Cecilia Le. Utica Observer-Dispatch. 12/17/2004.

The state has denied in a legal statement that Utica schools do not receive enough funding to give students a basic education.

The statement dated Thursday is the State Attorney General's answer to a lawsuit filed in July by the Utica City School District saying the state's funding system hurts Utica students.

Meanwhile, a trial date for the case is scheduled to be set in Albany County Supreme Court today. Utica school lawyer Donald Gerace said he expects it to be in 12 to 15 months.

The state denies or says it lacks the knowledge to address nearly all of the district's claims, and that the school board, teachers, students and parents listed as plaintiffs lack standing to bring the lawsuit.

"It's a pretty standard answer," Gerace said. "They're basically denying all our allegations. Hopefully, the Legislature will solve this problem before we actually go to trial. If not, we're prepared to take it to trial."

Utica's lawsuit says although Utica has high student need and low property wealth, it gets far less state aid per pupil than average. It calls the school funding system complex, outdated and unfair, and charges the state with discriminating against minority, special education and English as a Second Language students.

The state's answer also says some of the legislators and state offices named as defendants should be dismissed. Gerace agreed and said some will be removed, such as the Comptroller's Office and state Education Department, which might be able to provide data that helps Utica's case.

Utica modeled its lawsuit on that of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which won last year on behalf of New York City students. A court-appointed panel last month said city schools should be getting nearly twice what they receive now.