Plaintiffs in the “Small City Schools” case, Maisto et al v State of New York, filed an appeal today of the September 19, 2016, decision of Acting State Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O’Connor, which dismissed their complaint over seventeen months after a lengthy trial held in the Spring of 2015. Maisto is a constitutional challenge by parents from eight Small City School Districts to the State’s failure to provide their children a constitutional sound basic education.
A successful ruling in Maisto would require the State to ensure adequate resources and funding are available in these eight districts, a decision which may well impact similar districts throughout the state. The Maisto districts are Jamestown, Kingston, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie and Utica, serving approximately 55,000 students and 330,000 residents.
If the Maisto decision is allowed to stand, thirty years of court precedent will be reversed. Beginning with the Levittown case and through the landmark CFE rulings, New York courts have repeatedly found that under the education article of the state constitution all children are entitled to the opportunity of a sound basic education and such children have recourse to the courts if they are denied a constitutional education. The Maisto decision effectively strips the education article of its essential protections for elementary and secondary New York public school children.
The Maisto case is the first constitutional challenge to the State’s failure to provide a sound basic education to come to trial since the CFE case in 2001, which involved the New York City public school system.
The issues to be raised in the Maisto appeal filed today, especially the State’s dramatic underfunding of New York’s poorest school districts serving the state’s neediest children are of the utmost importance and are also the subject of concerted advocacy efforts across the state, which include a walk now underway by parents and students from New York City to Albany on the 10th anniversary of the Court of Appeals CFE III ruling.
The appeal is to the Appellate Division, Third Department, situated in Albany.
Lead appellate counsel for the Plaintiffs are David Kunz, Esq., and George Szary, Esq., of DeGraff, Foy and Kunz, LLP in Albany, and Gregory Little, Esq., a partner at the White & Case law firm in New York City.
The legal team also includes William Reynolds, Esq., of Nixon Peabody, LLP; David Sciarra, Esq., and Wendy Lecker, Esq., of the Education Law Center; Robert E. Biggerstaff, Esq., and Laura K. Biggerstaff, Esq., of The Biggerstaff Law Firm, LLP; and Richard Casagrande, Esq., and Megan Mercy, Esq., of NYSUT.
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