New York Settles Constitutional School-Funding Case NYSER v. State of New York

Following a commitment by the New York State Legislature earlier this year to increase funding for high-need school districts around the state by $4.2 billion by the 2023-24 school year, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York. The NYSER case was filed in 2014 by a coalition of parents, students, and groups representing other stakeholders in the public education system to compel the state government to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula, the school-funding system established to ensure a sound basic education for all New York students in the wake of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision.

The NYSER plaintiffs were represented by the Center for Educational Equity’s executive director Michael Rebell, and pro bono counsel at the law firms Morgan Lewis & Bockius and White & Case; as well as the Education Law Center.  

In the settlement, the plaintiffs and the state agreed to put the case on hold on the condition that the stake lawmakers honor their commitment to phase in the remaining $4.2 billion increase in annual funding required to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula. If state follows through, the case will be dismissed. If not, the plaintiffs will be able to continue the litigation and seek an expedited trial to secure the promised funding.

Center for Educational Equity executive director Michael Rebell, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said, “Unequal funding has long been a blight on education in New York State. Yesterday’s agreement will be an important mechanism to ensure that the State lives up to its constitutional obligation to adequately fund a sound basic education for all New York students.”

The state increased state aid for school funding this year by $1.4 billion statewide and has committed to providing similar increases for the next two years. The New York City public schools’ share of the increase this year was $530 million.

Full funding of the Foundation Aid formula is an important victory for New York students, particularly the students of color and students from low-income families who continue to be especially harmed by inadequate school funding and inequitable resources. It’s a big step but there’s still a great deal of work to do. To provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education guaranteed to them by the state constitution, state leaders will need to update and improve the Foundation Aid formula and to create a new system that will provide accountability for adequate and equitable funding for all students on a permanent basis.

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