Education Law Center (ELC) has joined the legal team in NYSER v. State, a major school funding lawsuit pending in the Supreme Court of New York County. The case was filed in 2014 by parents in New York City and Syracuse, as well as statewide organizations and community groups, to compel New York State to fulfill its constitutional obligation to adequately fund the public schools.
In an amended complaint filed December 11, parents from the Schenectady, Gouverneur and Central Islip school districts joined the NYSER litigation. The inclusion of these school districts expands the case to include urban, rural and suburban communities across the state.
At the heart of the NYSER case is the State’s failure to fund the 2007 Foundation Aid Formula, enacted by the Legislature in the wake of the Court of Appeals landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State (CFE) rulings. After a decade of deep funding cuts, then minimal increases in aid, the State remains an estimated $4 billion below its funding obligations to districts under the Formula.
The NYSER parents allege that the State’s chronic underfunding of their schools has deprived their children of essential education resources, including teachers, reasonable class size, tutoring, social workers and interventions for at-risk students. The parents contend the lack of essential resources, and poor outcomes for students, is the result of the State’s funding failures.
“The addition of parents from Schenectady, Central Islip and Gouverneur to our case ensures the impact of underfunding, not just in New York City and Syracuse, but in small cities, suburban and rural districts, will be before the court,” said attorney Michael Rebell, who filed the case three years ago and has been litigating the matter with the firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
In 2015, the State moved to dismiss the NYSER complaint, a motion that reached New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. In June 2017, the Court of Appeals permitted the case to proceed to trial, reaffirming the court’s role in assessing, on a district-by-district basis, whether the State has met its constitutional obligation under the Education Article of the State Constitution. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for trial.
ELC’s Chief Trial Counsel, Gregory Little, along with Senior Attorney, Wendy Lecker, will represent parents in the Syracuse, Schenectady and Gouverneur school districts. Parents in New York City, Syracuse and Central Islip are represented by Mr. Rebell and he and Morgan Lewis & Bockius are representing the NYSER organization.
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