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Attorney Considering Injunction Against 20% School Aid Cuts

School Bus at Shenedehowa
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More schools around New York say they are scaling back on plans for in person learning and expanding remote instruction. They cite Governor Andrew Cuomo’s temporary 20% cut in state aid to schools, enacted to help close a pandemic related state budget deficit. Now, the attorney who won a court case over a lack of school funding, says the cuts might be unconstitutional, and is looking into seeking an injunction against them.  

Michael Rebell was the lead attorney in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. It resulted in a 2006 New York Court of Appeals decision that ordered the state to pay billions more in school aide each year, to help 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 the tenure of Governor Andrew Cuomo. But 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. He says he’s looking at the possibility of seeking a legal injunction against the cuts.

“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 a news conference with education funding advocates and several state lawmakers, including the cofounder of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and now state Senator Robert Jackson.

Rebell says he and others are still researching whether an injunction 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 public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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