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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Fair Share for Our Schools: A Multidisciplinary Curriculum: What should be done to achieve equity in school funding and in school quality in New York? Lesson 3
View the Short Video: Campaign for Fiscal Equality: Students Speak Out

Lesson Materials (word document)

This lesson is the third of three lessons in a small Social Studies unit on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity [CFE] lawsuit. The unit was formulated with the New York State curriculum in mind, to be used in an 11th grade class in U.S. History and Government, a 12th grade class Participation in Government class or an Advanced Placement US Government and Politics class. It is particularly suited for the study of state government.

The focus of this third lesson is how to overcome the obstacles in the way of settling the CFE case. The lesson examines the amounts of money which would be required to address the issue of school equity, and what that would mean in terms of raising taxes and/or shifting governmental funds to education. It considers why elected officials would be reluctant to do what needed to be done to achieve equity, and how changes in school funding that addressed school equity would involve a major reversal of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the current system of school funding. The lesson then discusses why it is difficult to attain such a reversal, when the current ‘winners’ with the most to lose in a change are wealthier New Yorkers. It inquires into one of the major logjams in the way of a CFE settlement, the controversy between the state and city governments over how much each side should have to contribute to the settlement. Another controversy, one over the efficacy of using the courts as opposed to the legislatures to effect social change, is then studied. Finally, the lesson concludes by having students synthesize their ideas on the best approach for achieving a CFE settlement.

The lesson plan was written in the format of a developmental lesson, with parallel columns of contents, the concepts and information students should be learning, and questions, which the teacher should employ to initiate student discussion and induce higher order student thought. Those questions could just as easily be used as a basis for leading a seminar discussion of the topic. The lesson plan contains two full days of material, so it should be edited down if the teacher wishes to teach it in one day.

Standard 1: History of the United States and New York [Commencement Level]
1. Students will describe the evolution of American democratic values and beliefs as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the New York State Constitution, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other important historical documents.

Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship and Government: [Commencement Level]
2. Students will trace the evolution of American values, beliefs, and institutions; analyze the disparities between civic values expressed in the United States Constitution and the United Nation Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the realities as evidenced in the political, social, and economic life in the United States and throughout the world; identify, respect, and model those core civic values inherent in our founding documents that have been forces for unity in American society; compare and contrast the Constitutions of the United States and New York State; and understand the dynamic relationship between federalism and state’s rights.

3. Students will analyze issues at the local, state, and national levels and prescribe responses that promote the public interest or general welfare, such as planning and carrying out a voter registration campaign.

4. Students will evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of American political life are and their importance to the maintenance of constitutional democracy; take, defend, and evaluate positions about attitudes that facilitate thoughtful and effective participation in public affairs; participate in school/classroom/community activities that focus on an issue or problem; prepare a plan of action that defines an issue or problem, suggests alternative solutions or courses of action, evaluates the consequences for each alternative solution or course of action, prioritizes the solutions based on established criteria, and proposes an action plan to address the issue or to resolve the problem; and explain how democratic principles have been used in resolving an issue or problem.

What should be done to achieve equity in school funding and in school quality in New York?

Instructional Objectives
Students will be able to:

  1. explain why the amount of funds needed to establish funding equity in New York State have made it difficult to achieve a settlement;
  2. identify the winners and losers in the current system of school funding, and explain why the inners would resist the development of a more equitable system;
  3. describe how a majority coalition on behalf of funding equity in New York might be mobilized;
  4. explain how the sharing of governmental power over education in New York has led to legislative gridlock over a CFE settlement, and offer a reasoned opinion on the portions of the settlement that New York State and New York City should provide;
  5. discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of efforts to achieve civil rights through the courts as opposed to through the legislature, and offer a reasoned opinion on which route would have the strongest possibility of success in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

There is a saying, money is the root of all evil. Do you agree or disagree? Why? Would you agree that money is the evil which prevents a solution to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit?

Subject Areas:
Social Studies

Grade Levels:  9-12

About the teacher:

Leo Casey is currently Special Representative for High Schools at the United Federation of Teachers. Prior to his work at the UFT, he spent 14 years teaching Social Studies at Clara Barton High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, NY. During his teaching stint, his classes of inner city students regularly won New York City and New York State championships, and placed as high as fourth in the nation, in the national "We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution" competition. He has received several awards for his teaching, including being named the Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 1992 by the American Teacher Awards. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Toronto, and is the author of several published articles on politics and education.




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