NYSER vs. State of New York is a lawsuit originally filed in 2014 against the State of New York and the governor and other officials on behalf of the state’s public school students. It charges that the state is violating students’ educational rights by neglecting its constitutional obligation to ensure that every school has sufficient funding to provide all students with a meaningful educational opportunity. In 2017, the Court of Appeals denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case, and remanded the case for trial. At the same time, however, the Court held that the plaintiffs could not make broad statewide claims, but would need to present evidence as to whether current amounts of state aid are insufficient to provide students in particular districts the opportunity for a sound basic education to which they are entitled under Art. XI § 1 of the New York State Constitution.
In 2018, an amended complaint was filed on behalf of 15 parents of students attending schools in five specific school districts —– New York City, Syracuse, Schenectady, Central Islip, and Gouverneur —- that were selected to represent the range of high need large city, small city, suburban and rural districts throughout New York State, and New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER), a statewide coalition of stakeholder groups formed to bring the lawsuit.
Who are the members of NYSER?
New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) is a coalition composed of major statewide organizations such as the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State PTA, the New York State Association of School Business Officials, The Statewide School Finance Consortium, the Rural Schools Association, Reform Education Finance Inequities Today (R.E.F.I.T.),12 of New York’s Community Education Councils, and other parent groups and educational advocacy groups from around the state.
Additional organizations are expected to join NYSER in the near future.
Who are the NYSER Lawyers?
Michael A. Rebell and the firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP are the attorneys for the NYSER coalition. Mr. Rebell is the attorney who led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) and litigated the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York case. He is also a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School and executive director of the Center for Educational Equity (CEE) at Teachers College. Douglas T. Schwarz is the lead partner for the Morgan Lewis team; other attorneys actively working on the case include Brian A. Herman, Michael Tracht and Jonathan M. Weinberg. Mr. Rebell also represents the individual New York City parent plaintiffs.
The Education Law Center (ELC), together with the firm of White and Case LLP, represent the individual parent plaintiffs from Syracuse, Schenectady, Central Islip and Gouverneur. Greg Little and Wendy Lecker lead ELC’s efforts and Erin Smith and Alice Tsier head the White and Case team. Mr Rebell also represents the Syracuse and Central Islip plaintiffs.
What is the goal of the NYSER v. State lawsuit?
The goal of the NYSER lawsuit is to end the state government’s neglect of its constitutional responsibility to ensure all New York schools have sufficient funding to meet students’ educational needs. It seeks to win a court decision that will either order the state to fully fund its foundation aid formula and/or reform the state’s school financing system in a manner that that will guarantee that now and for the future every school is provided the necessary funding to ensure that all students receive a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education.
How is the NYSER lawsuit different from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) suit?
The CFE case established the very important legal basis upon which the current NYSER case is built. In CFE, the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, declared in 2003 that the state constitution entitles all students in New York State to the opportunity for a sound basic education, one that provides them a meaningful high school education that prepares them to be capable citizens and competitive workers. The Court found that students in New York City were not receiving such an education and ordered the state to increase funding for the city schools. In its 2017 decision, the Court of Appeals re-stated the principles established in CFE and the courts’ responsibility to adjudicate the nature of the state’s duty to provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education.
Following CFE, in 2007, the state legislature enacted the foundation aid formula and other reforms to the state aid system that promised students, not only in New York City, but throughout the state, billions of dollars in increased funding and a more equitable distribution of state aid. Since the recession of 2008, however, the state has not fully lived up to these commitments.
What is the current status of the NYSER case?
The case is currently pending before Hon. Lucy Billings, Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County. The parties are engaged in active discovery and preparation for a trial, which is scheduled to take place in the late spring of 2020.
How can I learn more about the NYSER litigation?
All litigation papers and up to date information about the case can be found at www.nyser.org.