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A New York court settlement means more money for poorer school districts

The New York Capitol Building in Albany
Pete Dzintars
The New York Capitol Building in Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state has ended its opposition to a 2006 ruling from New York's highest court that required billions more to be allocated each year to schools to address inequities in the education system.

The legal settlement means that New York will fully abide by the court order.

The New York Court of Appeals ordered that the state pay the additional money to the poorest schools 15 years ago, but the decision was never fully carried out by lawmakers.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which won the original case, filed suit again in 2014, along with the state school boards association, the PTA, and individual parents from New York City and Schenectady, to try to get the governor and Legislature to actually carry out the court order and allocate the funding.

The administration of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been fighting the lawsuit. Now, Hochul — who became governor after Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal — said she’s reached an agreement to settle the case, known as New Yorkers for Students' Educational Rights v. New York state.

“That legal battle is over,” Hochul said. “We have officially settled the lawsuit.”

In this year’s state budget, the Legislature provided for full funding for schools that was required by the 2006 court ruling. It will be phased in over the next three years. Hochul said by fiscal year 2024, New York will be spending at least $3.5 billion more on schools a year, for a total of $23.2 billion.

"We’ll make sure the money is there going forward,” Hochul said.

Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the pro-school funding group Alliance for Quality Education, called the settlement a “momentous shift in a fight that parents and community members have been waging for decades."

It’s not the first time that a governor and the Legislature have promised to fulfill the court order. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007 announced a phased-in plan to fully fund the schools, but it was scrapped during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.

If the governor and Legislature fail to follow through with their three-year funding plan this time, the settlement allows the plaintiffs to recommence their lawsuit with an expedited trial schedule.

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.