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NY Court Orders Historic $1.93 Billion Additional Funding In Final CFE Ruling

New York's highest court rendered its final decision in the landmark CFE (Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State) case today, ordering the State to pay an additional $1.93 billion for New York City schoolchildren.

Justices reaffirm constitutional right to "sound, basic education" in landmark adequacy case and pave the way for a legislative solution in 2007

New York's highest court rendered its final decision in the landmark CFE (Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State) case today, ordering the State to pay an additional $1.93 billion for New York City schoolchildren. In issuing this ruling, the court reaffirmed the constitutional right of New York children to be provided with a "sound, basic education" and a "meaningful high school education" in a long-running, landmark school funding case being closely watched across the nation, and set a minimum remedy that many expect the State to exceed.

"This is a very important victory for the quality education movement around the country working to strengthen the nation's vitally important public education system and continues the momentum of plaintiff victories in these cases," said Molly Hunter, managing director of the National Access Network, housed at Teachers College, Columbia University. "The court once again affirmed the State's constitutional obligation to educate its children for civic participation and employment, and set a minimum remedy of close to $2 billion -- the highest figure of its kind, said Hunter."

The Court also reaffirmed its earlier declaration that funding is needed to attract and retain qualified teachers, provide libraries and computers, lower large class sizes, and that state aid is to be based on the needs of students.  "Increased funding," the Court reiterated, "can provide better teachers [and other inputs] and such improved inputs in turn yield better student performance."

Outgoing Governor Pataki had proposed a remedy of $4.7 billion.  Incoming Governor Spitzer has said he expected the State would have to pay $4 to $6 billion for New York City children and a total of $8 billion statewide to resolve the case.  The majority opinion said, "Governor Pataki's proposal to provide $4.7 billion in additional funding amounted to a policy choice to exceed the constitutional minimum."  "Judging by Governor Pataki's higher budgeting and the similarly heartening indications that Governor-elect Spitzer will continue in a direction higher than the minimum," Judge Rosenblatt said in a concurring opinion, "there is every indication that the amounts dedicated will be well above the constitutional floor."

The decision was carefully crafted to respect the prerogatives of the executive and legislatives branches of government to make policy. "When we review the acts of the Legislature and the Executive," the decision said, "we do so to protect rights, not to make policy."  Costing-out studies point to a greater need than the minimum the court ordered, and the Judges left the decision whether to add to the remedy in the hands of lawmakers empowered by the separation of powers to make policy and enact budgets.  For years, legislators have consistently pledged to provide a statewide remedy and they will take up these critical issues once the 2007 legislative session begins. 

The mission of the National Access Network is to promote meaningful educational opportunities for all children, especially those low-income and minority children currently being denied this opportunity.  The National Access Network supports advocates in over 40 states working to improve the quality of public education, including school funding reform.  Please go to www.schoolfunding.info for more information about the Access Network.

Published Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006

NY Court Orders Historic $1.93 Billion Additional Funding In Final CFE Ruling

Justices reaffirm constitutional right to "sound, basic education" in landmark adequacy case and pave the way for a legislative solution in 2007

New York's highest court rendered its final decision in the landmark CFE (Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State) case today, ordering the State to pay an additional $1.93 billion for New York City schoolchildren. In issuing this ruling, the court reaffirmed the constitutional right of New York children to be provided with a "sound, basic education" and a "meaningful high school education" in a long-running, landmark school funding case being closely watched across the nation, and set a minimum remedy that many expect the State to exceed.

"This is a very important victory for the quality education movement around the country working to strengthen the nation's vitally important public education system and continues the momentum of plaintiff victories in these cases," said Molly Hunter, managing director of the National Access Network, housed at Teachers College, Columbia University. "The court once again affirmed the State's constitutional obligation to educate its children for civic participation and employment, and set a minimum remedy of close to $2 billion -- the highest figure of its kind, said Hunter."

The Court also reaffirmed its earlier declaration that funding is needed to attract and retain qualified teachers, provide libraries and computers, lower large class sizes, and that state aid is to be based on the needs of students.  "Increased funding," the Court reiterated, "can provide better teachers [and other inputs] and such improved inputs in turn yield better student performance."

Outgoing Governor Pataki had proposed a remedy of $4.7 billion.  Incoming Governor Spitzer has said he expected the State would have to pay $4 to $6 billion for New York City children and a total of $8 billion statewide to resolve the case.  The majority opinion said, "Governor Pataki's proposal to provide $4.7 billion in additional funding amounted to a policy choice to exceed the constitutional minimum."  "Judging by Governor Pataki's higher budgeting and the similarly heartening indications that Governor-elect Spitzer will continue in a direction higher than the minimum," Judge Rosenblatt said in a concurring opinion, "there is every indication that the amounts dedicated will be well above the constitutional floor."

The decision was carefully crafted to respect the prerogatives of the executive and legislatives branches of government to make policy. "When we review the acts of the Legislature and the Executive," the decision said, "we do so to protect rights, not to make policy."  Costing-out studies point to a greater need than the minimum the court ordered, and the Judges left the decision whether to add to the remedy in the hands of lawmakers empowered by the separation of powers to make policy and enact budgets.  For years, legislators have consistently pledged to provide a statewide remedy and they will take up these critical issues once the 2007 legislative session begins. 

The mission of the National Access Network is to promote meaningful educational opportunities for all children, especially those low-income and minority children currently being denied this opportunity.  The National Access Network supports advocates in over 40 states working to improve the quality of public education, including school funding reform.  Please go to www.schoolfunding.info for more information about the Access Network.

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