A group of parents and educators across the state called on Gov. George Pataki on Tuesday to stop stalling and fix the school funding system.
"To keep dragging this on further is only hurting our children and hurting their chances of getting a good education," said Darryl Porter, president of the Rochester school board.
Pataki announced Monday he would appeal a judge's order that New York City schools receive an additional $5.6 billion a year in state aid roughly double what the city gets now to be phased in over four years.
The order doesn't include more money for any district outside New York City, but state legislators have said they would like to overhaul the funding system to help urban districts such as Rochester that face the challenge of educating a large number of students from low-income families.
The New York City case dates to 1993, when a group called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity sued the state, claiming it was violating a constitutional mandate to provide a sound, basic education for city students. The state's highest court ruled in CFE's favor in 2003 and gave Pataki and the Legislature until July 2004 to find a solution. All parties pledged to come up with statewide reform but failed to do so.
When they missed the deadline, state Supreme Court Justice Leland Degrasse in Manhattan named a panel to deal with the issue, but the panel couldn't include funding for any other district because the original case applied only to New York City.
That's why an out-of-court settlement is the best choice, said Maria Behncke, the Rochester-area coordinator for the Alliance for Quality Education, another education advocacy group.
"If they don't appeal it, they'll have to settle. If they settle, they'll very likely settle it statewide," she said.
The Alliance for Quality Education is launching a Web site, http://www.ourkidscantwait.org/, to give New York state residents an opportunity to sign a petition calling for statewide funding reform and urging that Monday's ruling not be appealed. The site is expected to be up today.
The New York State School Boards Association also called for an end to delays.
"A first-grader who was denied her constitutional right to a sound, basic education when this litigation began is now approaching graduation and still is being denied what should be hers," said Timothy Kremer, executive director. "To delay further would only compound the injustice."
Not everyone was unhappy with Pataki's intention to appeal. The New York Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability in Albany believes that more money isn't the issue.
"There's enough money there. It's just a matter of how it's being spent and what it's being spent on," said B. Jason Brooks, a senior research associate."
Brooks said there needs to be more accountability, more choices in the form of vouchers and charter schools, and teacher pay based on performance.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the state's highest court shot down an attempt by 27 struggling schools to sue New York over inadequate support for education.
The schools had wanted to follow in the footsteps of the CFE case, but the Court of Appeals said the lawsuit wasn't valid because it ignored the role of school districts.
It was the second time the court turned back a lawsuit because of how the claim was formulated. In 2003, the court rejected a Rochester group that said school funding was adequate but faulted the state for allowing a high concentration of poor students in city schools.