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Education advocates explore injunction against 20% state school aid cuts

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More schools around New York say they are scaling back on plans for in-person learning and expanding remote instruction, citing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s temporary 20% cut in state aid to schools which was enacted to help close a pandemic related state budget deficit.

Now, the attorney who won a court case over a lack of school funding, Michael Rebell, says the cuts might be unconstitutional, and is looking into seeking  an injunction against them.   

Rebell was the lead attorney in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that resulted in a 2006 New York Court of Appeals decision ordering the state to pay billions more in school aid each year. The decision helped secure each child’s right under New York’s constitution to a sound, basic education.

There’s been debate over whether that court order was ever fulfilled under Cuomo's tenure. Rebell says a permanent 20% cut in state aid, which has been temporarily imposed by Cuomo citing the COVID-19 pandemic related state budget deficit, would likely violate that court order. 

“That constitutional right doesn’t go on hold because there are financial constraints, because the state is having financial difficulties,” Rebell said. “This is a constitutional right.” 

Rebell spoke at news conference with education funding advocates and several state lawmakers, including the co-founder of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and now State Sen. Robert Jackson. Rebell says he and others are still researching whether an injection can be sought and have not yet made a decision.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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