School & District Management

Pataki Issues Call for Aid to Needy Schools

By David J. Hoff — January 10, 2006 3 min read

Gov. George E. Pataki promised an ambitious educational agenda last week in his final State of the State Address, but he didn’t answer the $5.6 billion education question: Will the state put up the money to end the 13-year-old lawsuit that led to a court ruling that the state is shortchanging New York City public schools?

Special Report: State of the States

In his list of educational goals for the year, the third-term Republican governor proclaimed a “commitment to providing additional funding to high-need schools in New York City and across the state.”

But he didn’t say how much money he would propose for that purpose or explain whether it would be enough to provide the $5.6 billion in additional aid ordered by a state judge for the city alone. Mr. Pataki is scheduled to unveil his fiscal 2007 budget on Jan. 17.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs, and most legislators, say that the total price tag will rise in any settlement because it would be politically impossible to extend largess to the city but not other districts throughout New York.

While not detailing how he would finance the end to the lawsuit, Mr. Pataki used his 12th State of the State Address to urge lawmakers to pass a myriad of K-12 changes, including those that would give property-tax breaks to senior citizens, add new charter schools, and improve mathematics and science education in the state.

Dodging Issue?

“It is clearly time to realign our educational priorities to meet the ever-changing demands of the 21st century,” he said in the Jan. 4 speech to a joint session of the legislature.

School groups, however, were skeptical about the governor’s commitment to providing the finances that they say high-need schools deserve.

“To fulfill his worthy vision, we hope Governor Pataki will engage, rather than continue to dodge, the obligation to fundamentally reform our school finance system,” Timothy G. Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said in a statement. “Tinkering with tax rebates and charter schools will not suffice. The current funding system places unfair burdens on localities that lack resources to provide their children adequate access to educational opportunity.”

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the New York City legal-advocacy group representing parents in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York, said in a statement that the governor should dedicate the state’s projected $2 billion surplus toward complying with the court orders.

But the lame-duck governor, who decided not to seek a fourth term in next fall’s election, is unlikely to do that or anything else to dramatically increase school spending, said Richard M. Flanagan, a professor of political science at the College of Staten Island, a branch of the City University of New York.

Conservative Agenda

While Mr. Pataki considers a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, he’s promoting tax cuts, charter schools, and other issues that appeal to conservative voters.

Other portions of his address highlighted new anti-crime measures—another conservative favorite—and an extended discussion of using alternative fuels such as ethanol, a corn-based gasoline that benefits farmers. Mr. Pataki’s mention of the subject is widely seen as an attempt to lure Iowa voters, who play a large role in determining presidential front-runners because of its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

With national political ambitions playing an important role in Mr. Pataki’s final year in office, large increases in K-12 spending for the state’s urban areas are not playing such a role, Mr. Flanagan said.

“I would imagine that he’s more interested in not embarrassing himself,” Mr. Flanagan said in an interview. “It sounds like a risk-averse strategy. No passing. Use the running game, and wait out the clock.” But legislators will have to address school finances at some point.

In 2003, the New York Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—ruled that the state fails to assure that all students have “the opportunity for a meaningful high school education.” A trial judge last year ordered the state to increase New York City’s annual K-12 budget by $5.6 billion over four years. That would be a 44 percent increase over current spending. (“Judge Orders Billions for Schools in N.Y.C.,” Feb. 23, 2005.)

The state’s appellate court is considering Mr. Pataki’s appeal of the order.

So far, Mr. Pataki has been able to avoid meeting the fiscal demands of the lawsuit by appealing any court decision against the state. Given the short time he has left in office, he’s likely to succeed again with that strategy, Mr. Flanagan said.

“If there’s one thing he’s good at, it is finding a way to leave this for his successor,” he said.

Related Tags:


School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Parents Berating Teachers? Making Decisions Without the Data? Advice for Principals
A year marred by COVID-19 has created new challenges for principals. Here are some answers.
6 min read
Principal Advice SOC
Getty and Vanessa Solis/Education Week
School & District Management Student Mental Health and Learning Loss Continue to Worry Principals
Months into the pandemic, elementary principals say they still want training in crucial areas to help students who are struggling.
3 min read
Student sitting alone with empty chairs around her.
Maria Casinos/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion A Road Map for Education Research in a Crisis
Here are five basic principles for a responsible and timely research agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robin J. Lake
4 min read
Two opposing sides reaching out to work together
J.R. Bee for Education Week
School & District Management 1,000 Students, No Social Distancing, and a Fight to Keep the Virus Out
A principal describes the "nightmare" job of keeping more than 1,000 people safe in the fast-moving pandemic.
4 min read
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School, in West Jordan, Utah.
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School in West Jordan, Utah, would have preferred a hybrid schedule and other social distancing measures.
Courtesy of Dixie Rae Garrison