Following the New York Legislature's commitment to fully fund the state’s Foundation Aid Formula, a settlement has been reached in the NSYER 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.
About Education Law Center
Education Law Center is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 that advocates on behalf of public school children to enforce their right to education under state and federal laws across the nation. ELC has become one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States. To learn more, visit www.edlawcenter.org.
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