What Is the Constitutional Concept and Meaning of the Term 'Sound Basic Education' ?

In Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (86 NY2d 307), the Court has set forth a specific standard (physical facilities and pedagogical services) which, if met, absolves the State of any further responsibility. The C.F.E. plaintiffs alleged a failure on the part of the State to meet this threshold and the Court allowed that case to proceed. By so doing, the Court appears to have, at least in part, equated "the opportunity of a sound basic education" with adequate "physical facilities and pedagogical services and resources. "However, the Court remanded the case back to the trial court "to evaluate whether the children in plaintiffs' districts are in fact being provided the opportunity to acquire the basic literacy, calculating and verbal skills necessary to enable them to function as civic participants capable of voting and serving as jurors" (C.F.E., at 318). The Court continued: "We do not attempt to definitively specify what the constitutional concept and mandate of a sound basic education entails. Given the procedural posture of this case, an exhaustive discussion and consideration of the meaning of a 'sound basic education' is premature." (C.F.E., 86 NY2d, supra, at 317.) One could surmise that the C.F.E. Court deferred on the meaning of "a sound basic education." Particularly since the proof adduced at the subsequent C.F.E. trial concerned both inputs and outcomes, it may well be something either other or more than "physical facilities and pedagogical services and resources." This may also be indicated by the C.F.E. Court (at 314) referring to " 'minimal acceptable facilities and services' " or " 'a sound basic education' " in the alternative. the Court states that "education was not a fundamental right" under either the United States ( San Antonio Ind. School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 US 1, reh denied 411 US 959) or State Constitution and that "the rational basis test was the appropriate standard for equal protection analysis under both Constitutions [citing Levittown, at 41-43]." The Court continues (at 321): "the case law from our Court and the Supreme Court holding that an equal protection cause of action based upon a disproportionate impact upon a suspect class requires establishment of intentional discrimination (see, Arlington Hgts. v. Metropolitan Hous. Corp., 429 US 252, 264-265; Washington v. Davis, 426 US 229, 240; People v. New York City Tr. Auth., 59 NY2d 343, 350, supra; Board of Educ. v. Nyquist, 57 NY2d, at 43-44, supra)."