The State Should be Held in Contempt and Fined $4 Million per Day, CFE Recommends to Court
In a motion submitted to Justice Leland DeGrasse on December 16, CFE called on the court to hold the State of New York in contempt for its unequivocal failure to meet the Court of Appeals' mandate to overhaul the state's unconstitutional school funding system. CFE also recommended that the State be fined almost $4.2 million for each day that it continues to defy the court, the state constitution, and the educational needs of New York's schoolchildren. The daily fine should take effect 90 days after Justice DeGrasse issues his court order, expected in early 2005. The 90-day grace period is intended to give the State one last chance to cure the contempt and bring the state's education funding system into constitutional compliance.
"The state's highest court, the distinguished panel of special masters, and New Yorkers across the state agree that the State has failed our kids," said Michael A. Rebell, CFE's executive director and counsel. "Each day that the current funding system remains in tact causes irreparable harm to the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren and the thousands of others throughout the state whose schools lack basic resources they need to succeed in the classroom -- and in life. We've already lost a year toward giving these children a sound basic education; they cannot wait, and should not wait, any longer for the education the state constitution guarantees them."
CFE's recommended $4.2 million fine was derived from the November 30 report of the judicial referees. After months of extensive testimony, the panel recommended that the city's schools need $5.6 billion more in operating expenses, and an additional $9.2 billion for facilities, for the construction of new classrooms, laboratories, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and libraries.
The panel concluded that in year one of the phase-in (the 2005-2006 school year), the city would need a total of $1.52 billion. In arriving at the $4.2 million daily fine, plaintiffs divided this $1.52 billion figure -- the total amount needed to provide city schools the basic resources their children deserve next year -- by 365. The $1.52 billion figure represents $1.41 billion for operating expenses and about $110 million for facilities, which is the amortized cost of the $1.83 billion that was recommended by the referees for year one of the phase-in.
CFE recommends that the fines be turned over to the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to be expended on programs for the students, provided, however, that DOE has developed a valid comprehensive sound basic education plan with extensive public input.
On December 30, the State of New York is required to submit its answering papers, and plaintiffs will submit their reply papers on January 7. Both parties will present their oral arguments before Justice DeGrasse on January 11 at 10:00 a.m.
December 16, 2004