New York City Schools Need $5.63 Billion More in Operating Aid and $9.2 Billion for Facilities to Provide a Sound Basic Education, Special Master Panel Recommends
"The special masters have affirmed the enormous needs of New York City's public schoolchildren. The governor and the legislature must act now to meet the needs of students in New York City and across the state. Our children should not have to wait any longer for the basic resources to which they are entitled."-- CFE Executive Director and Counsel Michael A. Rebell.
New York City public schools need an additional $5.63 billion in operating aid over four years and $9.2 billion for facilities to provide their students the resources the New York State Constitution guarantees them, wrote the panel of special masters appointed by State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse after the State failed to meet the July 30, 2004 deadline for complying with the Court of Appeals' order in CFE v. State. The referees also recommended that the court allot the State just 90 days to make the necessary funding available to all New York City's public schools. Their proposed funding increases account for projected inflation adjustments and specifically call for a 25%-50%-75%-100% four-year phase-in that would ensure the city's public schools receive an additional $1.41 billion in year one, for the 2005-2006 school year.
The referees called the need to mandate such sweeping reforms the "most quintessential of judicial functions- protecting the constitutional rights of the citizenry" and explained that the right to the opportunity for a sound basic education is already established in the New York State Constitution, was mandated by the state's highest court, and now must be enacted by the policymakers.
The distinguished panel, comprised of John D. Feerick, the Honorable E. Leo Milonas, and the Honorable William C. Thompson, was appointed by Justice Leland DeGrasse on August 3, just days after Governor George Pataki and the legislature failed to meet the Court of Appeals' July 30 deadline for reforming New York's school funding system. The Court of Appeals had ruled in 2003 that New York City's 1.1 million public school students were being denied the opportunity for a sound basic education, as guaranteed by the state constitution. The panel was charged with making recommendations to the court about how best to bring the state's invalidated education funding system into constitutional compliance. To this end, the panel held an intensive, two-month long hearing process that brought witness from CFE, the State, and the City of New York to present expert testimony on key issues of costing-out, accountability, and formula reform. The November 30 report is the culmination of this rigorous process, and its recommendations will now be considered by Justice DeGrasse who will issue a final order in January.
The panel specifically called on the court to order the State to:
provide an additional $5.63 billion for operating aid, phased-in over a four-year period;
by July 1, 2008, and then every four years, undertake a new costing-out analysis to determine
the cost of providing all New York City students their opportunity for a sound basic education;
provide an additional $9.2 billion for capital improvements;
and by July 1, 2009, and then every five years, undertake a facilities study, to be completed substantially in accordance with the methodology used in CFE's proposed BRICKS Plan.
Although the court's jurisdiction is technically limited to New York City, the referees wrote that they "strongly support the consensus among the parties and the amici that New York State must re-evaluate and reform its funding formulas, so that spending on education in this State is, at a minimum, tied directly to assuring that the opportunity for a sound basic education is provided to all children." CFE strongly maintains that any reforms to the formula that affect New York City -- which educates 38 percent of the state's children -- would necessarily have a statewide impact. Although the court does not have the authority to suggest reforms for other districts around the state, CFE intends to transform the panel's recommendations and the court order into a statewide reform bill to avoid any technical formula problems, uncertainty, and political complications.
November 30, 2004