Vito Sciscioli (Sirector, Syracus 20/20). The Post-Standard. 1/24/2005.
On behalf of Syracuse 20/20, I am writing relative to your Dec. 20 editorial, "Court Gesture" and other articles recently reporting on school finance reform in New York State. Syracuse 20/20 certainly agrees that the citizens of this state face an historic opportunity to demand statewide reform of New York's education funding system that provides all students with a sound basic education. However, we would argue that the solution must be through state legislation enacted during the 2005 Legislative Session and not through the courts.
As you know, on Nov. 30th, the court-appointed panel of special masters concluded in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (CFE v. State) that New York City's public schools need an additional $5.63 billion each year in operating aid and an additional $9.2 billion over a five-year period for capital construction needs to provide its students with a sound basic education. It has taken over 10 years for this case to work its way through the courts and still the children of New York City wait.
It is Syracuse 20/20's belief that the need for greater resources in New York City is no different than the need in Syracuse, the other Big 5 districts and financially challenged rural and suburban districts.
Unfortunately, the remedy in CFE v. State only applies to New York City schools. No community should have to wait another 10 years for the courts to order the state to live up to its constitutional obligations.
We do not have the time or the money to waste to prove in court what we already know, that many districts require additional state financial support to ensure all students have the opportunity to meet and exceed the state's learning standards.
Syracuse 20/20 supports legislative action that recognizes the need to provide a school finance remedy that addresses all districts throughout the state. Syracuse 20/20 supports legislation that would greatly increase focus on financial accountability within school districts for the purpose of enhancing the existing performance accountability systems currently in place.
We will work in partnership with our local state delegation to ensure that the governor and the Legislature develop a statewide education funding remedy that recognizes the need to provide all of the state's schoolchildren with a sound basic education and includes adequate accountability measures that guarantee that the money is utilized effectively. We hope your readers will join us in our effort to tell the governor, the speaker of the Assembly, and the majority leader of the Senate that the only solution is a statewide solution.
Vito Sciscioli is executive director of Syracuse 20/20.