Dear Commons Community,
In a major blow to Mario Cuomo’s efforts to withhold state aid to New York City public schools for the failure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers to reach agreement on a new teacher evaluation system, Justice Manuel J. Mendez of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, issued a ruling on barring the state’s education commissioner from deducting any school aid due the city until the matter is decided in court. The New York Times is reporting that:
“State officials, for now, cannot stop $260 million in aid from flowing into New York City’s schools as a penalty for the city’s failure to iron out a plan for evaluating public school teachers, a state judge ruled this week.
The preliminary injunction was a blow to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s promise to withhold the money after the Bloomberg administration and the city’s teachers’ union missed a Jan. 17 deadline for developing an evaluation system for the 75,000 teachers, which is also a core element of the state’s winning a lucrative federal grant.
Though the financial penalty was intended to motivate the two sides to act, they did not, and the judge, Justice Manuel J. Mendez of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, issued a ruling on Tuesday barring the state’s education commissioner from deducting any school aid due the city until the matter is decided in court.
Justice Mendez, in a four-page decision made public on Thursday, ruled that “innocent children,” particularly the neediest among them, could be hurt by financial cuts, as the plaintiffs had argued. He also agreed with the plaintiffs’ central argument that the matter revolves around a child’s constitutional right to a sound basic education.
“This decision is a substantial victory for all of New York City’s students,” said Michael A. Rebell, a lawyer who filed suit against the state on Feb. 5 on behalf of a group including nine parents and their children. “The judge clearly indicated that the state’s irrational penalty places innocent children at academic risk.”
Reaction to the decision underscored the bitterness over the issue, first outlined in 2010 state law.
Catherine T. Nolan, a Democrat from Queens and the chairwoman of the State Assembly’s education committee, called the ruling “tremendous,” adding, “No one should ever use formula-driven aid to punish kids.”
Congratulations to Judge Mendez for making such a sound judgment and taking New York politics and bureaucracy out of the education of children.