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New studies show NY school funding not meeting court order

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It's been nearly ten years since New York's highest court ruled that the state needed to better fund schools, and an attorney who helped litigate that case says it may be time to head back to court on the issue.

Michael Rebell is director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University's Teachers College. His group has just released two studies of "high needs" schools around the state, and found that they aren't meeting minimum state standards.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

Rebell says what the group found was consistent in the 33 New York City, suburban, and rural schools they studied: "On a pervasive, statewide basis, kids are not getting what the constitution says that they're entitled to."

Rebell would not identify which schools his group studied.  He says high needs schools were determined the number of students getting free and reduced price lunches, and by property values in the district.

They found that many of the schools were not meeting state minimum standards in many subjects.

"Thirteen of the 33 schools we visited are not providing sufficient instructional time in science to meet state minimum requirements, five schools are not meeting the state minimums in social studies, three are not meeting the minimums in mathematics. These are the core subjects."

Rebell says the court also ruled students have the right to art, health, tech, and foreign language classes—and those are also deficient. Many schools only offer Spanish, with no option to take French, German, or other foreign languages.

He says the state minimum requirements have become the maximum many of these schools offer, and adds that the reduced offerings put students at a disadvantage when applying to colleges.

"It's a devastating indictment, what we found. And what bothers me the most is that the state is not seriously looking at this stuff."

New York promised an additional $7 billion per year to schools starting in 2007, after the lawsuit. But Rebell says the state made huge cuts to education starting in 2009, and hasn't made up for the losses.

"The legislature and the governor, before they went cutting all this money, they should have thought about what going to be the impact on kids, on their constitutional rights, and all they've done is add up how much have we saved, can we balance the budget."

Rebell says something needs to be done in the coming state budget, or school funding advocates will have no choice but to consider another lawsuit against the state.

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