Ten years after the final Court of Appeals ruling in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State (CFE), New York has once again failed to live up to its constitutional duty to fund public schools adequately so every child has the opportunity for a sound basic education.
Chronic underfunding of the Foundation Aid Formula has left New York $4.4 billion behind in the amount of Foundation Aid promised in 2007, in the wake of the landmark CFE lawsuit. The consequence is that school districts continue to struggle with too few teachers; large class sizes; inadequate services, staff and programs for at-risk students; and stark deficiencies in resources for English language learners, students with disabilities and other vulnerable children.
It is way past time for the Governor and Legislature to recommit to providing the funding the State itself says children need – and must have – for a sound basic education. New York’s elected leaders had the opportunity this year to begin repaying the debt owed to the state’s students. The Assembly proposed such a plan, including a $1.1 billion increase in Foundation Aid for this year with the full amount phased in over four years.
Unfortunately, the Senate and the Governor rejected the Assembly’s plan. The final budget provides $627 million in Foundation Aid, an amount insufficient to redress the severe shortages in essential resources in schools across the state. At this rate of increase, it would take an additional seven years to fully phase-in Foundation Aid. The budget also makes no commitment to phase-in Foundation Aid over the next several years, forcing yet more children to endure educational deprivation in their classrooms and schools.
“It is hard to fathom how the Governor and Legislature, for the eighth straight year, could fail New York’s public school children, despite the Assembly’s best efforts,” said David G. Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC) and co-counsel in Maisto v. New York, the court challenge to inadequate school funding in New York’s small city school districts. “Once again, New York children must look to the courts to secure their fundamental rights in the face of ongoing legislative and executive inaction.”
With the State budget again falling far short of affording children a constitutional sound basic education, all eyes are now on the Albany State Supreme Court where parents and children await a decision in the Maisto case.
One bright spot: The Legislature heeded ELC’s warning issued yesterday not to arbitrarily put 70 schools back into a “failing school” receivership program after they had been properly removed from the list by State education officials.
“We appreciate that the Legislature did not accept the Governor’s proposal to punish students and schools that have demonstrated improvement under the State’s accountability system,” Mr. Sciarra said. “We will, however, remain vigilant to keep this issue off the table in the remaining months of the legislative session.”
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