Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Step up Pressure on State Lawmakers, Urge Immediate Funding of City's Capital Needs

Mayor Bloomberg and members of the city council strongly urged state lawmakers to immediately deliver the additional stream of school construction dollars owed to New York City under the CFE lawsuit, at a city hall press conference on Monday. "Unless the State meets its obligation, 15,000 classroom seats, new schools, libraries, labs, and gyms will be postponed," warned the mayor.

The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein joined forces with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Education Chairman Robert Jackson, and UFT President Randi Weingarten in making their urgent pleas. The group called for a united front and urged the community to get directly involved, to contact Governor Pataki, their assembly representatives, and their state senators and insist that lawmakers pay the CFE debt. "Tell them enough is enough, enough excuses, enough politics, enough sitting on your hands and hoping we will go away. We are not going away, this is too important," the mayor said.

The mayor's unusually aggressive stance against the governor and legislative leaders is evidence of city hall's growing frustration with the State's failure to adequately fund the city's schools. Just last week, the mayor's aides said he would likely support democrats running for the state senate if the legislature did not meet the city's school-funding needs.

In March 2005, in the long-running CFE case, the State Supreme Court ordered the State of New York to provide New York City schools an additional $5.6 billion in operating aid and $9.2 billion in capital funds. The governor appealed the ruling, sending the case back to the courts. While the delay tactic has stalled the progress of achieving a statewide school-funding solution, the latest appeal does not absolve the governor from his ongoing obligation to meet the underlying Court of Appeals' order.

Instead of ending the State's unconscionable defiance, the governor's proposed education budget for the upcoming year continues the State's contempt of court. The proposed 1.6 percent increase in state funding clearly fails to provide the provisions needed to meet the city's operating and capital needs. Indeed, it will not even allow districts around the state to maintain their current level of services.

"This year's DOE capital budget is short $1.8 billion, putting new school buildings, science labs, libraries, arts facilities, gymnasiums, and playgrounds in jeopardy," explained the mayor. "We're merely asking for what the courts have said is legally ours," he added.

At an earlier press conference at city hall, members of the city council and education advocates similarly urged Pataki to pay up immediately. Led by Education Chairman Robert Jackson -- one of the original plaintiffs in the CFE case --- the message from the group was clear: New York City desperately needs the CFE funds to address the debilitating overcrowding and crumbling facilities in its schools.

Chairman Jackson also launched the city council's new project, www.fundourschools.org, which allows New Yorkers to find out how capital budget funds affect new projects in their neighborhood.

CFE commends the mayor, Speaker Quinn, Chairman Jackson, and other advocates for working to secure for New York City's children the educational opportunities to which they are entitled. In light of the state's $3.3 billion budget surplus this year, there are no more excuses for the State's ongoing failure to adequately fund our schools.

CFE and its allies are urgently calling on the legislature to enact and fund the Schools for New York's Future Act this year. The bill was introduced into the assembly last June as A-100. It calls for $8.6 billion to be phased in to schools across the state over four years. For year one, the bill calls for an additional $2.1 billion for districts across the state, and no district would suffer any cuts in state aid.

CFE echoes the sentiments of city lawmakers who are urging the public to demand from Albany what is rightfully theirs. To get involved and send letters to your legislators, please visit the Alliance for Quality Education's website at www.ourkidscantwait.org.

February 14, 2006