Judge denies immediate relief in ConVal lawsuit, district can seek relief until June 30

  • Cheshire Superior Court Judge David Ruoff denied the ConVal and Winchester School Districts’ request for $21.5 million in immediate relief from the state, though the school districts will be eligible to seek the relief until June 30.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/6/2019 12:29:10 PM

A Cheshire Superior Court judge has denied the ConVal and Winchester School Districts’ request for nearly $21.5 million in immediate monetary relief from the state.

Judge David Ruoff said in an order on Friday that he would not grant an immediate request for relief because the school districts will not face irreparable harm, but the districts still have the ability to seek relief before the end of the school year. 

“The Plaintiffs seek funds from the State as fulfillment of its constitutional obligations during the 2019 Fiscal Year,” Ruoff wrote. “Because the 2019 Fiscal Year has not ended, the Plaintiffs thus seek prospective relief. Because June 30 has not passed, nor is it immediately looming, the Court does not agree that a preliminary injunction is warranted.”

Ruoff’s order said the court will resolve the matter at hand prior to June 30. The order has asked to have dispositive motions filed by April 29.

Should the case not be disposed after those motions, a final merit hearing has been set for the week of June 3. 

A lawsuit was filed by the ConVal School District on March 13, arguing that the state does not fund a constitutionally adequate education. 

The state currently provides $3,606.36 in base adequacy per student, while state data shows the average cost of education in 2017-18 was $18,991 with transportation and tuition costs included. 

“The base adequacy aid amount of $3,636 is a far cry from the actual (approximate) amount of $18,000 per pupil,” Ruoff wrote. “It does not appear, based on DOE data, that there is a single school district in the State that could function if it only spent $3,636 on each student.”

ConVal has argued that the state should provide $10,843.60 per student, which is why the lawsuit requests around $17 million in immediate relief for the 2018-19 school year and a long-term solution to the adequacy aid formula’s shortfall. 

Winchester has since joined on as a co-petitioner in the case, and requested about $4.5 million in immediate relief. 

Both school districts have argued that if the state applies its own data to its own formula, then it would arrive at the $10,843.60 figure for base adequacy aid. 

The state has argued against that point, saying that the state provides for the cost of an adequate education under state law, and that many school districts go above and beyond that figure to provide a better than adequate education. Ancillary costs like transportation are not required to be funded by the state, the state’s Solicitor General Daniel Will argued during a hearing on March 29

The districts, represented by attorney Michael Tierney, said that immediate relief was needed by April 1 – the date of the state’s final adequacy payment for the 2018-19 fiscal year – because the state would argue that a payment after that date would be too late and could be denied under sovereign immunity. 

Ruoff said Friday that the state could only argue that a payment would be too late if a decision was made later than June 30. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. 


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