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Rebell Takes Court to School

Tells Court of Appeals to "Speak Out" for Millions Deprived a Sound, Basic Education

"When the [trial] court's order has been scorned essentially for over two years, I think it is important for this Court to speak out. The audience is not just those of us here, it is millions of children in New York who cannot understand why the highest court in the state says that something should happen and years later they are still deprived of the benefits of the sound basic education they were promised."

Those words were spoken by Michael Rebell, Executive Director of TC's Campaign for Educational Equity, before the New York State Court of Appeals on October 10th in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (CFE).

In their oral argument before the state's highest court, Rebell and Joseph Wayland, co-counsels for the plaintiffs in CFE, urged the court to affirm an order from an appellate court that requires the governor and the legislature to add between $4.7 billion and $5.63 billion in operating aid, phased in over four years, to New York City's schools. Rebell and Wayland also asked the highest court to order strong accountability measures to ensure that when additional dollars begin to flow they are spent in ways that make a difference in the lives of the children who need them most. The arguments were the latest round in a 13-year legal battle.

This is not the first time the Court of Appeals has ruled in this case.  In 2003, the court mandated extensive reforms by the State of New York to the school finance system to ensure every New York City child a meaningful high school education.

In February 2005, a lower court ordered New York State to spend an additional $5.63 billion a year in operating aid, to be phased in over 4 years, on the city's schools and to provide another $9.2 billion over five years for school construction and repairs. Last year, an appellate court revised that decision by ordering the state to increase annual spending for operating aid by $4.7 billion to $5.6 billion.

Even though in this year's state budget, the Governor and state legislature provided an additional $11.2 billion to fund capital construction costs, they have continued to fail to fund the operating aid dollars and pass the accountability reforms ordered by the Court of Appeals in 2003.

As a result, last Tuesday, the plaintiffs were back before the Court of Appeals urging the court to ensure every New York child a meaningful high school education as the court promised three years ago.

A decision is not expected for several months.

The argument can be viewed in its entirety on the New York State Court of Appeals' web site at http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps.

To learn more about the case and the issue see: The New York State School Finance Reform Archive, an initiative of The Gottesman Libraries at TC at http://finance.tc-library.org/Home.asp. This comprehensive digital archive collects a broad range of documents chronicling the events and school finance issues associated with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York begun in December of 1999.

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