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New York still owes billions to state schools

Jan 13, 2016 12:08 am
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Nia Hamm reports from New York News Connection for Public News Service that it's been 10 years since the state's high court ordered New York to pay billions of dollars for bilking state schools out of funding. But a report by the Alliance for Quality Education finds the state still owes $4.8 billion from that judgement, largely to schools in high-need communities.

Alliance Executive Director Billy Easton has said his group, parents, teachers and legislators will spend the next several months pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pay up.

"What we want to see is quality investment in our schools. If the state had been doing its job all along, our schools - those that are struggling - would be doing better," said Easton. "The vast majority of our schools are doing well, but they're still underfunded. And local taxpayers can't do it in property taxes."

The 2006 ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

Using State Education Department data, the report found 72 percent of the $4.8 billion is owed to districts located in low-income neighborhoods. Also based on state data, the report breaks down the amounts owed to schools based on each legislator's school district.

Easton said he and other advocates are urging Gov. Cuomo to commit some of this year's expected budget surplus to paying this debt.

"The state has a $2.7 billion recurring surplus," he pointed out. "There are also options for how else they could generate money by taxing millionaires and hedge-fund managers to pay their fair share in order to fund our schools."

He said the group is planning a number of activities to shine a light on the issue, including a rally at the State Capitol today (Tues.), and predicted hundreds will attend.
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