Governor Hochul signals commitment to fully phase in Foundation Aid
ALBANY, N.Y. (October 14, 2021) — In response to the announcement today that New York State has settled and discontinued the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights v. New York State case, the public education advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education released the following statement:
“AQE is proud to be a part of the decades-long advocacy effort to fully fund New York’s public schools, an effort that has always been spearheaded by the dedication of the parents and students in Black, Brown and low-income communities. The fight for racial and education justice does not stop here, and we look forward to moving into a new chapter to ensure every child in New York receives a high quality education. We continue to be committed to the fight for adequately funded and racially just public schools. We bring this commitment to the fight for a state budget that centers children and their families. We are grateful to have allies such as the team of tireless attorneys who have been working on school funding lawsuits for decades. It is also a breath of fresh air to have a governor who is committed to fulfilling the state’s obligations and responsibilities to invest in education. ”
Read more about the history of the NYSER case and its settlement in statements from the Education Law Center and the Governor’s office below:
Education Law Center: Court Settlement Locks In NY’s Commitment To Increase School Funding by $4.2 Billion
Following the New York Legislature’s commitment to fully fund the state’s Foundation Aid Formula, a settlement has been reached in the NYSER v. State school finance lawsuit to lock in that commitment and ensure students receive the $4.2 billion increase in school funding by the 2023-24 school year.
The NYSER case was filed in 2014 by parents, statewide organizations, and community groups to compel New York State to fulfill its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public schools. The case focused on the Schenectady and New York City school districts and, after lengthy pre-trial and discovery proceedings, was moving toward a trial on the merits.
In the settlement, the NYSER plaintiffs and the State agreed to put the case on hold on the condition that the State honor its commitment to phase in the $4.2 billion required to reach full funding of the Foundation Aid Formula. Should the State fail to follow through, the settlement allows the plaintiffs to immediately restart the case in its current posture and move quickly to a trial.
“This settlement sends a strong message to New York lawmakers that we expect them to deliver the promised increases in public school funding over the next two budget cycles,” said Greg Little, Education Law Center Chief Trial Counsel and attorney for the Schenectady plaintiffs in the NYSER case. “If they don’t follow through, we’ll be ready to return to court immediately.”
The Foundation Aid Formula was enacted in 2007 in response to the ruling in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State (CFE), declaring the state’s public school funding inadequate and unconstitutional. At that time, the State committed to increasing school funding by $5.5 billion statewide over four years, but after just two years, the State reneged on its promise and, a decade later, schools remained billions of dollars behind the commitment of full funding.
“This settlement gives parents and students in Schenectady and across New York additional assurance that the Legislature will honor its word and fully fund our schools over the next two years,” said Jamaica Miles, a Schenectady plaintiff and public school parent. “Our children have suffered without the required funding. We must not wait any longer.”
The Legislature’s commitment in the 2021 State Budget to fully fund Foundation Aid was attributable to a sustained grassroots political campaign by advocates from every corner of the state. In view of that commitment, the NYSER plaintiffs have achieved a settlement that further cements the advocates’ legislative victory and provides added leverage to hold lawmakers accountable to deliver the promised increases in funding over the next two years.
“Over the last 15 years, educators have worked through repeated budget cuts, staffing shortages, and a global pandemic,” said White & Case attorney Michael Jaoude. “The Legislature’s commitment to fully funding Foundation Aid represents a long-awaited turning point for New York Education and this settlement will protect parents’ rights to challenge any walk-back of that commitment.”
Education Law Center, along with pro bono attorneys from White & Case LLP, represents parents in the Schenectady school district. The New York City parents, statewide organizations, and community groups are represented by Michael Rebell and pro bono attorneys from Morgan Lewis.
Governor Kathy Hochul: Governor Hochul Announces Settlement Of NYSER v. NYS Case To Fully Fund Foundation Aid In New York’s Schools
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that New York State has reached an agreement to settle and discontinue the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights v. New York State case, following through on the State’s commitment to fully fund the current Foundation Aid formula to New York’s school districts over three years and ending the State’s prior opposition to providing this much-needed funding to our students.
“Every single New Yorker deserves a quality education to succeed in our state, and public schools are a vital component of that opportunity for our children’s upward mobility,” Governor Hochul said. “This settlement closes a long chapter of inequity, and demonstrates my administration’s commitment to wiping the slate clean and fully funding public education using a responsive model that takes districts’ unique needs into account. Actions are more important than words, and while the settlement is the first step, we’re following through with funding in the state’s budget. The future of our state depends on our ability to properly educate each child, and Foundation Aid will apply a critical lens to address inequities and ensure schools in need receive the funding they deserve.”
The litigation, which has been ongoing since 2014, sought to require New York State to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula that was put into place following the historic Campaign for Fiscal Equity cases, and had been previously opposed by the State. Foundation Aid was created in 2007, and takes school district wealth and student need into account to create an equitable distribution of state funding to schools. However, New York State has never fully funded Foundation Aid.
The new settlement requires New York State to phase-in full funding of Foundation Aid by the FY 2024 budget. In the FY 2021-22 Enacted State Budget approved in April, the Executive and Legislature agreed to fully fund Foundation Aid by the FY 2023-24 budget and enshrined this commitment into law.
A breakdown of currently anticipated Foundation Aid funding is available below:
- FY 2022: $19.8 billion, covering 30% of the existing shortfall
- FY 2023: Approximately $21.3 billion, covering 50% of the anticipated shortfall
- FY 2024: Approximately $23.2 billion, eliminating the anticipated shortfall, and funding the full amount of Foundation Aid for all school districts
Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, “We fought hard for the commitment to fully fund our outstanding education obligation over three years. I am pleased we can now put the longstanding litigation behind us as we continue to move forward with promised funding and expanded educational opportunities. New York State has finally recognized the constitutional principle of a sound basic education for every child. I thank Governor Hochul for her commitment to public education and acknowledge the many parents and advocates who never gave up and continuously spoke up for their children.”
Senator Robert Jackson said, “I’m grateful to learn of Governor Hochul’s decision to settle the NYSER lawsuit, which came about when New York State continued to ignore its own funding formula for public school students. When Michael Rebell and I first launched the Campaign for Fiscal Equity from District 6 in Northern Manhattan in 1993, we knew it would be a long fight to get the funding our public school students deserved. This settlement is a step in the right direction for our students and the hardworking educators who’ve kept schools running through a generation of shoe-string budgets and, most recently, a pandemic. I’m glad to retire my Albany walking sneakers and look forward to a legislative session where children’s right to a sound basic education isn’t used as a political bargaining chip.”
Assemblymember Mike Benedetto said, “I am elated this is settled and thankful for Governor Hochul”s leadership. The children of New York will sleep easier tonight.”
Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Jasmine Gripper said, “The commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid will ensure that Black, Brown and low-income students attend schools that are fully resourced and will significantly close the opportunity gap. Today marks the beginning of a new and long overdue chapter in the fight for education justice in New York. Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to settle the lawsuit on the condition that New York State fully phases in Foundation Aid by 2024 is a momentous shift in a fight that parents and community members have been waging for decades, and one that signals the Governor’s commitment to equity for New York’s students.”