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NY SCHOOL REVENUE CAP ADDS TO FUNDING INEQUITIES

Advocates File Brief in Suit Challenging Law That Limits Communities’ Ability to Raise Adequate Resources for Schools

October 2, 2013

The New York State coalition, Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), with the assistance of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), recently filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in a case challenging the New York law that restricts districts statewide from raising adequate revenue for their schools. The case was filed by the New York State United Teachers and other plaintiffs against the State of New York.

In 2011, New York passed a law limiting local property tax increases to support schools to just 2%. This limitation compounds the harm caused by the State’s ongoing failure to adequately fund its Foundation Aid Formula, enacted in 2007 in response to the landmark court ruling in C.F.E. v. State.  Instead, the State has shortchanged New York schools by over $7 billion in school aid. Districts across the state have lost thousands of teachers and are being forced to eliminate other basic educational necessities, such as extra help for at-risk children, science courses, Advanced Placement classes, sports, music, art and more. School districts all over New York are facing insolvency.

“At the same time that school aid has been cut, the 2% restriction prevents school districts from raising their own aid through their tax base in order to mitigate some of the damage of state aid cuts,” said Wendy Lecker, Senior Attorney at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a project of Education Law Center, and co-counsel on the amicus brief. “The cap has the most damaging impact in New York's neediest districts, where state funding cuts have run deepest.”

Low-wealth school districts also suffer disproportionately from the 2% cap, because a 2% tax increase in these communities raises far less for schools than the same increase in wealthier districts with high property values.

“We are filing an amicus brief because over the last four years the state has neglected its obligation to fund schools adequately and shifted the burden onto the community,” said Billy Easton, AQE Executive Director. “At the same time, the state limited the amount of aid that communities could raise, leaving school districts with no other option but to cut their programs and staff down to the bare bones.”

“The cap locks in place educational inequities between rich and poor school districts. High need districts have been ringing the educational insolvency alarm for the past two years, and since the state has not taken action, it is up to the courts to right the wrong that is happening in New York’s education system today,” Mr. Easton added.

“AQE’s brief argues that the tax cap creates an insurmountable barrier for many districts trying to pay for basic educational tools and services that New York’s highest court, in their C.F.E. decision, recognized as being essential to give every child a ‘meaningful high school education,’” said Molly Hunter, Director of Education Justice at the Education Law Center and also co-counsel on the brief. “This barrier amounts to a violation of the constitutional rights of New York’s schoolchildren.”

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24