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Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State of New York 

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Court/Judicial body:: New York State Court of Appeals
Date: 1993-2006 
Instrument(s) cited: New York State Constitution

Case summary

In this case, the non-profit educational advocacy organization Campaign for Fiscal Equity sued the state government on behalf of children in New York City public schools. Like many urban school districts, New York City’s public schools were vastly underfunded and struggled greatly throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. When the lawsuit was filed, the school district had difficulty providing basic textbooks for its pupils, let alone the training and support necessary to retain and nurture teachers and administrators. The graduation rates were abysmal, and with no improvement in sight, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity was formed to take action. In 1995, New York’s highest court (the Court of Appeals) ruled that all children in the state had a right to a “sound basic education” under the New York State Constitution. In 2003, the Court of Appeals defined this basic education as a high school diploma, noting that “high school education is now all but indispensable” for students today to “prepare[] them to function productively as civic participants.” The Court found that students were end to (1) High-quality teaching; (2) Small class sizes; and (3) Basic learning and instructional tools, including classroom supplies, textbooks, libraries, and computers. With this in mind, the Court went on to order that New York State: Determine the costs of providing students a basic high school education in New York City; Reform school funding to provide every school in New York City with the resources necessary to provide this education; and Establish a system to ensure that the educational reforms the State makes are actually put into use The amount of funding required to reform New York City’s schools was a matter of debate through late 2006, when the Court approved the State’s estimate of nearly 2 billion dollars to be budgeted for that purpose. 

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