Money matters; without adequate resources, schools cannot educate students. The availability of resources closely correlates with opportunities and outcomes. We believe school aid distribution should be based on student and school district need. New York currently ranks 49th in the nation on equity in education spending.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) was created by parents who filed a lawsuit against the State of New York, claiming that children were not being provided the opportunity to an adequate education. In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in CFE’s favor, and found that New York State is violating students constitutional right to a “sound and basic education” by leaving schools without the funding necessary. As a result of the ruling, schools were ordered to receive $5.5 billion increase in basic operating aid (also known as Foundation Aid) statewide over the course of a four year phase-in from 2007 to 2011.
What is the Foundation Aid Formula?
This formula was created in response to the CFE ruling to distribute state aid based on student need. It accounts for the ability of the school district or city to raise money from local property taxes and was intended to close the spending gap between districts and create an equitable education system for all students.
A group of parents from New York City launched the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which sued New York State for failing to provide students with the quality education that is their right under the New York State Constitution.
Parents and advocates walked 150 miles from New York City to Albany for the start of hearings in NYS highest court.
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the state was failing to provide students with the classroom resources necessary to receive the “sound basic education.”
The state adopted the Foundation Aid formula and committed to adding $5.5 billion in basic classroom operating aid over 4 years to all state school districts. The state allocated $2.3 billion to schools in Foundation Aid as the phase-in began, resulting in a much-needed expansion of programs and services at many schools.
During the fiscal crisis, the state froze funding for the Foundation Aid formula, ending the commitment to a four-year phase-in of CFE. During the recession, $2.7 billion was cut from school aid, including over $2.1 billion in classroom cuts, in effect reversing CFE.
The state has made incremental increases to education funding, but is still far from fulfilling the promise of CFE.
Today, Foundation Aid levels remain much lower than the CFE recommendation. Schools are still owed over $4 billion in Foundation Aid, most of which is owed to districts with high percentages of Black, Brown and low-income students.
Small Cities Lawsuit
A follow-up lawsuit was filed in 2015 involving eight small cities called Maisto v. State of New York, aka the Small Cities Lawsuit, was heard in court in Albany. The case involves: Niagara Falls, Jamestown, Utica, Kingston, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Mount Vernon. The districts are now awaiting appeal.