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N.Y. School Cuts May Be Unconstitutional

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David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons
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Attorney Michael Rebell

A temporary 20 percent cut to state aid to schools has forced districts in New York to scale back plans for in-person learning and expand remote instruction. But the attorney who won a court case over a lack of school funding said the cuts might be unconstitutional.

Michael Rebell was the lead attorney in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. It resulted in a 2006 New York Court of Appeals decision that ordered the state to pay billions more in school aide each year to help secure each child’s right under New York’s constitution to a sound basic education.

There’s been debate over whether that court order was ever fulfilled under the tenure of Governor Andrew Cuomo. But Rebell said a permanent 20% cut in state aid, which has been temporarily imposed by Cuomo citing the COVID-19 pandemic related state budget deficit, would likely violate that court order. He says he’s looking at the possibility of seeking a legal injunction against the cuts.

“That constitutional right doesn’t go on hold because there are financial constraints, because the state is having financial difficulties,” Rebell said. “This is a constitutional right.”

Rebell says he and others are still researching whether an injection can be sought, and have not yet made a decision.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.