Missed this article a couple months ago from the NYT City Room blog (6/8/2011):
After a series of setbacks, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the advocacy organization whose victory in a historic lawsuit brought billions of additional dollars to poor school districts in New York State, has run out of money to sustain itself, the organization said.
The organization’s last remaining employee, Helaine K. Doran, will leave the group’s Lower Manhattan office this month and, essentially, lock the door behind her.
While its future is not yet certain, the president of its board of directors, Luis Miranda, said on Tuesday that the group was in talks to merge with the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, which two weeks ago won a $500 million judgment in its own long-standing school-financing litigation, known as the Abbott case.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio Indep. School Dist. v. Rodriguez,1 advocates in 45 states have brought actions challenging school finance systems under their state constitutions with challengers prevailing in 26 of the 45 cases that resulted in a judicial decision.2 Overall though, “progress has been fitful, and the victories often short-lived and generally incomplete, and even after all these years of litigation unacceptable inequities remain the norm in the majority of states.”3 Even in New York, where the Court of Appeals affirmed that the state’s constitution requires that every public school child in the State of New York has a right to a “sound basic education” defined as “a meaningful high school education,”4 Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which brought the litigation in 1996, lamented: “We really came to the decision that if we could get a functioning lab in every school, decent class sizes, gym facilities, an adequate education in every school – to get there is such a huge battle. . . Maybe in 20 years, if we ever get that, somebody else can say that they want to go for equity. But that’s not our battle.”5
Continuing from the NYT:
When the Campaign for Fiscal Equity won its case in 2006 after 13 years of litigation, the New York State Court of Appeals largely left it to the Legislature to decide how much additional state aid should flow to poor districts. In 2007, Gov. Eliot Spitzer pledged to phase in $7 billion in additional funding over five years, with $5.4 billion to New York City alone.
But two years later, when the state was hit by the economic downturn, the Legislature froze the additional aid at the prior year’s levels. And this year, the Legislature’s overall $1.3 billion cut in education aid brings financing levels roughly back to pre-lawsuit levels, said Billy Easton, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, another education advocacy organization.
New York City, for example, will get $643 million in Campaign for Fiscal Equity funds next year from the state, but the overall cut in state aid is $812 million, translating into a net decrease, according to the city’s Department of Education.
1 411 U.S. 1 (1973).
2 Amy L. Moore, When Enough Isn’t Enough: Qualitative and Quantitative Assessments of Adequate Education in State Constitutions by State Supreme Courts, 41 U. Tol. L. Rev. 545, 570 n.219 (2010). Since the first and second “waves” of education finance claims based respectively on the Federal and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and state equal protection and education clauses, the “third wave” of educational finance claims have primarily argued for “adequacy” (specifying a state’s minimum obligation for all students) as opposed to “equity” (equal per pupil funding for all students) under state education clauses. See Id. at 577-580 (Appendix A) for a list of such cases between 1989 and 2009. See also Brian J. Nickerson & Gerard M. Deenihan, From Equity to Adequacy: The Legal Battle for Increased State Funding of Poor School Districts in New York, 30 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1341 (2003) (discussing the shift from equity to adequacy in New York State).
3 Jonathan Kozol, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America 245 (2005).
4 Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 8 N.Y.3d 14, 861 N.E.2d 50 (N.Y. 2006).
5 Michael Cooper, Robin Hood, Santa Claus And Financing For Schools, N.Y. Times, June 6, 2004, at 37.