Major New Funding Litigation Filed in New York State

Fifteen parents from throughout New York State, along with a coalition of statewide education groups, filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of the state’s public school students, charging that the state is neglecting its constitutional obligation to ensure that every school has sufficient funding to provide all students a meaningful educational opportunity. The suit, entitled New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. the State of New York, is being led by Michael A. Rebell, who successfully litigated the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) v. the State of New York case.

The suit alleges that, in many schools around the state, schools are unable to provide students with the full range of resources that are constitutionally required because of limited budgets. In these schools, students share textbooks and can’t take books home after school. Classrooms are overcrowded at a time when higher standards require even more individualized support. Tutoring and other supports for students who are struggling academically are rationed only to a few children. Advanced and AP classes; art and music programs, and important extracurricular activities like school government and school newspaper have been severely cut back or eliminated in many schools. College and career counseling is nonexistent in many places. Even state-required instruction in areas like science, social studies, physical education, and foreign languages has been curtailed.

“In spite of the persistent demands of parents, students, educators, and advocates, the state government has continued to neglect its responsibility to our students,” said Rebell. “The governor’s education reform commission, on which I sat, refused to even consider these issues. We have no other recourse but to go back to court. Too many of our children will continue to suffer the lifelong consequences of an inadequate education – and New York will continue to bear this economic burden – if we do not take action now.”

The plaintiffs include 15 individual parents and students from New York City and all parts of the state and New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER), a statewide coalition that was recently formed to bring the lawsuit and to promote public engagement by parents, students, administrators, teachers, advocates, and the public at large to support its aims. The defendants are the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Board of Regents, and State Education Commissioner John King.

NYSER represents the interests of students and their families; its members include the Center for Children’s Initiatives, Class Size Matters, the New York City Parents Union, NYC Community Education Councils 5, 6, and 28, the New York State Association of School Business Officials, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State Parent Teachers Association, the New York State School Boards Association, Parents for Public Schools of Syracuse, Inc., Reform Educational Finance Inequities Today, Rural Schools Association, and the Statewide School Finance Consortium. Additional organizations are expected to join NYSER in the near future.

The lawsuit seeks to win a rapid court decision that will (1) provide immediate relief for schools by forcing the state to end unconstitutional practices that currently preclude adequate funding for schools; and (2) order new reforms to the state education law and the state’s school financing system to guarantee that now and for the future every school is provided adequate funding and is able provide all students a meaningful educational opportunity.

“Our goal is to end the state government’s neglect of its constitutional responsibility to ensure that all New York schools have sufficient funding to meet students’ educational needs,” said Rebell. “While Governor Cuomo claims that the state spends more on education than any other state in the nation, the reality is that the state contains some of the highest spending and highest achieving school districts in the country, but the distribution of education spending is more inequitable than in most other states, and vast numbers of students throughout the state are not being provided a meaningful educational opportunity.”

CEE will provide news and updates on NYSER through Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about how you can join or support NYSER, please send an email to NYSERcoalition@gmail.com. Basic information about the lawsuit, including the complaint, can be found at NYSER’s website address: www.NYSER.org.

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