For Immediate Release
October 19, 2021
Mona Davids, (646) 872-7149
Sam Pirozzolo, (917) 533-3437
Statements from Parent Plaintiffs Mona Davids, Sam Pirozzolo
and the New York City Parents Union On The Settlement of
NYSER v. State of New York
“Protection Of ‘The Foundation Aid Formula’ Was A Hard-Fought Victory
For Our Children – One They Deserve!”
The New York State Legislature earlier this year committed to increase funding for high-need school districts around the state by $4.2 billion by the 2023-24 school year. Recently, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York.
This case was filed in 2014 by a coalition of parents, students, and groups representing other stakeholders in the public education system to compel the state government to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula, the school-funding system established to ensure a sound basic education for all New York students in the wake of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision.
NYSER was represented by the Center for Educational Equity’s executive director Michael Rebell.
The NYSER plaintiffs included New York City public school parents Mona Davids and Sam Pirozzolo, both members of the New York City Parents Union.
In the settlement, the plaintiffs and the State agreed to put the case on hold on the condition that the State lawmakers honor their commitment to phase in the remaining $4.2 billion increase in annual funding required to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula. If the State follows through, the case will be dismissed. If not, the plaintiffs will be able to continue the litigation and seek an expedited trial to secure the promised funding.
NEW YORK CITY PARENTS UNION:
“In early 2014, when we first sued former Governor Cuomo for punishing our children and taking back $250 million dollars from our schools because Mayor Bloomberg and the teachers union did not agree on a new teacher evaluation system, we were told we are just parents and to stay out of it because it does not concern us. We disagreed because we are the real stakeholders and anything in the school system that affects our children concerns us.
Thankfully, the judge agreed with us and we got the injunction stopping Governor Cuomo.
When we expanded the lawsuit to include organizations and further pursue all the funding owed to our children, we never imagined the fight ahead to get the $4.2 billion dollars. This settlement is an important victory for parents.
We are proud of our two NYCPU members who were NYSER plaintiffs, Mona Davids and Sam Pirrozzolo, and we salute all of the other plaintiffs on this case. Protection of the “Foundation Aid Formula” was a hard-fought victory for our children – one they deserve!””
This case took seven long years to be resolved. I hope Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State legislature will keep their word. If they do not, we will reopen this lawsuit. As parents, we are not deterred by that possibility since we have already persevered and won a victory through this settlement.
Let’s be clear on this point: there was real intimidation taking place here, but I stood my ground. The Sheriff was ringing my doorbell at 9:00am in the morning to serve me with a subpoena to be deposed by the Attorney General’s office. There were significant demands made of parents and organizations for information, including access to my child’s academic and health records. Such an invasive response to a civil matter made me nervous and was shocking, inappropriate and unnecessary.
So now we, as parents, are bringing our own seat to the table to monitor how these funds will be utilized.
The first beneficiaries to the restored funding must be our Students with Special Needs. All students have suffered learning loss due to schools being closed for a year and a half. This is particularly true for Students with Special Needs, who have not been receiving the services mandated by their Individualized Education Programs. My son and other students with IEPs must now be provided with all the hours of mandated services that were lost during the past 18 months.
New York State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli sets forth the problem in harsh terms: “New York City, which educates nearly half of the state’s students with disabilities, reported that as many as 46% of students with disabilities received only part of the interventions in their IEP or none in November 2020… Disabled students who needed bilingual services suffered the greatest losses, with 41% of students entitled to bilingual counseling not receiving those services as of January.” Disruption to Special Education Services: Closing the Gap on Learning Loss from COVID-19. (September 2021) https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/pdf/special-education-report.pdf
Our general education students also face significant challenges to getting back on track with their educational progress. Each of these children may need some assistance. A portion of these restored funds should be made available to provide extra tutoring support services outside of school so students can catch up.
We all must do right by our children first. Parents will not accept the redirection or siphoning of these education funds. We fought too hard, endured too long, and everyone can see the detrimental impact that COVID 19 has had on our children’s educational experiences. The NYSER settlement money must be allocated in its entirety for the direct benefit of public school students and their support systems, and not to consultants and bureaucratic needs.”
“It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge the willingness of Governor Kathy Hochul to support a better education for New York City’s public school children.
I am a concerned parent and I am the best and strongest advocate for my child’s education. Sadly, parents may be the only advocates for their children’s education. I was one of the parents deposed for over five hours by no fewer than six government attorneys testing my resolve in pushing forward with this lawsuit. Why was that appropriate? I was not alone, however, as there were other parents who had the Attorney General knocking at their door in an attempt to intimidate and frighten plaintiffs.
Now, we face another daunting challenge: the proper spending of this money. As if making $1.6 million disappear was not enough, Mayor de Blasio is talking about taking this money from the children who need it for use with his own pet projects. Therefore, there is a possibility that New York State will yet again walk away from its commitment to our children. Who will be there to stop this from happening? PARENTS”.