Impact CCJEF Appeal


March 28, 2017

Last week, in the midst of a hearing on Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices on that very court issued a unanimous decision that rejected one of Judge Gorsuch's rulings against students with disabilities, and repudiated his reasoning in the case.

The decision came in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 and resolved a conflict among lower courts as to the level of educational benefits a school must provide to students with disabilities covered by the IDEA. Written by Chief Judge Roberts, the decision resoundingly rejected the "merely...more than de minimis" Gorsuch standard, holding that a school must offer those students an individualized education program (IEP) that is "reasonably calculated" to enable a student "to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances."

The high court's ruling is in stark contrast to last year's decision in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) lawsuit, currently under appeal by the Connecticut Supreme Court. In a broad and overreaching ruling, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher found educational opportunities in the state to be constitutionally inequitable but not inadequate.

Judge Moukawsher took on many subjects in his ruling, including special education. He called for restricting how special education students are evaluated and served by making judgements regarding which disabled students can benefit from education and which cannot, and reducing funding accordingly. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling could impact the Connecticut Supreme Court appeal decision, which is expected later this year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the Gorsuch nomination the week of April 3. Majority Leader McConnell has indicated he hopes to force a vote on the nomination by the full Senate before the April recess that begins on April 7 but that is increasingly unlikely.

Call Senators Blumenthal and Murphy at 1-855-632-1921 and urge them to vote against the Gorsuch nomination.


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