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Two-Track Solution?

It looks as though there will be at least two high-profile groups trying to find new ways for New York state to pay for its public schools.

George E. Patkai

The plaintiffs that successfully brought a landmark school funding lawsuit against the state have formed a task force on school finance, partly in response to a commission appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki that they say has neglected to include important stakeholders.

The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled in June that the current aid system had failed New York City students. The court gave lawmakers a year to come up with a better system, and the results promise to have implications for school aid across the Empire State. ("Court Orders New York City Funding Shift," July 9, 2003.)

The New York City-based Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which brought the case a decade ago, announced Sept. 30 the creation of the Sound Basic Education Task Force. That group is intended to provide a more representative mix of interested parties that will work to draw up recommendations for building a new funding system.

"There was little or no consultation with legislative leaders, with the mayor, with the [city schools] chancellor, or with us," said Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the CFE, referring to the governor's education reform commission. "The commission doesn't have sufficiently balanced membership, and we are concerned the process has been overly politicized."

The task force includes representatives from the New York City education department and the New York State School Boards Association.

On Oct. 3, Gov. Pataki, a Republican, followed up on his promise to broaden the coalition of leaders on his panel by appointing six additional people to the 16 already on board. The new picks included David Levin, the superintendent of the Knowledge Is Power Program Academy in the Bronx, and Steve Frey, the president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Rebell said his group is not competing with the governor's commission. He has already met with former NASDAQ Chairman Frank G. Zarb, who leads Mr. Pataki's group, and expects the panels to work together. "We just want to make sure the job gets done right," he said.

—John Gehring

Vol. 23, Issue 7, Page 18

Published in Print: October 15, 2003, as State Journal

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