Decision Has No Impact on $3.6 Billion in Foundation Aid the State Owes to Public Schools
Today the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled that the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) school funding lawsuit can proceed to trial on its claim that the State is violating students’ constitutional right to a “sound basic education.” The Court also found that the State’s failure to fund the Foundation Aid formula can be used as evidence in support of this claim. The Court firmly reiterated the constitutional obligation to provide “a sound basic education” and a “meaningful high school education.”
In the NYSER case’s most important claim, the Court ordered that parents suing the State made a sufficient claim of a constitutional violation in New York City and Syracuse to proceed to trial despite the State’s strong opposition to this claim. While the Court ruled that a statewide claim could not be brought, this is not new terrain as historically the court has required district-by-district evidence in these cases. Plaintiffs are now considering adding specific claims about the denial of a sound basic education to students in other underfunded districts in other parts of the state.
“The court’s decision to allow this case to proceed to trial is good news for students and their parents,” said Billy Easton Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Students would be better served if Governor Cuomo would support full funding of Foundation Aid rather than continuing to drag his feet and deprive some students of the quality education every student deserves. Both the Board of Regents and the State Assembly have consistently proposed full funding of Foundation Aid.”
The Court decision has no impact on the Foundation Aid formula. The Foundation Aid formula was established by then Governor Spitzer and the Legislature in 2007 to provide a statewide solution to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity school funding lawsuit and ensure all students’ access to a “sound basic education.”
In 2017 Governor Andrew Cuomo sought to repeal the Foundation Aid formula entirely. However, he failed as the Legislature reaffirmed the State’s obligations under the Foundation Aid formula. According to the State Education Department, schools statewide are now owed $3.6 billion in Foundation Aid under current state law.