A take-at-home test:
1) The Syracuse City School District and other underfunded school districts are closely watching to see how the state responds to a court-appointed panel that has recommended $5.6 billion more in state aid for New York City schools. That money would satisfy a lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which successfully argued that New York City schools were failing to provide a basic education to their students.
Should Syracuse and other districts:
a) Prepare to file similar lawsuits against the state for chronically underfunding schools and failing to provide the "sound basic education" that is required by the state constitution. That would require identifying a group of students on whose behalf a lawsuit could be brought or a group of parents or advocates who could bring a lawsuit
b) Join in the efforts of CFE, which says it is drafting statewide legislation "so we can have funding reform in every district where children have needs."
c) Wait for the state Legislature to come up with a fair funding formula that would give billions more to high-needs districts including Syracuse. This would be the same state Legislature that has already failed to solve the problem and left the matter to the courts.
Answer: A and B, but most definitely not C.
This is an opportune time for Syracuse, which has explored the possibility of filing a lawsuit, and other districts to use any means available to pressure state lawmakers to properly fund their schools. Utica's school district has already filed a lawsuit to push the Legislature toward a solution. Utica Superintendent Dan Lowengard believes if enough districts file lawsuits, lawmakers might find the political will to act.
Those lawmakers ought to be attuned to the feelings of citizens around the state, who seem to understand the need for reform in how the state hands out money to schools.
A Quinnipiac University poll found wide support among New Yorkers - including Upstaters - for additional aid to New York City schools. Ninety percent of those responding agreed that more aid should go to underperforming districts throughout the state. Half of those surveyed even said they would support cutting state funding to wealthier districts if that's what it took to provide a sound education throughout the state.
The correct answer to this take-at-home test is this: School districts should seize the moment and get in the Legislature's face, through the courts, legislation, whatever - until lawmakers do right by the children of this state.
All of the children.