Education Underfunding Persists in New York State

Education underfunding is still a major problem for New York State’s students, according to a recent feature article in Remapping Debate. The article describes how the budget for 2014-15 that the legislature passed last month continues to underfund basic K-12 school operations and fails to comply with the CFE court decisions. The article provides an in-depth explanation of why the new litigation, New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. the State of New York is a necessary response to the current state of New York education.

The article states that  “Gov. Andrew Cuomo and key members of the Legislature have celebrated the new budget as a sign of New York state’s renewed fiscal health: the state, they say, has enough money not only to fund a significant expansion in public education but also to substantially reduce the revenues it brings in every year.

“But this budget, according to a recently filed lawsuit, is ignoring a huge obligation: some $3 billion in unmet funding that the state promised to school districts in 2007 in order to comply with an order from the state’s highest court which ruled that school funding failed to pass constitutional muster.” The lawsuit also says that the state would need to formulate a new cost analysis to update the figure to account for inflation. “There’s a constitutional obligation here,” said Michael A. Rebell, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the NYSER litigation. “The governor is ignoring that unmet obligation.”

Rebell also commented about the continued inadequacy of current funding levels now that the state is no longer in a recession. In 2009 to 2010, according to Rebell, the governor and the legislature said, “We’ve taken funding from what we admit you need, because we don’t have the money.” Rebell continued: “And yet [now] they’re giving tax breaks for a billion and a half dollars” per year.

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, also referring to the state’s decision not to comply with its 2007 promise in CFE to fund schools adequately, noted, “We took issue with that argument when we were in the fiscal crisis, because the constitutional obligation was not subject to the fiscal position of the state. …The fiscal crisis is over, that argument is now moot.”  Furthermore, “[The] commitment was to increase the funding in order to increase student opportunity, not on a temporary basis, but on a permanent basis, because there was a permanent constitutional violation.”

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