In the summer of 2018, I signed on to be a plaintiff in the NYSER school funding litigation representing families and students in the Syracuse City School District. The case involves pressing New York state to equitably fund public education and stop disadvantaging poor urban and rural school districts. In my participation in the case, I provided my children’s educational records to the state and almost had my emails subpoenaed. I gave testimony for six hours at the local state attorney general’s office.
I expected that my youngest child, now in fifth grade, would be in college before the case was resolved. As I engaged in this long-haul act of advocacy for public education, I was assured that the Syracuse City School District’s leadership was supportive of the families putting themselves under the scrutiny of the state attorney general’s office for the sake of our students. I have since learned that the promised support never materialized.
As I waited for the wheels of justice to grind, slow as molasses in January as expected, I became increasingly dismayed by reports about the district from the team of lawyers representing plaintiffs. Syracuse City School District leadership seemed increasingly reticent in participating in the case, unwilling to respond to requests for meetings and information to support plaintiff claims that the district needed better financial resources to meet its responsibilities to Syracuse’s students. This reluctance culminated in testimony during the summer and fall of 2020. Several district staff claimed that additional resources would not make a difference in the quality of education that the district provided to Syracuse’s students.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the testimony that was contrary to families’ experience in the district. Again and again, district staff claimed not to know if more funding and more resources would allow them to provide a sound basic education to Syracuse’s students. My honest first thought was that it was their jobs to know exactly that. I don’t understand why district leadership chose a course of action that led to Syracuse’s plaintiffs withdrawing from the case. The district has yet to respond to inquiries from myself and others invested in winning education funding for Syracuse’s students equitably.
The result of the testimony given by district staff is that I am no longer a plaintiff in the NYSER case. I continue to advocate for Syracuse’s students and families. I continue to advocate for appropriate funding of education here in Syracuse despite the district’s sabotage of that effort. I encourage you to read Syracuse City School District staff’s testimony below and ask them why they don’t know how funding affects the quality of education they offer to Syracuse students.
Samantha Pierce is the author of Voice of The Unheard, a science fiction novel. Available in print at Amazon.com.
I take a general what happens if I do this approach to life. It keeps things interesting.