Cara Matthews. Journal News. 4/19/2006.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity filed an appeal Tuesday, asking the court to compel the state to spend a specific amount of money on education and develop a timetable for doing so.

The group recently won a landmark decision ordering the state to pour up to $5.63 billion more into New York City schools. However, the mid-level state court on March 23 only ordered Gov. George Pataki and the Legislature to provide between $4.7 billion and $5.63 billion annually in operating funds for New York City, phased in over four years, and $9.2 billion over five years for classrooms, libraries and other improvements.

The judges in the 3-2 decision said they gave a range because they did not have the authority to direct the Legislature and governor on exactly how much to spend.

The Legislature and governor made provisions to spend the full amount in capital funding, but they bumped up operating funds for New York City by only about $400 million in 2006-07.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity wants the Court of Appeals to rule on the power of the courts to enforce the decision, said Michael Rebell, a lawyer for the group. It filed the lawsuit 13 years ago.

"We think it's critical that we get this resolved by the end of this legislative session so we all know where we stand, the money starts flowing," he said.

Meanwhile, Pataki and some legislative leaders have seized on the court's not ordering a specific amount to spend, saying that the separation of powers prohibits the courts from doing so.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, noted in a statement that the 2006-07 budget more than satisfies the capital construction portion of the ruling.

However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, supports the CFE's appeal, spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said. "We have long held that the governor should concede and pay the judgment rather than continuing his legacy of appeals," she said.

The Assembly's budget proposal for this year would have provided $654 million more in operating aid than the governor's budget to New York City, and $768.5 million statewide.

Over six years, the state would build up to an additional $6.8 billion a year. New York City would be required to pitch in $1.4 billion of that total, Larrabee said.