Another chapter was written this week in what seems like a never-ending court battle over school funding in the state.

“Really?” Bridgeport School Board Vice Chairwoman Sauda Baraka said when she heard oral arguments would be presented Thursday to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The news brought a momentary glimmer of hope to her face. It disappeared as she stood up in the foyer of Dunbar School to decry another probable year of budget cuts.

Another year of deciding which new cuts would do the least harm to more than 21,000 Bridgeport school children.

Oral arguments in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding vs. Rell come nearly 12 years after the case was filed by a broad group of towns, parents and advocacy groups.

The case was on its second trip to the state’s highest court. The first time, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to superior court saying the lower court had erred in dismissing the action.

That was 2010. It was called a huge win for Connecticut schoolchildren, though many knew at the time they were in for the long haul.

When Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher got the case in January 2016, it took five months of testimony and another three months of deliberating to craft a 90-page decision that found that while the level of state spending on education fulfilled its constitutional obligation, how the state distributed that funding was irrational, arbitrary and unconstitutional.

More hope.

“This decision by Judge Moukawsher is a game changer for our children,” Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim said at the time.

Then another appeal.

Inching closer

On the steps of the courthouse Thursday morning, groups supporting the plaintiffs, including several members of the clergy, said they were ready for something to happen.

“It is continually mind-boggling that in 2017 we are still dealing with issues of equity and fairness,” Rev. Lindsay E. Curtis, pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Norwalk, said when it was his turn at the microphone. “I hope the Supreme Court will rule to uphold the mandate for fair funding.”

Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of ConnCAN, an organization that supports school reform said whatever the court decides, state leaders know they finally have to come up with a school funding formula that treats all public school students fairly.

“For the sake of our kids, I hope the Supreme Court upholds the ruling,” Alexander said.

Oral arguments before the high court took more than two hours. Joseph Moodhe, lead attorney for the plaintiffs said he felt it could have gone on twice as long.

The time-frame for a decision is uncertain.

“I feel this court will give whatever time it needs to give to consider entire record,” Moodhe said. The issues, he acknowledge, are complex.

Moodhe also said that the state’s budget problems should not negate its constitutional obligation to provide all its students with an adequate educational opportunity.

As oral arguments were heard, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was across the street vetoing a Republican budget he called irresponsible.

On Monday, party leaders will meet with Malloy even as a legislative session to try and overturn the veto is being planned.

Meg Green, a Malloy spokeswoman, said in the year since the superior court decision, the urgency to create a more predictable, transparent and fair formula has not diminished.

“We agree ... the time for bold action to address the issue of fair funding in our education system is now,” Green said.

State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, said that a functioning education formula needs to push additional resources to our lowest-performing school districts.

Danbury Schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella, who testified during the court trial, agrees that positive change doesn’t have to wait for a court decision.

“The (lower) court recognized inequities,” Pascarella said. “The conversation is being had at the level it needs to be had,” he said of legislative efforts to finally put an equitable school funding formula in place.

Ground zero

With no state budget a quarter of the way through the 2017-18 fiscal year, all school districts are on edge.

In Bridgeport, which gets 74 percent of its budget from the state, panic has set in.

“This is for real,” Baraka said at a Monday night school board meeting. “We don’t have a scrape. We have an artery gushing out blood.”

If there is a light at the end of the CCJEF tunnel, Baraka and others aren’t certain their districts will survive long enough to reach it.

“We don’t have enough money,” said Av Harris, director of legislative affairs and public policy for Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim.

Last week, a letter from Ganim’s budget office unsettled the district; it said city funds for schools were depleted.

It took assurances from State Budget Director Ben Barnes that funding was on the way to calm district officials.

Harris, who sat through oral arguments to hear Bridgeport’s name come up often, left the courthouse saying he thinks the justices “get it.” Meaning that a system that gives Bridgeport $14,343 per student — while Hartford gets $19,313 — is one based on politics, not need.

“I think you can see judges are very careful to want to stay in their lanes, they don’t want to be legislating from the bench, but I think they are taking it very seriously,” Harris said.

Maria Pereira, a Bridgeport school board member who was a frequent visitor to Hartford this session in her attempt to get the district more funding, said she can only hope the justices truly understand the gravity of the situation.

“For me — to even think it is not going to help our over 21,000 students — it’s too much to bear,” she said.