For more than a week, a small but determined group of public school advocates, have undertaken an ambitious and heartfelt journey: a walk of 150 miles from New York City to Albany to deliver a message. That message? Pay up. After ten years of delays, excuses, cuts, and broken promises, it is past time for lawmakers and the governor to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement that was decided in 2006. That landmark ruling, itself the result of 13 years of advocacy and litigation, found that the state was failing its obligation to provide schools with the resources they needed for all children to have a “sound basic education.” Between 2007 and 2009, the state worked out a new foundational aid formula and committed to increasing school aid across the state by 5.5 billion dollars a year.
Today, Albany remains $3.9 billion short of that goal. Every year. Ten years after the court ruled that increased aid was necessary. So activists are walking from the steps of Tweed Courthouse in New York City to Albany to deliver the bill:
Albany has not always been so stubbornly unwilling to pay the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) settlement. In fact, immediately after the settlement, Albany rewrote the aid formula and began to phase in the additional money, increasing state aid to schools by 2.3 billion dollars. Unfortunately, twin crises for education in the Empire State struck nearly simultaneously. The first was the Great Recession which narrowed state tax revenues and threw the budget out of balance. This was unavoidable given the nature of the fiscal crisis across the entire country. The second crisis was the election of Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2010. This was probably avoidable although it was an open question at the time about just how horrible the governor would be.