State Should Stop Dragging Its Feet On Small Cities School Funding Lawsuit

Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education members have made the right decision in continuing to fund the district’s portion of the Maisto v. State of New York court case.

Otherwise known as the “Small Cities” lawsuit, the district and eight fellow small-city school districts around the state sued the state in 2009, arguing the state was denying students in those districts a sound education by underfunding the district.

The 13-year battle continues to this day. In May 2021, the Appellate Division, Third Department of the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the small city school districts. It followed a decision years earlier by then-acting state Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor, who in 2016 found the plaintiffs failed to prove that the state did not meet its requirements set out in the New York State constitution for a “sound, basic education.” The case is now in the remedy phase to study deficiencies in the districts to come up with a cost to provide a sound, basic education.

But as the remedy phase enters its 19th month, Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, thinks the state is dragging its feet in an attempt to force the school districts’ into dropping out of the lawsuit.

“Their belief is that, even though they know that the funding formula and process has been unjust to poor school districts, they believe that extending through legal means the timeline for which this process would take will cause districts, especially the poorer ones, to run out of money and drop out of the lawsuit,” Whitaker said Tuesday.

Whether that’s the state’s goal or not, that’s where this inexorable slog is headed. New York state can move quickly when it suits the state politically. It’s time for the state to move quickly through this remedy phase and fund the small city school districts in accordance with the Appellate Court’s ruling.


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