The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (C.F.E.) is an advocacy organization whose victory in a historic lawsuit in 2006 brought billions in additional funding to poor school districts in New York State. The future of the C.F.E. is now uncertain, as they no longer have sufficient funding to continue operations. The lack of funding reflects the emerging trend amongst donors away from the traditional legal battle over equality between poor and wealthy school districts. Many donors have turned their focus to new ideas, such as research into teacher effectiveness and charter schools.
In 2006, after 13 years of litigation, C.F.E.’s victorious lawsuit resulted in Governor Elliot Spitzer pledging to phase in $7 billion in additional funding over five years, beginning in 2007. New York City alone was to receive $5.4 billion. However, after the economic downturn two years later in 2009, the New York Legislature froze the additional aid at the prior year’s level. Subsequently, in 2011, an overall $1.3 billion reduction in education aid brought school financing levels roughly back to the levels prior to the C.F.E. lawsuit. For example, New York City is set to receive $643 million in C.F.E. funds in 2012 from the state, but the overall cut in state aid is $812 million. According to the city’s Department of Education, the result is an overall net decrease in funding.
C.F.E. is currently contemplating a merger with the Education Law Center, a New Jersey-based advocacy organization that recently won a $500 million judgment in a school-financing lawsuit. The Education Law Center shares the same mission as C.F.E. of ensuring that “students in poor school districts are not deprived of their constitutional right to a sound basic education.”