Jamestown Public School Superintendent Tim Mains says opening arguments in the trial between eight small city school districts (Utica, Poughkeepsie, Jamestown, Mount Vernon, Kingston, Newburgh, Port Jervis and Niagara Falls) is set to begin before Judge Kimberly O’Connor on January 21 in Albany.
That is the latest date for arguments to begin, with the initial date slated for September 2014 only to be pushed back until December 2014 and then, finally, to the latest date of January 21.
In the lawsuit, which is known as Maisto v. New York, the eight school districts argue that both parents and teachers have experienced the negative effects of inadequate state aid. The districts say that state cuts in education funding are depriving students of the “sound basic education” that they are entitled to under the New York Constitution.
Mains says that while the trial begins on January 21, its’ unlikely anyone from Jamestown will testify until several weeks later.
“They’ll start near the end of January and they’ll present testimony from each of the eight districts that are part of the lawsuit,” Mains said. “Jamestown will be near the end of that lineup so we’ll probably be testifying in sometime in February or possibly even early March.”
Mains adds that in recent months, the small city schools have picked up some additional help by way of two new law firms that have agreed to take on the case.
“The attorneys who represent us have been joined by two other law firms who are have volunteered their services to assist us in this effort, so I’m very encouraged by the increased support from one national and one international firm, both of which have a fair amount of experience with school financing issues.”
Jamestown’s involvement with the lawsuit – sometimes called the “Small Cities” case – has spanned nearly eight years with the lawsuit serving as the culmination of its effort bring more school aid into the district from Albany.
The eight districts believe they deserve a more equitable distribution of state aid to fund daily operations. They would like to see a restoration in state aid totaling $255 million annually, to help offset the state’s freezing of funding under the New York Foundation Aid Formula several years ago.