New York To Appeal Order Overturning Its System of Paying for Public Schools
Gov. George E. Pataki of New York has announced that he will appeal a court ruling that declared the state's method of doling out school aid unconstitutional.
That decision, handed down in a Manhattan trial-level court on Jan. 10, gave the governor and the legislature until Sept. 15 to come up with an aid system that would provide the beleaguered New York City school district with adequate funding. But the appeal is likely to negate the judge's deadline as the case enters a new stage of a judicial journey that will likely lead to the state's highest court. ("N.Y. System of State Aid Thrown Out," Jan. 17, 2001.)
Early this month, Gov. Pataki presented his own plan for revamping the way the state distributes education aid, calling for combining 11 funding streams into one and giving local districts greater flexibility in how they spend the money.
School leaders estimate it could take the state at least $1 billion to comply with the order regarding New York City by Justice Leland DeGrasse, the trial judge, and double or triple that amount statewide, if no school district were docked school aid to increase funding for another.
In announcing the appeal, Gov. Pataki said a judge should not dictate the school-funding system. And he stressed that the education aid had risen sharply over four years, especially to the 1.1-million- student New York City district and others with high needs.
"This year's plan combines a record-high level of funding with dramatic fundamental reform," said Joe Conway, a spokesman for the governor. "It would provide the quality of education we need in all New York schools."
Legislators on both sides of the aisle called last week for the education funding remedy to require New York City to bear more of the burden for paying for its schools.
Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat from the suburbs northwest of New York, accused city officials of "intentionally starving" the schools over the past 15 years and called for legislative measures that would force districts to contribute school funding "commensurate with local wealth."
Republican Sen. Carl L. Marcellino, a former New York City school administrator who lives on Long Island, agreed that it was time for the city to put more money into its schools. "Yes, the city schools do need more money, but I think they should help them themselves more," he said.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the coalition of New York City parent and advocacy groups that brought the suit against the state eight years ago, was expected to announce this week that once the appeal is filed, it will ask for the lower court's deadline to remain in force pending a ruling. Though such a move would be rare, it is justified by children's need for an adequate education, said Michael A. Rebell, the campaign's executive director.
"An appeal should not be used as an excuse for not moving forward with developing the fair, rational system that Justice DeGrasse called for in this well-reasoned decision," he said
Vol. 20, Issue 19, Page 15