Friday, March 24, 2006

Shortchanging New York City's Children

If New York's Governor Pataki tries to run for president on some sort of successful-republican-in-a-democrat-state positioning, I'll be sure to remind everyone about how he sat around and did nothing after a court told him to increase funding for New York City's schools.

An appeals court ruled yesterday that New York City schools were being shortchanged by at least $4.7 billion annually in state aid, adding more firepower to the city's plea for more education money as lawmakers try to wrap up work on a state budget.

But in its ruling, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court said that only the governor and the Legislature, not the courts, could determine the exact amount of education aid.

The ruling is the latest twist in a more-than-decade-long court battle over state aid for New York City schools. More than two years ago, the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that students in New York City were being denied a sound basic education and ordered the Legislature and the governor to address the problem. They did not.

In its 3 to 2 decision, the Appellate Division ordered the Legislature to consider a plan to direct between $4.7 billion and $5.63 billion to New York City schools — more than either the governor, the Senate or the Assembly have put forward in their plans.

"This directive does not merely urge the governor and the Legislature to consider taking action," Justice John T. Buckley wrote in the majority decision. "They are directed to take action.

The matter for them to consider is whether $4.7 billion, or $5.63 billion, or some amount in between, is the minimum additional annual funding to be appropriated for the city schools."

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