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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Former State Education Commissioner Praises Plaintiffs' Accountability Proposals

On Thursday, October 14, 2004, CFE presented testimony from expert witness Dr. Thomas Sobol. Dr. Sobol was Commissioner of Education for the state of New York from 1987 to 1995 and, since then, has been a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. In his testimony Dr. Sobol was asked to compare the educational accountability proposals put before the special masters panel by plaintiffs and defendants. Dr. Sobol characterized CFE's Sound Basic Education Task Force accountability proposal as "comprehensive and systemic, while he referred to the Zarb Commission's accountability recommendations, which the governor has endorsed, as "scattershot."

Dr. Sobol particularly praised CFE for its inclusiveness-both in the collaborative process by which it gathered expertise to develop the proposal and in the proposal itself, which calls for the meaningful engagement of parents, teachers, and others in citywide and school-level planning and decision making. Dr. Sobol further testified that CFE's accountability proposal is an important complement to the state's current system, which is based on the Regents Learning Standards and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, because the proposal creates state and district accountability for the resources and the climate for learning that students need to succeed.

Finally, Dr. Sobol strongly denounced the governor's proposal for an "independent" office of educational accountability, saying that setting up another level of educational bureaucracy would "create confusion and invite mischief." If the governor wants more political control over educational operations in the state, Dr. Sobol said, then he should seek it through legitimate means and with appropriate public debate of the issue-not through the "back door" in the remedy of a school-funding case.


James Kadamus, Executive Deputy Commissioner in the State Education Department was the day's second witness. He described the state's current accountability system in detail and talked about a number of "enhancements" to the system which the Regents are considering. He noted that a number of these enhancements were similar to aspects of CFE's proposed accountability proposal. He also testified that CFE's proposals for comprehensive planning and other accountability mechanisms were realistic and operationally feasible, although SED would require specific additional funding from the legislature to properly carry out the new functions it would be assigned under this proposal.

At the end of the session, the governor's attorneys also discussed a letter they submitted to the panel which said that the governor could not provide the additional data that the panel requested regarding the Standard and Poor's costing out study because "S & P has indicated to us…that they will not undertake new calculations [even] … pursuant to a subpoena." Judge Milonas asked whether there were other consultants the state could hire to do the requested calculations. Joseph Wayland, co-counsel for plaintiffs then told the Court that if the state was unwilling to spend the money needed to do this work, his firm, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which has been representing plaintiffs pro bono for the past seven years, would take on this assignment and see if they could get the job done.

The calculations the panel has requested relate to determining what the difference would be in the cost calculations S & P had presented if, instead of eliminating the 50% highest spending districts among those districts the study had determined to be "successful," the 5% highest and lowest spending districts or the 25% highest and lowest spending districts were eliminated.

The next hearing will take place on Friday, October 15, at 9:30 a.m. at Fordham Law School details>>.

October 14, 2004

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >