In a lawsuit last week filed by attorney Michael A. Rebell, nine New York City parents and their children have challenged the constitutionality of a state statute that requires the revocation of $250 million in state aid to New York City because the city failed to reach agreement with the teachers union on a teacher evaluation plan by January 17, 2013, a deadline established by the governor. The plaintiffs allege that the students are innocent victims of a negotiating impasse between the city and the union for which they had no responsibility. The complaint charges the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Education Commissioner John King with depriving New York City kids of their right to a sound basic education. The city’s department of education has indicated it plans to implement a hiring freeze that will increase class sizes, reduce school aide time, professional development, anti-bullying programs, pre-kindergarten special education, extracurricular activities, after-school and other programs as a result of the loss of these funds. Aristy-Farer v. State of New York.
While New York City is one of only six school districts out of about 700 in the state that did not meet the deadline for implementing a new system for annual professional performance reviews (APPR), its public schools educate over one million students. On top of the $250 million, Governor Cuomo has proposed that another $280 penalty take effect for the 2013-2014 school year should the city not pass an evaluation system by September 1, 2013.
The complaint does not take a position on the teacher evaluation plan or on who was at fault for the impasse in the negotiations, but grounds its challenge on the claim that:
“imposing a penalty in the form of reduced funding and reduced educational services on public school students…violates the constitutional right of plaintiff students and the approximately one million other students attending the New York City public schools to a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education and to due process and equal protection of the laws.”
New York’s highest court had determined in CFE v. State of New York that the state’s education funding system must be based on student need and on the actual cost of providing a sound basic education. Since the legislature determined last spring that New York City students needed this $250 million in state aid, the complaint argues that in revoking these funds, the state is violating the constitution in that the reduction in state aid is based not on need but on factors wholly unrelated to the children themselves.
Oral arguments on plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction are scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, 2013.