For More Information:
Soneni Smith, AQE Deputy Director,
(212) 523-0186; (917) 517-9393 (mobile)
Bob Cohen, AQE Research and Public Policy Director, (518) 465-4600 x104
For Immediate Release
PRESS STATEMENT BY REGINA M. EATON,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ALLIANCE FOR QUALITY EDUCATION
AQE Applauds Well-Reasoned and Compassionate
Recommendations of Special Masters in CFE Case
We applaud the well-reasoned and compassionate November 30th recommendations of the Special Masters appointed by Justice Leland DeGrasse in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity schools case. The opinion confirms what we and our allies have been saying for years: that that the state must provide substantially increased resources to ensure that New York City children are provided with the opportunity for a "sound, basic education," as required by the state constitution. The Governor and Legislature must take these recommendations seriously and establish a new school aid system that allocates school aid based on the cost of educating children in every school district in the state. The CFE Court of Appeals decision is a roadmap for this new system. Parents and educators know what children need to learn and they will not be swayed by fear mongers who oppose the decision by raising the specter of regional rivalries or Robin Hood. No school district in the state will have to experience spending cuts because of CFE.
The position of the plaintiffs and of AQE has been vindicated in court. The special masters, a court-appointed panel of distinguished legal experts, decisively rejected the state's flawed "costing-out" analysis, instead finding that the $5.6 billion operating aid increase recommended by a task force led by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity represented the appropriate figure.
Governor Pataki and the Legislature are now four months late in complying with the July 30th compliance deadline established by the Court of Appeals. We can think of no better example of the dysfunctional nature of Albany than the state's leaders and the Governor in particular are failing to comply with an order of the state's highest court.
AQE intends to draft legislation with its allies modeled on the DeGrasse court order that will follow the special masters' recommendations -- applying the principles of this New York City case to every school district in the state. Our legislation will fairly allocate the responsibility for paying for education between the state and local school districts, ensuring that the bulk of the responsibility for meeting the educational needs of children does not fall on already overburdened local taxpayers. We also once again commit ourselves to treat all regions of the state fairly, and to hold "low-needs" school districts harmless. There's no logic in hurting school districts whose kids are already succeeding in order to afford other children their constitutional rights.
Governor Pataki has now fought this case since he took office -- almost a decade -- wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. We urge the Governor not to appeal the recommendations of the special masters. Instead, the Governor should immediately begin serious negotiations with the Assembly and Senate to establish a new school aid system. We say to the Governor: now is the time to stop stalling through the courts and to get back to the business of educating the state's children.