ALBANY—As threatened, a coalition of education groups announced on the (cold!) Capitol steps they have sued David Paterson, saying his decision to stall education payments (which were to be sent Tuesday) is unconstitutional.
The suit says that Educational Law requires the governor to make payments on a fixed schedule, that he is violating the separation of powers in the constitution—which gives him and the legislature joint budgetary powers—and that he is violating his obligation to provide a sound, basic, education to students. The education groups also noted that Paterson tried to have this done legislatively during a special session earlier this month, but failed.
Paterson argues that language within the budget bills passed this year give him the power to withhold certification on due payments if funds are not available.
“It’s a sad day,” said Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers, a lead plaintiff. “If you’re a third grader and you go into the classroom and there’s a new teacher in the middle of the year, it’s quite a trauma for you.”
“We cannot run our school systems based on chaos and doubt,” said Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. “We need a viable partner in the state.”
“You are not in a situation where we’re whining about school funding, we’re simply saying, a commitment’s been made,” said L. Oliver Robinson, president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents (and superintendent of the Shenendehowa School District in Clifton Park.)
Paterson has scheduled a press conference for 4:30 where I assume he’ll rage against this. Some of my colleagues in the shivering press corps asked the advocates where they expected to get the money, should their case be successful.
“I would have him look at the revenues that are available,” Lubin said, including the possibility of pooling for prescription drug purchases to save money. Kremer said the state should “borrow.”
Kevin Casey, executive director for the School Administrators Association, said that the suit was filed in Supreme Court in Albany County before Michael Lynch. No restraining order was sought, so Paterson’s withholding will stand for now. An “expedited process” was requested, however, and Casey said a reply by the Attorney General is due Dec.23. The suit names Paterson, Budget Director Robert Megna and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as defendants.
An oral argument is tentatively scheduled for January 1, but the hearing judge has not been named, a NYSUT spokesman said. The dates, therefore, may change.