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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.