Monday, December 19, 2011

Be the Change for Kids, Part 3

Michael Rebell runs the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University and was co-counsel for the plaintiffs in CFE v. State of NY. BTW, the plaintiffs won that one, but you'd never know it to see our state today. Victory in 2007 required a four-year phase-in of increased funding to high-needs districts in order that they might provide their students with the right to a sound basic education accorded them in the constitution. The four-year phase-in lasted two years. The third year saw a freeze, the fourth year a cut, and the fifth year, which we're now entering, added a tax cap.

The state extended its promise of fiscal equity, but claimed that justice would have to wait, thanks to the devastating gap in state finance.

Rebell contends that the current state aid being provided is unconstitutional. Deferral of funding has no basis in law—the courts said four years, so four years it must be.

There are problems with bringing this back to the courts, although that is the ultimate plan. The plaintiffs asked the Court of Appeals to retain jurisdiction over the case, but the court declined to do so. That means that the case must begin from scratch. We are talking about a case that originally took ten years to wind its way through the justice system.

Rebell points out that there is no other constitutional right that is subject to fiscal constraint. We don't typically deny citizens rights because we lack the money to enforce those rights.

No comments: