State shortchanges city on school funding

It has been six years since the UFT and other education advocates in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity coalition won a landmark court victory that declared the state was underfunding New York City’s public schools. But today many city schools in poor districts are still lacking sorely needed funds and basic resources because state officials say the state doesn’t have enough money to comply with the court ruling that took 14 years to win.

The coalition, now based at Teachers College at Columbia University, recently released findings of a study about how well high-needs city schools are doing in terms of getting enough resources to provide students with their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.

Although as a result of the 2006 court ruling the state promised in 2007 to increase education spending by $7 billion over a five-year period, the CFE report concluded that the state is running $5 billion short of what it pledged due to a recession that left it hard pressed for revenue.

A lack of funds is the same excuse the state cited for years to avoid its responsibility to adequately educate students in its poorest schools prior to the CFE court victory. The CFE rightly notes in the report that children’s constitutional rights to a quality education “are not conditional and they cannot be put on hold because there is a recession or a state budget deficit,” which is a point that was made clear by the court.

According to the report, the state’s failure to adequately fund needy schools has left many of the schools unable to afford enough educators to meet standards in core subjects or provide enough services to help high-needs students. Class sizes in New York City have risen steadily.

CFE leaders said they hope the report will prompt Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature to increase education aid in next year’s budget, adding that they are prepared to work with officials to find ways to do more with less. If not, then they indicated they might be prepared to go back to court. Stay tuned.

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