RELEASE: State Petitions Court of Appeals To Deny Public School Students Their Day In Court
State Petitions Court of Appeals To Deny Public School Students Their Day In Court
Lawsuit Claims Students Still Being Denied
Constitutional Right to Quality Education
For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 26, 2012
For Info: Billy Easton 518-432-5315
Today, the New York State Court of Appeals heard the State’s argument to dismiss a case calling on the State to provide every student with a ‘sound basic education.” Hussein v. The State of New York (also known as the Small Cities Schools case) is similar to the 2006 landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. CFE established a standard that all students have a constitutional right to a “sound, basic education.” After settling CFE on a statewide basis in 2007 and making a commitment to significantly increase school funding, the state has taken back virtually all of these new investments through a series of school funding cuts. The attorney representing the plaintiffs in today’s hearing argued that the State’s motion for dismissal would deny children of their fair day in court.
Earlier this week, the New York State Board of Regents, found that, “Many of our school districts may have difficulty meeting financial obligations and will risk cutting programs and personnel to the point of not being able to provide a sound, basic education to our students.” Since 2008 when the Small Cities Schools court case first began, New York State has cut a total of $2.7 billion from the education budget which has resulted in harsh impacts in schools across the state including; loss of teachers and other personal, critical programs such as after school, tutoring, college preparatory, sports, kindergarten and more. The State’s budget cuts, a crippling tax levy cap on local revenue combined with the spending cap on education will mean that districts will be forced to make even more cuts.
“It’s baffling that New York State would even consider depriving school children of their day in court after the cuts in education aid have forced massive layoffs of teachers and elimination of essential educational programs, committing to delivering inadequate aid, and after adopting a school tax cap that that hinders school districts from raising local funds to compensate for the aid cuts. This is the State’s third attempt to deny the 101 parents and children in the 13 districts which serve 82,000 students an opportunity to speak up for their educational future. This case should be allowed to proceed so we can hear the truth about what’s happening in our schools and the State can make necessary changes,” said Robert Biggerstaff, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Small City School Districts.
“Today’s hearing is important to school children in small cities as well as those across New York because of the precedent it sets. The statewide Campaign for Fiscal Equity commitment to increase school aid and prioritizing high needs students including those living in poverty should not be an afterthought. New York simply cannot afford to remain stagnant in this education crisis. There has to be a sincere plan to get back in compliance with its Constitutional obligation to deliver every student a sound basic education, no exceptions,” said David Sciarra of the Education Law Center. “For the past forty years, the Education Law Center has been holding New Jersey accountable for the Constitutional obligation to educate our students. We are pleased to support the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in New York and to support the efforts on behalf of students in small cities and throughout the State.”
“In school district after school district students are being asked to make do with less due to the backward moving education policies coming out of Albany,” Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “The current generation of New York students are in schools that are cutting college prep and career courses, arts, sports and music, even kindergarten. It is sad and will leave these kids with less opportunity than their parents unless our state leaders get serious about funding schools properly.”
“When good people do nothing, nothing good gets done. We must take a stand. As a parent and plaintiff in this case I am very insulted that the State would seek to deny me the opportunity to speak up for my children. New York State owes school children so much more in order for them to be prepared for life beyond high school,” said Kathy Brewington of Mt. Vernon , Hussein v. The State of New York plaintiff.
“This case needs to move forward so the state of New York’s education system can be reviewed. Our children’s educational opportunities are being snatched away at an alarming rate. Not only have we failed to make progress in ensuring all of our state’s children receive a sound basic education, but we have lost ground in many regions of the state,” said Assemblywoman Addie Russel. The deterioration of our educational system must end. This case provides the opportunity to require real education funding reform, an opportunity we cannot afford to lose.”
In previous attempts for dismissal, the State lost at the state Supreme Court level and then lost again by unanimous decision of the Appellate Division 3rd Department. Today’s arguments marked the State’s third attempt.
Examples of Cuts
Here are some examples of cuts in small city schools:
In Newburgh, they project eliminating 113 staff positions. They are also planning to cut three sports programs and a teaching assistant program in the first grade.
In Jamestown, an entire school as well as 20 staff positions are facing elimination.
In Kingston, an entire school as well as 92 staff positions are projected to be cut.
In Mount Vernon, 10 music and arts programs are facing elimination as well as skills and career training programs, such as business, nursing and woodshop.