When the State's highest court,
the Court of Appeals, issued its landmark ruling in the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case last June, the Legislature and
Governor were directed-to ensure New York City has adequate
resources to provide children with a sound, basic education-to "implement" a
new State school aid formula by July 2004.
We in the Assembly majority believe
that "implement" must
mean that a first down payment is made, that substantial new
additional resources are appropriated to impact the New York
City public schools by September 2004. "Implement" does
not mean merely that a plan has been agreed to by the Legislature
and the Governor to go into effect two, three or five years
later, with no substantial new resources provided in the next
budget in time for next fall's school year. A new statewide
school aid formula, we believe, along with appropriations at
an ample level in the next budget, is not negotiable. Rather,
it is required, so that what the Court mandated is in fact
in place, or operational, by the Court's firm deadline of July
While it is true that the CFE decision specifically relates
to school financing and State aid only to the New York City
public schools, the Assembly believes that in the interests
of fairness, equity, and doing what is correct for students
in similarly under-funded districts across the State, that
the Legislature and Governor must come to terms with a new
and realistic funding formula for each of the over 700 school
districts statewide-rather than addressing the constitutionally
inadequate level of funding to New York City schools alone.
To that end, as Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee
I have been conducting hearings around the state since October
to get public input about how much money is needed and where
it should be best invested. By mid-December, we will have concluded
seven public hearings-in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester,
Syracuse, Watertown and Suffolk.
Additionally, a number of costing-out studies-professional
analyses across the state, district by district, to determine
what level of funding each district needs to provide what the
Court delineated as components of a modern sound, basic education-will
be completed within a month.
The Assembly is determined that when we adopt the budget for
the next fiscal year it will include a down payment, or first
substantial increase in State aid for New York City schools
and other districts, to satisfy the findings of the Court and
be in place with the school year beginning next September.
We are, I caution, suspicious about Governor Pataki's sincerity
in meeting the July deadline. The Governor, who wasted two
precious and irreplaceable years of children's educational
lives in an ill-advised appeal of the lower court CFE ruling,
has appointed a commission on school funding that is charged
with reporting back to him in March, by which time it will
be too late under State law for the Governor even to amend
his own education budget proposal. Consequently, we in the
Assembly majority will be looking closely in January at precisely
how much money the Governor includes in his executive budget
for New York City public schools.
The courts have had the last word and our children have waited
way too long. Governor, it is time to take action. We are ready
to work with you.#
Assemblyman Steven Sanders is Chairman of the Education Committee.
You can contact him by mail at 201 East 16th Street, New York,
NY 10003, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone
at (212) 979-9696.