This ruling is an emphatic call to action for those who value equity in education to rally for fiscal parity in all public schools, where so often a zip code designates a child’s ability to attain a “sound basic education”. We can no longer afford to sit idly back and let a few do the work that we as concerned parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and most importantly, advocates for educational equity must take ownership of.
The legal battles for educational parity have been fought in courts throughout the country on behalf of our most precious asset, our children, and it is unfortunate that so many are unaware of these epic undertakings. The New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) school funding lawsuit stems from a group of parents from New York City, who in 1993, under the leadership of former Councilman Robert Jackson and Attorney Michael A. Rebell, launched the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which sued New York State for failing to provide students with the quality education that is their right under the New York State Constitution. This constitutional challenge lasted for 13 years with CFE partnering with other organizations across New York State. In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the state had failed to provide students with the classroom resources necessary to receive a “sound basic education”, a right guaranteed by the New York State Constitution.
In 2007, in response to the CFE lawsuit, the Foundation Aid formula was instituted by the state with a commitment to adding $5.5 billion in basic classroom operating aid over 4 years to all state school districts. The state allocated $2.3 billion to schools in Foundation Aid as the phase-in began, resulting in a much-needed expansion of programs and services at many schools.
During the fiscal crisis in 2009-2012, the state froze funding for the Foundation Aid formula, which has never been fully actualized, the formula calculates the total amount of Foundation Aid the state is obligated to provide for each school district. The Board of Regents currently has calculated $4.3 billion owed statewide. New York City District is owed $1.9 billion.
NYSER vs. State of New York is a lawsuit filed in February 2014 against the State of New York, 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”. The case is being brought on behalf of a group of plaintiffs that includes 26 individual parents and students from all parts of the state and New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER), a statewide coalition of stakeholder groups that formed to bring the lawsuit.
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