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SMALL CITIES STUDENTS PRESENT COMPELLING TRIAL EVIDENCE OF EDUCATIONAL HARM

Albany, NY March 3, 2015 – Over five weeks of trial, the student plaintiffs in Maisto, et al. v. State of New York — known as the “Small Cities” case —presented evidence to Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor in support of their claim that the State of New York has failed to provide them with a meaningful opportunity for a high school education, in violation of their right to a “sound basic education” under the New York Constitution.

The plaintiff students attend public schools in Utica, Poughkeepsie, Mount Vernon, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, Port Jervis, Kingston and Newburgh. Over the next several weeks, the New York Attorney General will present the State’s defense.

Witnesses for the students provided substantial evidence on three core elements proving the absence of a sound basic education: deficits in essential resources, low outcomes, and inadequate State funding as a cause of the severe resource and outcome gaps in their schools. District superintendents and experienced educators testified about the lack of adequate teachers, staff, facilities, curriculum, reasonable class sizes and interventions for at-risk students. They also noted the poor performance on state assessments and low graduation rates in these districts.

Testimony covered all eight Small Cities districts and painted a clear picture of the stark education gaps in these schools. Witnesses testified about the educational barriers faced by children in these high-poverty schools and the districts’ inability to provide students with the essential staff, programs and services necessary for academic success as a result of State funding cuts and shortfalls over the past several years.

In addition, New York education experts, who examined data and conditions in each district, offered detailed evidence of the resource, outcome and funding deficits in the districts. School finance experts also testified about the gross underfunding of the Foundation Aid Formula enacted by the Legislature in 2007 to adequately fund a sound basic education. Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University and a nationally recognized expert in public school finance presented a comprehensive analysis of the State’s funding failures.

During the trial, attorneys for the Small Cities students and the Attorney General entered into an agreement on the funding gaps in each district since 2010-11.  The figures below represent the additional funding each district would have received over the last five years if NY State’s “Gap Elimination Adjustment” cuts had not occurred, and the Foundation Formula had been fully funded:

 Mount Vernon

 $116,562,168

 Utica

 $290,211,261

 Poughkeepsie

 $  79,910,738

 Port Jervis

 $  67,380,908

 Niagara Falls

 $128,976,854

 Newburgh

 $238,906,846

 Jamestown

 $109,392,220

 Kingston

 $  80,233,685

Lead trial counsel for the Small Cities students are Gregory Little, a partner at the White & Case law firm in New York City, and William Reynolds of the Albany-based Bond, Schoeneck and King. The trial team also includes David Sciarra and Wendy Lecker of the Education Law Center; Megan Mercy, associate counsel at NY State United Teachers (NYSUT); and Robert Biggerstaff, Director of the Small Cities District Association. The trial team is assisted by associates at White & Case and Jessica Levin at ELC.

 

Related Stories:

THE RIGHT TO A SOUND BASIC EDUCATION: A PRIMER ON THE NY “SMALL CITIES” CASE

 

Press Contact:

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