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Assemblyman says New York state 'picking' on Utica schools over lawsuit

Office of Assemblyman Brindisi
File Photo
Utica Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, at the podium, is suggesting that New York may be "picking on" the Utica City School District because some of its parents are suing the state over education funding.

Officials with the Utica City School District's office reportedly were denied access to a meeting with the governor's office last week. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) said they were headed to a regular annual meeting in Albany to discuss budget priorities with other school districts when something irregular occurred.

"They were told on the morning of the meeting that the governor's office would not meet with the Utica City School District delegation, but they would meet with the other school districts."

Brindisi said the governor's office told him Utica school officials were precluded from joining the meeting because of pending litigation. Parents from Utica and seven other school districts are suing New York state for what they deem inadequate education funding. But Brindisi says the governor's office erred here because the district is not a plaintiff in the case.

Brindisi and state Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Utica) sent a public letter to Cuomo criticizing the move, in which they said the governor was using students as "pawns in a political game." That prompted the governor's office to reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, but Brindisi says that does not necessarily resolve the issue.

"There seems to be somewhat of a pattern of the state picking on the Utica school district,' Brindisi said. "I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s in response to the litigation that the parents of the school district have brought against the state, but every school district should be treated equally when requests are made to meet with representatives of the government."

As an example, Brindisi mentioned a recent lawsuit from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The issue over the quality of education for refugee and immigrant students was settled this summer. However, a source in the attorney general's office said that lawsuit was part of a statewide review of school districts that resulted in 23 settlements, of which Utica was last.

The governor's office did not return a request for comment about  Brindisi's claim. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.