SETTLEMENT REACHED IN LONG-PENDING NY FUNDING LITIGATION
Following a commitment by the New York State Legislature earlier this year to increase funding for high-need school districts around the state by $4.2 billion by the 2023-24 school year, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York. The NYSER case was filed in 2014 by a coalition of parents, students, and groups representing other stakeholders in the public education system to compel the state government to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula, the school-funding system established to ensure a sound basic education for all New York students in the wake of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision.
In the court-approved settlement, the plaintiffs and the State agreed to put the case on hold on the condition that the State lawmakers honor their commitment to phase in the remaining $4.2 billion increase in annual funding required to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula. In a statement endorsing the settlement, Governor Kathy Hochul pledged that the State would follow through with the funding. If it does, the case will be dismissed. If not, the plaintiffs will be able to continue the litigation and seek an expedited trial to secure the promised funding.
As a first step, the state increased state aid for school funding this year by $1.4 billion statewide, and it has committed to providing similar increases for the next two years.
Plaintiffs had also asked the Court to order the state to re-consider thoroughly the 15-year old foundation aid formula, after it is fully paid out so that the state financial aid system fully will reflect current demographics and current educational needs. Specifically, Michael A. Rebell, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, has proposed that the State establish a standing cost commission that would objectively re-assess state education funding needs every two years in a transparent manner, with extensive public input. The settlement did not provide for this mechanism, but many of the NYSER plaintiff organizations intend to press this issue with the governor and the legislature over the coming year.