Michael Rebell of CEE finds NYS Deficient in Equity of School Funding

On December 11, 2012  Michael Rebell and his staff at the Campaign for Educational Equity held a conference in Albany to share the results of their work to identify what lies in the statutes regarding the State’s obligation to provide all students a sound basic education (SBE) and how well the state is doing in this regard.  Several North Country representatives traveled to the meeting.

Mr. Rebell started by outlining background to show legal basis for the definition of sound and basic education to the 11-12 grade level that makes students capable citizens and competitive workers.  He spoke about the funding levels established in 2007 to provide adequate school foundation aid, and said that though the state needed to respond to the fiscal crisis, there were several things it did not do, to be both fiscally responsible and maintain constitutionally required protections of SBE.

A recession is not an excuse to violate constitutional rights (i.e. Sound Basic Education (SBE).  Mr. Rebell took us through what those rights were, and they are clearly outlined with references to statute and commissioners regulations in the ESSENTIAL RESOURCES report http://www.tc.columbia.edu/i/a/document/24926_EssentialResources.pdf.  The table of contents is broken up into the areas of what SBE is as identified in the CFE ruling.  Their goal in identifying and listing them was to be conservative and cautious in their enumeration of the requirements.I think this will be helpful to districts — one of the specifics, for example, is the recommendation on class size (p. 15), which might be a argument to take to the bank, so to speak.  Work must still be done on determining what the word “sufficient” means as it appears repeatedly in state laws and regulations.

The next report, entitled DEFICIENT RESOURCES was a study of 33 schools from a variety of high needs districts across the state. http://www.tc.columbia.edu/i/a/document/24935_DeficientResources2.pdf  The findings clearly show that the schools have not been able to meet SBE as defined above due to the lack of resources.    There is both and executive summary and a full document.  The methodology and findings are noted on p8-15  There are noteworthy conclusions on p.76-78

Rebell will use the findings in a variety of ways.  One is that he will hand deliver (autographed :)) copies to the Governor and the Chairs of the legislative Ed. Committees at their next New NY Education Reform Commission meeting.  In addition, the he is working with the Education Law Center (David Sciarra) 1.  to push for a restoration of foundation aid (ELCs letter to Gov/Leg was deleivered last week) and other items on his advocacy agenda 2.  to support the Small Cities court case that will come to trial in a couple of months, and to 3. prepare and lay out a sound case with a preponderance of evidence and bring a statewide suit starting in the new year.

The New York Times, and others have reported on this statewide.  For the NCPR report see:http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/21054/20121211/new-studies-show-ny-school-funding-not-meeting-court-order

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