Here is a breaking news report from Courant staff writer Edmund H. Mahony:
The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state violated the law when it abruptly disbanded Bridgeport’s elected board of education last summer and replaced it with an appointed board.
The decision could have a disruptive effect, at least in the short term, on the public school system in the state’s most populated city.
Any decisions on spending and hiring by the appointed board since August could be called into question. There also could likely be difficulty in replacing the disbanded, elected board of education. The terms of three members have expired since the elected board was disbanded.
The state moved to replace the old board last July under a law which allows the state to take over chronically underperforming school systems. But the Supreme Court said in its decision that the state failed, as the law requires, to provide the elected board of education remedial training before disbanding it.
The training requirement in the law was written as a last chance for elected boards to protect themselves from state takeover.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy support the state takeover of then city board and have proposed legislation with the General Assembly that would retroactively legalize the takeover.
If the proposed legislative fix is approved by state lawmakers, it would essentially nullify the effect of Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision, legal experts said.
It was unclear Tuesday when the legislature would act on the bill.
In its decision, the Supreme Court returned the case to the Superior Court where lawsuits challenging the state takeover were filed last year.
The Supreme Court ordered the trial court to set a date for a special election to replace the four seats on the Bridgeport Board of Education that expired in November. As a result of the takeover, the local election for board seats was canceled.
The state’s high court ordered that the appointed board members remaining in office until a special election takes place and the results are certified.
“Therefore, the trial court shall direct that the seven current members of the reconstituted board remain in office until the special election has been completed,” the court’s majority said in a decision written by Justice Peter Zarella. “At that time, the trial court shall reinstate the five members of the local board whose terms of office have not expired, to serve along with the four newly elected members.”