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New York Sued for Discrimination

December 4, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accused New York state of discriminating against minority students who attend inferior schools.

Students in mostly nonwhite schools are twice as likely to be taught by unlicensed teachers, six times as likely to be denied remedial services, far less likely to have access to books and computers, and a third less likely to get Regents instruction, said NYCLU lawyer Christopher Dunn.

``Public education is the only service that blames the customer when it does not do a good job,″ said Lindell Ray, one of the 59 named plaintiffs and the mother of a 16-year-old sophomore at the mostly black Hempstead High School on Long Island. ``Black children are as competent and capable when given proper resources.″

The federal lawsuit uses the state’s own data to show disparities in academic performance, facilities and staffing.

It claims the inequities violate Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination. Because the state accepts federal education funding, it must abide by terms of the act.

The lawsuit also argues that state aid formulas exacerbate the inequities. In most districts, more than half of school funding comes from local property taxes, so that per-pupil expenditures are far higher in wealthy neighborhoods.

Gov. George Pataki on Thursday declined to comment, but strongly defended his efforts to improve the state’s schools. He said funding for education had increased in each of the past two years.

The class action was filed on behalf of 80,000 students in 150 schools in Long Island, Westchester County, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester.

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