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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Thu, Aug 5, 2004

Special Master Panel Seeks Rapid Review Of Parties' Compliance Plans

Panel will review CFE's Sound Basic Education Task Force Report

At their initial organizing conference held this morning, the panel of special masters appointed by Justice Leland DeGrasse on August 3 set a detailed schedule for promptly reviewing CFE's Sound Basic Education Task Force report, the New York Adequacy Study, and the "state's compliance plan." Deputy Attorney General Richard Rifkin indicated that the "state's plan" would consist of "the Zarb Commission's final report, Standard & Poor's costing-out study, and additional concepts."
The distinguished panel, comprised of John D. Feerick, the Honorable E. Leo Milonas, and the Honorable William C. Thompson, directed the parties to submit copies of these plans together with executive summaries by August 12, 2004. In addition, the parties were directed to submit briefs regarding (1) the burden of proof for these proceedings and (2) the special masters' authority to conduct public hearings during the review process. (During the conference, CFE specifically requested that the panel schedule a series of public hearings so that all interested parties may submit suggestions to the special masters. The panel is taking this under advisement and will review the legal issue of whether a special master panel is permitted to hold public hearings.)

The panel set the following schedule for briefing and argument:

On August 16 from 3:00 p.m to 5:00 p.m., the parties will be granted an hour each to summarize their respective proposals.

On August 31, the parties will submit briefs that set forth objections to the other side's plan, identity issues in dispute that need resolution, and propose procedures for resolving outstanding disputes.

On September 8 at 10:00 a.m., the panel will hear oral argument on all issues in dispute and on proposed procedures for resolving them.
“We are pleased that the special master panel plans to act quickly in the coming months to secure educational opportunities children should have already received from their elected officials in years past,” said CFE’s Executive Director and Counsel Michael A. Rebell.
At the conference, attorneys for CFE proposed that the panel invite representatives of the assembly, the senate, and the Board of Regents to submit their proposals. The panel indicated that it lacks legal authority to request submissions from third parties, but stated that it would consider accepting such submissions amicus curiae.

One of the specific questions raised by the panel was whether it is necessary for the panel to fully consider specific reforms to the statewide funding formula, or if determining the amount of money needed for New York City and directing the state to provide that amount would suffice. CFE's Executive Director and Counsel Michael A. Rebell offered two responses. First, he stated that formula reform was essential to ensure a permanent and stable funding system for New York City students. A one-time appropriation order would not guarantee sustained funding for the future. Second, Rebell argued that although the court's jurisdiction is technically limited to New York City, any reforms to the formula that affect New York City -- which educates 38% of the state's children -- would necessarily have a statewide impact. Although the panel does not have the authority to order reforms for other districts around the state, he said that the panel should consider the impact of any reforms it recommends on the statewide funding formulas to avoid technical formula problems, uncertainty, and political complications.

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 >