Update on School Funding Issues in New York State

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

In a Wall Street Journal article published on December 27, 2011, Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University, describes the research currently being completed at the Campaign to determine whether, given current resource levels, schools in New York City and New York State are providing students the sound basic education guaranteed to them by the New York State Constitution. Mr. Rebell was formerly co-counsel for the plaintiffs in CFE v. State of New York, the litigation that established the constitutional right. Although the state substantially increased state funding for education throughout New York State during the first two years of what was scheduled to be a four-year phase in of a total $7 billion program, state funding for education has been substantially cut over the past two years.  In addition to studying the impact of resource shortages in 12 schools in New York City and additional schools in seven districts upstate, the Campaign’s project is analyzing the extent to which recent state actions have violated the state constitution, exploring cost-efficiency issues and researching new cost analysis methodologies.

On January 17, 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his budget proposals for the next school year. The Governor’s budget would restore about $800 of the cuts that have been implemented in recent years, but would distribute $250 million of it through competitive grants. Currently New York’s state education department, teachers unions, and many school districts are at an impasse in reaching agreement on the new teacher evaluation system required by the state’s federal Race to the Top grant. The governor proposes to put pressure on the parties to resolve the impasse by 1) making school districts that have not implemented a new teacher evaluation system by September 1, 2012 ineligible to compete in the grant competition; and 2) denying all of the state aid increases for 2012-13 to districts that fail to implement a new teacher evaluation system by January 17, 2013. Mr. Rebell stated that holding resources that students vitally need hostage to the outcome of negotiations between school districts, unions and the state violates students’ constitutional rights: “This is a penalty that constitutionally students should not pay.” he said.

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