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Court Case

Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York

The Brennan Center's amicus brief in this case argued that the inadequate representation provided by the New York State Legislature justified judicial intervention in the funding of the state's public schools.

Published: November 20, 2006

In 1982, the Court of Appeals ruled that although school funding inequities are not unconstitutional, students in New York are entitled under the state Constitution to a “sound basic education.”

In 1993, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity filed suit, claiming that the underfunding of New York City schools by the current system denies students their constitutionally protected right to quality education.  In 2001, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of CFE and ordered the state to reform the school system.

After a reversal by the Appellate Division, the Court of Appeals upheld the Supreme Court’s order in 2003.  The Legislature was given until July 30, 2004 to determine the cost of providing all students with a “sound basic education.” The Legislature was also charged with creating a system of accountability to make sure students were in fact provided with this opportunity.

The Brennan Center submitted amicus briefs in both the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (intermediate court) and the Court of Appeals (high court) when the State challenged the ruling that New York City schools should be provided an additional $5.6 billion for operating aid and $9.2 billion in capital funding.  The Brennan Center argued that the interests of New York City’s students are not adequately represented in the state’s political process; this legislative dysfunction makes it appropriate for the Court to direct the Legislature to appropriate funds.

On November 20, 2006, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the right of public school children to a sound basic education and established a minimum funding amount for New York City schools.

For more information (including court documents), see the Campaign for Fiscal Equity website: http://www.cfequity.org.