On Tuesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union appealed to the state's highest court to allow a lawsuit against the state. Two lower courts previously ruled that the NYCLU had insufficient grounds to sue.
What was the subject of the lawsuit? A violation of someone's freedom of speech or expression - issues usually associated with civil liberties groups and their court cases?
No, the NYCLU wants to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of Syracuse and 11 other school districts outside New York City.
It is arguing that some students in these districts are not getting the "sound, basic education" promised by the state constitution. It says students in these "failing" and "high-needs" schools are supplied with inadequate textbooks and computers in overcrowded or decrepit facilities. It says that many students scored poorly on standardized tests.
Syracuse schools named in the lawsuit include Delaware Elementary School, Shea Middle School and Fowler High School. NYCLU points out that Shea Middle School, for example, had some classrooms in disrepair, with no windows and inadequate materials, including textbooks.
How utterly pathetic that such conditions exist in these schools, which are mostly urban or rural with high concentrations of poor families and students of color. And how pathetic that the NYCLU has to go to court to try to get a state court to make state officials do what the state constitution and fairness and equity demand.
Ensuring that students are educated should not be the responsibility of a civil liberties group. It is the responsibility of state lawmakers and education officials. But state lawmakers have failed in providing high-needs school districts with adequate resources. And the blame cannot be laid solely at lawmakers' feet. Education officials and school boards allowed such conditions to exist in their districts.
The New York Civil Liberties Union awaits a decision by the court. It is basing its appeal, in part, on the ruling in favor of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which won a similar lawsuit on behalf of New York City Schools. But the NYCLU is exploring new legal ground by trying to get the court to address the needs of individual schools and not an entire district.
The justices should do right by these children. But in truth, how the top court rules really should be a moot point.
The real verdict is this: State lawmakers are guilty of providing inadequate resources for all students in this state.
Do "your" job.