Whoa, it's a good news, bad news day for the Campaign of Fiscal Equity's attempt to get more money for New York City Schools. The NY State Court of Appeals just ruled that NY State should pay an additional $1.93 billion a year in public school funding to New York City. That sounds great, except that other courts had previously ruled that NYC deserved $4-6 billion. But since the Court of Appeals is the state's highest court, this ruling will probably stick. From the NY Times:
“The lower courts were wrong,” [State Senator Joseph] Bruno said today. “They were out of their jurisdiction. They were doing things that were inappropriate. They were literally fooling the public by pretending that a lot of money was going to flow, billions and billions.”
For his part, Mr. Spitzer issued a statement reiterating his pledge to provide more money than was ordered by the court. “We must provide more funding than this constitutional minimum, so that all of New York’s schoolchildren have an opportunity to thrive in the 21st century workplace,” he said.
Other top officials, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said they were reviewing the decision. But the ruling left the plaintiffs in the case, a coalition of New York City education advocacy groups called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, struggling to put the best spin on what was a deflating end to their long battle.
“Finally, we have a decision that requires at least $2 billion in additional funding for the city schools,” said Joseph F. Wayland, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Two years ago, the governor was saying they weren’t deserving of even a cent.”
The ruling was 4-2 (and may have benefited from Governor Pataki's recent appointments to the court), and in the dissent, Judge Judith Kaye wrote, "A sound basic education will cost approximately $5 billion in additional annual expenditures. I remain hopeful that, despite the Court’s ruling today, the policymakers will continue to strive to make the schools not merely adequate, but excellent, and to implement a statewide solution."
Read the ruling here (PDF). Here is the website of the Campaign of Fiscal Equity, which sued the state for more money for city schools. Ben Smith at the Daily Politics notes that this is win-win for Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, who had been saying NYC schools needs at least $4 billion: "First, as attorney general, he was the lawyer for the winning side. Second, as the governor-elect, he gains a lot more maneuvering room in putting together his budget." Also, here's how Pataki packed the court.