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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:41 am, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

CFE-style lawsuit launched to raise school spending

TA coalition of advocates and individuals, including Community Education Council 28 in Central and Southeast Queens, and a parent from Far Rockaway, are suing the state to increase its funding for education. Brought by New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights against the state, Gov. Cuomo and education officials in Albany, the case is being handled by attorney Michael Rebell, who also led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case.

The plaintiffs in the CFE case argued that Albany is failing to provide all students with a sound, basic education, as mandated by the state Constitution, because it does not provide schools, especially in the city, with enough funding. Though the court agreed after years of litigation, and funding was increased for a couple of years, it was then cut in response to the 2008 recession, according to the advocates.

The NYSER case argues that not just the city’s 1.1 million students but all those across the state are being shortchanged, in violation of the “sound, basic education” clause. Among the individual plaintiffs is Ellen Trachtenberg of Far Rockaway, whose son, Jonathan, attends the Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI middle school in Far Rockaway.

The city spends an average of about $20,000 a year per student, the highest amount among the nation’s 100 largest school districts, according to U.S. Census figures.

De Blasio drops state stop-and-frisk case

The city is dropping a lawsuit the Bloomberg administration had filed against the City Council to block a law meant to prevent police stops of people based on their appearance, the Mayor’s Office announced Wednesday.

The former administration had argued that Local Law 71 is illegal because it legislates in the area of criminal procedure, which is state jurisdiction. And, it said, such stops are already banned under existing law. Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, also worried Local Law 71, part of the Community Safety Act, could leave police vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits when making stops, acting as a deterrent to law enforcement.

But the Council majority insisted the law was necessary to protect residents from unwarranted, unconstitutional stops, and de Blasio agrees. He had co-sponsored the law when he was the public advocate.

Knowing that the incoming mayor would drop the suit, the police unions also sued to block the law. The status of their case could not be determined by press time.

The case against Local Law 71 is separate from the federal litigation over stop and frisk, which de Blasio is seeking to settle, and was being heard in state Supreme Court.


City offers free aids to help quit smoking

The city Health Department on March 4 kicked off its ninth annual free nicotine patch and gum program to help New Yorkers quit smoking. The program, in partnership with the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, will run through April 1.

Since the nicotine patch and gum program began in 2006, it has helped almost 300,000 adult New Yorkers quit smoking and aided the city’s effort to reduce the prevalence of adult smoking to 15.5 percent and youth smoking to 8.5 percent, the department said.

Anyone who wants free patches or gum should visit nysmokefree.com or call 311.


Obamacare deadline

Those seeking health insurance through the state exchange, New York State of Health, are reminded that they must sign up by March 31 to get it this year as required by law.

Signing up by March 15 will get a resident coverage by April 1. Signing up by March 31 will start coverage May 1. Failure to sign up by then will result in a penalty, unless more changes are made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The state says nearly 558,000 people had enrolled by March 4. The website is nystateofhealth.ny.gov.


— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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