PARENTS ASK NY APPEALS COURT TO RELEASE ILLEGALLY FROZEN SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT FUNDS
March 7, 2017
Parents of students in three public schools are asking a New York appeals court to immediately release over $37 million in improvement grant funds frozen a year ago by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The latest request comes in a lawsuit filed by the parents charging the Cuomo Administration’s budget director, Robert Mujica, with violating the law when he refused to release grants previously appropriated by the Legislature to boost programs and services in twenty, high need schools across the state. Education Law Center represents the plaintiff parents and students.
On December 28, 2016, Judge Kimberly O’Connor in Albany found that the budget director exceeded his legal authority in withholding the grants and ordered the funds be immediately released to the NY State Education Department for distribution to support vital programs in the schools.
Governor Cuomo decided to appeal Judge O’Connor’s ruling last month. Under New York law, the appeal triggers an automatic stay of the order to release the funds. The parents are now asking the appeals court to lift the stay, citing the irreparable harm to students if the schools are unable to implement the programs supported by the grant funds.
“If the grant money is not released pending this appeal, hundreds of children in New York’s neediest schools will lose educational opportunities that they cannot regain,” said Wendy Lecker, ELC senior attorney. “Education is cumulative, so when students are deprived of the support needed for learning, it not only limits their achievement this year, but impedes progress as they move to subsequent grades.”
In affidavits filed in support of the parents’ request to the appeals court, administrators from three of the schools deprived of the grant funds – Hackett Middle School in Albany, Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, and JHS 80 Mosholu Parkway Middle School in the Bronx – detailed the essential programs they can no longer provide without the grants. These include extended learning time, social work and counseling, family outreach, academic intervention and professional development. The programs were implemented in 2015-16 with the first year of grant funds, but are on hold since the Governor decided to withhold the second year of funding.
Numerous programs have been held up by the Governor’s action:
- Hackett Middle School discontinued extended instructional time to provide students with additional academic assistance and professional development for teachers.
- Roosevelt High School cut a literacy/math coach and parent coordinator; discontinued professional development opportunities for teachers; and eliminated or sharply curtailed weekend and after-school extended learning time, college visits and CTE pathways.
- JHS 80 Mosholu Parkway Middle School could not implement any of its proposed programs, including mentoring for at-risk students, social workers and guidance counselors for their extended day program, and professional development for teachers.
The appropriation for the grants will lapse in March 2018. If the funds are not released pending the appeal, the schools may lose access to the remainder of the funds, permanently depriving students of the opportunity to benefit from the programs and services the grants were intended to support.
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