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New York’s Top Court Narrows Suit Seeking More Money for Schools
  Tuesday 04 July, 2017
New York’s Top Court Narrows Suit Seeking More Money for Schools

Advocates of increasing education funding had a setback Tuesday, as New York State’s highest court narrowed a lawsuit that sought more money for school districts statewide.

The ruling was the latest twist in a decades-long battle over how much money is enough for New York’s schools.

In a series of cases called the Campaign for Fiscal Equality, which lasted from 1995 to 2006, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, found that the state was not providing enough money for New York City, leaving students without access to a “sound basic education.” In response, the State Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, wrote a formula for financing schools, called Foundation Aid.

But after the 2008 recession, the formula was frozen and has never been fully applied. School funding advocates say the state owes school districts billions of dollars the formula would have provided. The lawsuit that was narrowed on Tuesday, New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (Nyser) v. State of New York, was an attempt to require the state to increase school funding in accordance with the Campaign for Fiscal Equality ruling and the 2007 funding formula.
Writing for the majority, Judge Rowan D. Wilson of the Court of Appeals, said that the plaintiffs — a coalition of education groups, including the New York State Parent Teacher Association and the New York State School Boards Association — could not rely on the Fiscal Equality ruling or the 2007 funding formula to pursue more money statewide. Instead, they would have to prove that a lack of funding was causing harm district by district.

The case was allowed to go forward focused only on New York City and Syracuse, where Nyser’s lawyers had made detailed arguments. That part may now go to trial.

“We were hoping for a streamlined resolution of these issues, and the court didn’t give us that,” said Douglas T. Schwarz, one of the lawyers representing the Nyser coalition. “They said our claims are viable, we just need to establish them in a way that is going to take some more time and some more work.”

Judge Wilson also threw out a related suit on Tuesday, Miriam Aristy-Farer v. State of New York, which had been consolidated with the Nyser case on appeal. That case claimed that the state’s one-time withholding of $290 million from New York City, because it had failed to comply with teacher performance legislation, violated the state Constitution.

In a separate opinion, Judge Jenny Rivera disagreed with much of the majority’s ruling. She cited how long the Campaign for Fiscal Equality litigation took — more than 20 years — and said that “in the interim, generations of children were denied the education guaranteed by our state Constitution.”

“Against the tide of this court’s prior decisions, the majority’s holding makes it all but impossible to address constitutional violations other than through burdensome piecemeal litigation,” she wrote. “The result will be that meritorious claims will go unfiled, due in part to a lack of litigation resources and the inability of parents and children to wait decades for a possible victory from which they will never benefit directly.”

The governor’s office released a statement praising the dismissal of several major claims against the state.

“The truth is that New York dedicates more money per pupil to education than any other state — including over $25.8 billion in this year’s budget,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said in a statement, “and we’ll continue to work to strengthen our public schools and provide New York children with the education they deserve.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/nyregion/new-york-top-court-narrows-suit-seeking-more-money-for-schools.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation

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