The battle for better schools for New York City students again finds itself in court—maybe for the last time.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity filed a motion on Tuesday asking an appeals court to prevent the stay on Governor Pataki’s appeal from going through. According to the CFE, their motion will prevent the governor from avoiding payment of the billions of dollars in aid to New York City Public schools, at least for a little while.
“The governor is under a court mandate to deliver to our children sound basic education,” said Stacy Feldman of the CFE.
After a 12 year legal battle, the campaign won a case in New York State’s highest court last year affirming that the state was obligated to provide New York City public schools with several billion dollars in additional funds.
Since then, the governor has filed several appeals to avoid paying the city, and the CFE has fought each one. This February, Manhattan Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled that the State had 90 days to pay $5.6 billion for yearly operating costs and $9.6 billion for facilities improvements to public schools in the city.
On Monday, Governor Pataki appealed that ruling “because the court has ordered a massive infusion of cash without recommending a single reform,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for the governor.
According to state lawyers, this appeal effectively gives the state more time to allocate the money, since it eliminates the 90 day deadline that had previously existed.
But the CFE disagrees. They immediately took action to file a stay that will force the governor to pay money to New York City schools by the deadline, before the forthcoming school year.
“We’re just hoping to ensure that our children receive the resources that they need this year,” Feldman said.
Community leaders hope that the governor will allocate money to New York’s public schools.
“I really would like to see [the state government] come up with the money that has been won in court,” said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9.
State representatives said they wished the governor had provided funding for New York City schools in his original budget. The Governor “never proposed anything to counter CFE decision,” said Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D–Morningside Heights). “He will not ... give up his appeal.”
Senator Eric Schneidermann (D–Upper Manhattan) agreed that the governor’s budget did not do enough for New York’s schools. “One of the biggest things is that it still didn’t address the CFE lawsuit,” Clifton Pool, head of policy for Schneidermann, said.
But to CFE’s lawyers and staff, the governor’s decision to deprive New York City schools of financial aid is more of the same. They have been fighting to secure funding for years, and they are not going to give up now.
Feldman described the appeal as more “cynical delay tactics to essentially avoid the inevitable.” She said the governor is “perpetuating violation that will necessarily harm at least one million public school children in NYC.”