Wednesday, June 28, 2017
On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed most of the claims in two lawsuits that alleged that the state has failed to adequately fund New York City public schools and thus violated the state constitution's education article's requirement to provide schoolchildren with a "sound basic education." The suits' plaintiffs contended that NYC schools received millions less than they were entitled after the legislature failed to fully fund the education formula it devised to comply with court orders in the long-standing equity suit, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v State of New York. New York state froze education funding in the 2008 recession and reduced it thereafter, creating a nearly two billion dollar education funding deficit since the freeze. The plaintiffs in one of the suits, New Yorkers for Students' Educational Rights (NYSER), an educational advocacy group, sought relief for schoolchildren across the state. NYSER's funding adequacy claim survived, but the Court of Appeals limited the claim to NYC and Syracuse, where the plaintiffs had provided specific allegations of a causal link between budget cuts and education impact. The other plaintiffs, a coalition of parents (Aristy-Farer), argued that New York's withholding of $290 million in 2012 to the NYC school district as a penalty when the city failed to comply with state law requiring districts to conduct performance reviews of teachers and administrators violated the education article. The Court of Appeals held that this allegation did not state a cognizable claim as the education article does not require a particular amount of state funding. The remainder of the Aristy-Farer plaintiffs' claims were found to be inadequately pled as there was no specific allegation linking the failure to fund public schools with deficiencies in the city's education program. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division's decision to allow two of NYSER's claims--one challenging the adequacy of the State's education funding accountability mechanisms and another the inadequate funding of NYC and Syracuse's school districts--to proceed. The decision in Aristy-Farer v. State (NY Ct. of App., June 27, 2017) available at FindLaw here.