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As Schenectady school budget cuts loom, lawsuit work goes on

As Schenectady schools superintendent Larry Spring prepares for two public meetings designed to tackle tough budget choices, he is hopeful about the civil rights complaint he filed three months ago. The federal Office of Civil Rights has been in contact with Spring, asking for more details on where the state has allegedly harmed certain students.

"They said, 'You'll notice we didn't ask any questions about the race aspect of this complaint,' and we said, 'Yes, we did notice that.' They indicated, 'because that part of your complaint is very strong, we feel very convinced and very solid about that part of the complaint.' So, we took that as a really good sign."

He says if the complaint leads to a finding in his favor, he would expect any monetary remedy to not affect the 2014-2015 budget. He also believes that in the event of a favorable ruling, New York State would be directed to fill funding gaps wherever they are found in school districts across the state, not only in Schenectady.

The complaint claims New York State discriminated against students of the district in violation of federal law, by using an educational funding system in a way that compromised educators' ability to teach minority and non-English speaking students. The lawsuit contends the state's "systemic failure" created a 2013-2014 budget gap of about 12 million dollars, forcing the district to use more than 2.1 million from its reserve fund.