Thursday, March 12, 2015
Back in the fall, David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center, chided David Boies for lending his services to the movement to use school finance precedent to bring constitutional challenges to teacher tenure, when, at the same time, so many states are still failing to comply with their school funding obligations under that precedent. In other words, while tenure may be an issue, it pales in comparison to the fundamental underlying inequalities that students suffer in high poverty underfunded schools.
One of the cases that could have used Boies' assistance is Maisto v. State of New York, also known as the “Small Cities” case. That case was brought by parents and children in eight small city school districts across New York State. The Maisto districts all have low property wealth, higher than average local tax rates, and intense poverty, which causes high mobility rates and other challenges. These districts struggle lack the funding to provide reasonable class sizes, a full curriculum, and programs for high-needs students. The plaintiffs say their plight violates the state's constitutional obligation to provide a “sound basic education” for all children.
That case went to trial in December and is still ongoing. Gregory Little, a partner at White Case, stepped up, with no fanfare, to serve as lead co-counsel on a pro bono basis, spending hundreds of hours preparing for, and representing the 55,000 students in some of New York's highest poverty schools. He and his firm are partnering with the Education Law Center and William Reynolds of Bond Shoeneck in Albany to the bring the case. This partnership and its claims stand in sharp contrast to the constitutional challenge to tenure. Hopefully, it pays dividends for the clients.