September 2016 Issue - Labor Issues, School Finance
September 23, 2016

Parents in NYSUT-supported 'small cities' case to appeal

Author: By Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

A judge's decision to toss out a NYSUT-supported lawsuit brought by parents of students in eight small city school districts — who claimed the state shortchanged the school systems by more than $1 billion in aid — will be appealed.

Plaintiffs in the suit, filed officially as Maisto v. State of New York, but perhaps known more widely as the "small cities" lawsuit, charged that inadequate state education funding violated the students' constitutional right to a "sound, basic education."

In all, the plaintiffs said the districts were owed a total of $1.1 billion dating back to the 2007 implementation of the state's Foundation Aid Formula, which was established to ensure schools were provided adequate resources. The failure to deliver the appropriate funding resulted in deep cuts in teachers, support staff and programs, adversely impacting the education of children in those districts.

Though state Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O'Connor ruled the Foundation Formula is "reasonable," she completely failed to address whether the lack of funding and resources in the high-needs districts deprived children of a sound, basic education.

The eight districts in the suit are Jamestown, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie and Utica.

NYSUT's Legal Department assisted the plaintiff's legal team. The statewide union also provided financial and research support in the case.

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee blasted the judge's ruling, calling it "a blow to some of New York's most vulnerable students. "We are profoundly disappointed that this decision failed to directly address the most meaningful issue raised by the case: Is the state failing to provide students in these eight districts with the elements of a sound, basic education as outlined in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision?

"We firmly believe," Magee said, "the answer to that question is 'yes.'"