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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Mon, Nov 17, 2008

Education cut could affect CFE resolution

Cara Matthews, The Journal News: Politics on the Hudson

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity could pursue reopening its court case or new litigation if state lawmakers and Gov. David Paterson implement the governor’s $836 million in cuts this school year to elementary and secondary schools in the state, Geri Palast, CFE’s executive director, said today.

The reduction would hamper the state’s four-year plan to provide equitable funding in under-served districts statewide by boosting state education aid by more than $7 billion. (This is the second year.) The increase in funding was the state’s answer to a longstanding lawsuit filed on behalf of New York City schoolchildren. (CFE filed that lawsuit in 1993 and it wasn’t fully resolved until a few years ago.)

The courts decided that all children in New York deserve a “sound basic education.” Lawmakers and the governor implemented a plan to boost funding to cover the whole state, although the courts prescribed that New York City schools receive a minimum increase of $1.93 billion over the four years plus inflation, Palast said.

“Certainly, if the numbers were to fall below the court minimum we would certainly be able to go back to the court under the current case, and … we’re looking at all options,” she said. “I think our first choice is to try to resolve this with the governor, not in a litigation situation.”

There is a potential for new litigation if the New York City numbers don’t work out or there is no solution worked out with Paterson and legislators, Palast said.

She and other education and community advocates spoke out Monday against planned budget reductions to education. Under the Paterson proposal, the average classroom would lose $6,371, with some districts set to lose as much as $12,000 per classroom, according to an analysis by the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute.

Mid-year budget cuts would have a negative impact on any district, but they would particularly affect poor school systems, advocates said. The reductions would subtract between 3 percent and 10 percent of aid per district—with higher rates for wealthier areas. But they would hit poor districts harder because they are dependent on state aid for a larger portion of their budgets, they said.

The Big 4 city school districts—Rochester, Yonkers, Buffalo and Syracuse—would see average cuts in state aid per classroom of $8,992, compared to $5,079 per classroom for the lowest-poverty school systems. New York has the largest disparity in the country of spending differences between wealthy and poor districts, said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

The groups said state leaders and the governor should increase income-tax rates on the wealthiest New Yorkers. “We’re saying that, Governor Paterson, you have a choice. You can prioritize millionaires or you can prioritize children. A few thousand millionaires or millions of children,” said Jose Davila of the New York Immigration Coalition.


Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >