School funding

New York

Bruised by suit, advocates try persuasion to boost school funds

Panelists discuss a slate of new papers about school funding in New York at Teachers College Tuesday night. Michael Rebell led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's landmark school finance lawsuit for 13 years, but for a long time the lawyer was conflicted about the case. He believed what he ultimately convinced the courts: that the state had given New York City schools less than their fair share of funding. But he was also persuaded by a counter-argument that he heard during the litigation: that more money wouldn't help schools whose biggest problem was poverty. And the lawsuit itself wasn't helping him reconcile the tension. "We have this adversary system for dealing with legal matters in our courts, where two warring sides take firm and opposite opinions," he said. "The truth is sometimes more complicated than that." Now, months after CFE laid off its last employee and the state trimmed the equity dollars for the second time, Rebell is trying a different approach to advocate for poor students. As the director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, a think tank housed at Columbia University's Teachers College, Rebell is setting out to win not a legal victory but the hearts and minds of policymakers. His first step: To solicit a set of academic papers, released this week and discussed at Teachers College Tuesday night, that make the case for what he calls "comprehensive educational equity." A main point of the papers is, as the CFE lawsuit contended and the New York Times reported earlier this week, that the state should give more to its schools — $4,750 per poor student, to be precise. But they also sketch out a policy platform that Rebell said could help close racial and class achievement gaps.
New York

Fight over charter school funding freeze pushed to next year

After repeatedly lobbying the mayor to find more funding for charter schools, charter school leaders believe the battle in Albany is over for this year. The state's education spending for next year is still in limbo: Yesterday, Paterson vetoed a budget that included $419 million in education aid, and the legislature may or may not override the veto. But with no players — neither the governor nor the legislature — showing interest in unfreezing charter school funds, advocates are now setting their sights on next year. "People are already lining up for the 2012 budget," said James Merriman, head of the city's Charter School Center. One last hope for charter school supporters is that Mayor Bloomberg might himself un-do the funding freeze with city funds. Charter school leaders have been petitioning City Hall to fill in the funding freeze using city dollars. On Friday, the mayor made his first public call for equal per-pupil funding for charter schools in a letter sent to Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (printed in full below the jump). But the mayor stopped short of demanding that some of the funds be given to charter schools this year: It is in keeping with our commitment to fairness and equity that we treat all public schools, charter and non-charter, alike. Given the complexities involved, it would be unreasonable to think that all of the issues involved will be resolved in this session. What is essential is that we move forward with a commitment to end disproportionality.