Conditions in New York:
According to the State Education Department, the average school district in New York spent $9,321 per pupil in 1996-97 (the latest year for which figures are available). Many districts spent far above or below this figure. Some small rural districts spent approximately $6,500 per pupil, while some suburban districts spent as much as $17,000.
New York City, by far the state's largest district, spent $8,171 per student -- $1,150 less than the statewide average. The average downstate suburb spent $12,613.
New York's current school funding system prevents thousands of City students from having an opportunity for a sound basic education. The system deprives City students of many educational essentials that they need to meet the state's own standards.
While New York City, a district of average wealth, educates approximately 38% of the state's students, it receives only 35.5% of overall state school aid. But this is just one small piece of a much larger problem: the current funding system does not adequately account for the enormous educational needs of students in NYC and other areas throughout the state, many of whom live in areas of concentrated poverty, have limited proficiency in English or are disabled.
The funding system also violates Title VI of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Seventy-four percent of the state's minority students attend New York City public schools, and minorities make up over 80% of the City's overall student body. Since those schools are so dramatically underfunded, the funding system has a disproportionately negative effect on New York's minority students.
Contrary to popular belief, the state aid "formula" is actually a haphazard collection of 48 different formulas and grants. This convoluted funding system is regularly manipulated by the legislative leaders each year. As a result, the amount of funding allocated to NYC and other districts more often reflects political deals among state officials than educational principles.
In recent years, the state legislature has approved substantial increases in education aid. These increases, however, barely compensate for cuts made in the early 1990s. When adjusted for inflation, the state's per-pupil allocation of $4,385 is still lower than it was in 1988-89.
State's anticipated position:
In its brief to the court and opening statements, State attorneys have suggested that New York State's school funding system is both rational and adequate. They argue that there is no relationship between spending on particular school resources and higher student achievement. The State has also argued that the finance system does not violate Title VI because the funding system adequately addresses student need and differences in district wealth.
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
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 >