In the wake of NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's civil rights lawsuit against the Utica City School District, people are asking questions.

How is that a school with such diversity (over 40 languages spoken) end up in the cross hairs of the AG and his civil rights charge?

Why not let the State Education Department work with the city to make sure it is in compliance?

Why would he AG want to sue and ultimately add even more stress to the financially struggling school district?

Some believe the suit is in retaliation over the district's involvement in two lawsuits against the state concerning inadequate funding.  Others feel it's a chance at a national headline during a time when the refugee issue is front and center on the Presidential campaign trail.

The claim charges that Utica’s Proctor High School has violated the rights of refugees between the ages of 17 and 21 by not providing them with a sound education.  It’s the first time in New York that a school district has been named in a suit like this one filed with the federal government. Gerace said normally, issues such as this one involving students would have been handled by the State Education Department.

Sign an Online Petition Supporting the Utica Schools in this Case

The students, who come from parts of the world that provide no education base what so ever, were sent through programs set up by BOCES and the Refugee Center in Utica in an effort to escalate their learning experience with the ultimate goal of earning a GED and possibly gaining a vocational opportunity.

So what is the real reason for his federal lawsuit?  Whatever it is, certain facts are clear: Utica is the second poorest school district in New York State and they now have to spend valuable dollars on legal fees to defend themselves in this federal case.

So, just how financially stricken is the Utica School District?  Here are some facts provided by the Statewide Schools Finance Consortium:

Utica City School District by the Numbers:

  • 2nd lowest property values to raise taxes of all 674 school districts in NYS. (Property ratio (PWR) =.222 or less than one quarter of the state average)
  • 5th lowest overall measures of local fiscal capacity in support its own school district of all 674 school districts in NYS. (Combined Wealth ratio (CWR) =.266 or about one quarter of the state average)
  • 7th lowest income values to pay taxes of all 674 school districts in NYS. (Income ratio (APWR) =.311 or less than a third of the state average)
  • 7th in terms of greatest cumulative amount of formula Foundation Aid owed to a school district in NYS out of the currently 458 underfunded school districts at $409 million. (2007 to present)
  • 10th in terms of greatest amount of Foundation Aid owed to a NYS school district in 2015-16 out of 674 school districts at $47 million. 
  • 12th in terms of percentage of underfunded Foundation Aid for 2015-16 at 37% out of 458 underfunded school districts in NYS.  Utica is only 63% funded.
  • 12th in terms of amount per student of underfunded Foundation Aid for 2015-16 at $4,623 out of 458 underfunded school districts in NYS.  
  • 16th highest percentage (at 80.7%) of elementary school children receive the Federal poverty program known as Free and Reduced price lunch of the 674 school districts in NYS.
  • 45th highest percentage of minority population (62%) of all 674 school districts in NYS. Additionally, 42 different foreign languages are spoken by students and parents within the district’s schools.
  • 17% (or 1,700) of the 10,150 Utica City School District students are English Language Learners. That’s almost 1 out over every 5 students.
  • 200 students ages 17-21 are English Language Learners.
  • $20 million has been cut from the Utica City School District Budget over the last 4 years.
  • $21 Million has been withheld from the Utica City School District in GEA beginning in 2010-11.
  • 365 educational and staff jobs have been cut from the Utica City School District Budget in the last 4 years.