School’s Out But the Equity Issue Isn’t!formerly Midstate School Finance Consortium

Equitable and adequate school district state funding hot topics in New York

To: SSFC membership
From: Dr. Rick Timbs, Executive Director

I want to call your attention to a lawsuit brought by 13 small city school districts against the state got that got a major boost last week. New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, said parents and students in those districts have the right to sue the state over funding inequities – inequities that prevent students from receiving the “sound, basic education’’ guaranteed in our state constitution.

The lawsuit — Hussein v. The State of New York — was initiated in 2008. It seeks fair and equitable distribution of state aid to low wealth, high need small city school districts. More than 85,000 students attend school in these districts, which include Albany, Beacon, Jamestown, Kingston, Middletown, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie, Tonawanda and Utica.

To read the court decision and separate opinions, CLICK HERE.

The lawsuit originally challenged the state school-aid formula set by the Legislature in 2007 following the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit over funding and class sizes in New York City. The state promised to phase in more funding over the next four years. Then the recession hit, and the state reneged on its promise by freezing school aid in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 – and then drastically cutting aid last year. Those drastic and inequitable cuts continue into the 2012-13 year and are scheduled to continue.

Robert Biggerstaff, who doubles as executive director of the Association of Small City School Districts and the attorney bringing the case, sums the aid situation up this way: “They’re not funding their own reform formula.’’
We agree, but it’s more than just funding the formula. Adequacy without equity will leave low capacity and needy districts without proper levels of funding. Each characteristic is critical to the success of school districts. New York State must address these issues thoughtfully and quickly.

The small cities lawsuit is an important case for SSFC and all underfunded and inequitably funded districts. For our part we continue to provide research and data support to Michael Rebell’s Campaign for Educational Equity and we will contribute with the same enthusiasm to Bob Biggerstaff and his Association of Small City School Districts. We hope the Legislature, Governor Cuomo and the governor’s Education Reform Commission are paying attention to it as well.



CLICK HERE TO READ story from The Syracuse Post-Standard

CLICK HERE TO READ Opinion piece by The Albany Times-Union

CLICK HERE TO READ story from The Poughkeepsie Journal