New York Funding Lawsuit Moves Forward

Last Updated: July 27, 2012

This article appeared in the July 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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Cuts in funding related to recessionary budget shortfalls are making matters worse for New York State districts that filed a school finance lawsuit in 2008. Late last month thirteen districts, including rural districts, and 101 parents and students got word that they can proceed with a lawsuit claiming that funding inequities deny students their Constitutional right to a “sound, basic education.” In court pleasings, the plaintiffs' lawyers have highlighted lower test scores and graduation rates in these districts than in districts with more resources.

The lawsuit, Hussein v. State of New York, was first filed in 2008 by the New York State Association of Small City School Districts. The districts argued that changes to the funding formula, which were made after the state lost a lawsuit brought on behalf of New York City students, were insufficient to meet their needs.

Those changes were to phase in over four years, but the state froze aid after two years and cut aid last year.

The state appealed the lawsuit twice, but in late June the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, affirmed that plaintiffs' claims about school funding are neither "moot nor unripe," confirming the immediate need for courtroom deliberation about whether the shortfalls are unconstitutional.

A ruling is not expected for at least a year.

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Read more from the July 2012 Rural Policy Matters.