A challenge to New York State’s education finance system brought by eight upstate small city school districts that had originally been filed in 2008 will finally go to trial on November 20, 2013. The state had managed to delay the case for the past five years by filing a number of procedural objections, all of which were rejected by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, last year. In its decision, the Court of Appeals re-affirmed the substantive right to the opportunity for a sound basic education that it had articulated almost a decade ago in CFE v. State of New York. The case, formerly known as Hussein v. State of New York, has now been renamed Maisto v State of New York.
The parties have now submitted the names and preliminary reports of their expert witnesses. Both sides will be relying on retired school superintendents to analyze the specific educational conditions and availability of resources in each of the districts. Both sides will also call on a number of well-known national experts. Among those testifying for the plaintiffs will be Henry Levin, Professor of Economics in Education, and Director of the National Center for the Study for Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Levin, who also testified in CFE, and whose testimony was cited with approval by the Court of Appeals in that case, will discuss the consequences of insufficient funding for students, particularly in relation to preparation for competitive employment in the global economy. Other witnesses for the plaintiffs include Bruce Baker, a Professor at Rutgers University and an expert on cost studies and education finance, Deborah Cunningham, a former chief education finance analyst for the New York State Education Department, and John Sipple, an associate professor at Cornell University who has compiled a data base of financial, demographic and performance data for each of the districts.
Defendants are relying on three nationally-known experts, Eric Hanushek, David Armor and Robert Palaich, each of whom also testified for the defendants in CFE. Hanushek is an expert on education finance who will testify about the relationship between funding levels and the performance of New York students, including comparisons with correlations between funding and performance of students in other states. Armor is expected to testify on why educational performance is largely determined by socio-economic factors that are independent of school funding and district policies. Similar testimony by Armor and Hanushek was rejected by the courts in CFE. Palaich, an expert on costing out studies, whose views were upheld by the Court of Appeals in CFE, is expected to testify that the districts are receiving sufficient funds in accordance with the cost study that Governor Pataki’s commission approved in 2004, trended forward for inflation to 2013.
September 18, 2013