JPS Testifies In Small City School District’s Lawsuit

JPS Superintendent Tim O. Mains and Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Jessie Joy, traveled to Albany, NY  to testify in the Small City School District’s lawsuit. After more than six years of delay by the State, the trial, for the critically important lawsuit Maisto et al. v State of New York, has begun. The lawsuit was brought by parents and students in eight small city school districts to affirm their right to the sound basic education guaranteed by the Education Article of the New York State Constitution. Plaintiffs will present superintendents and educators from each district, along with experts in education practice and school finance. The trial before Judge Kimberly O’Connor is expected to take six weeks. 

“We are encouraged that the trial is finally going forward and we will have the opportunity to testify on how inadequate funding by the state is directly affecting our students and our community,” said Superintendent Mains. “We hope that the trial brings awareness to the underfunding of small city school districts across New York State. Education is sequential and the opportunity for a sound basic education is quickly lost: for each year of inadequate funding, a student falls further behind. We hope there is a quick resolution determining that all children in New York State deserve to have a sound, basic education, no matter their location or background.”

Lawyers for both sides made opening statements last week before Judge O’Connor. The students’ lawyers told the court that the State had failed to provide the education aid needed for a sound basic education and had cut billions in aid statewide and hundreds of millions from the 8 districts alone since 2011. The Attorney General conceded that test scores and graduation rates were clearly not adequate but asserted the districts had enough state aid and that aid shortfall was not a significant problem.

The case was brought in 2008 in State Supreme Court in Albany County by parents and students in Jamestown, Kingston, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie and Utica City School Districts and follows in the footsteps of the landmark New York City education finance case Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York.  These eight districts serve 55,000 students and 330,000 residents.

The issues raised by Maisto, such as the State’s dramatic underfunding of New York’s poorest school districts and its impact on the neediest children, are of utmost importance as over the past four years the State has made severe cuts to education aid. These cuts were particularly harmful in these eight districts because they came at a time when education resources available in the districts were at historic lows.

The Maisto plaintiffs are eager to present evidence at trial that students in these districts are not being provided the basic resources necessary for success. The resulting poor student outcomes show that students are being denied a meaningful high school education that prepares them for college and career.