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Clark rallies for educational equality

Clark, along with the New York State Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative...

By Adam Kramer

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) is calling on all parents, students and anyone concerned with the quality of the city’s public schools to mobilize.

Clark, along with the New York State Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, United Parents Association of New York City and other organizations, is sponsoring a rally to protest Republican Gov. George Pataki’s position on allocating funds to city schools.

At issue is the governor’s decision to appeal a court decision in favor of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which had sued the state over its method of funding severely overcrowded schools in New York City.

In January, State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled in favor of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and ordered the state Legislature to find a better system of providing money for schools in the state’s five largest cities led by New York.

“The purpose of the rally is not simply to send a message to Gov. Pataki, but also to educate, inspire and further mobilize parents and other community members into taking a more active and vocal role in the governance of their local schools and influencing the people and political that affect their children,” Clark said.

The protest is set for Thursday, April 26, in front of Pataki’s Manhattan office at 633 Third Ave. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The city Board of Education has 38 percent of the state public school population but receives 35.5 percent of the state’s educational budget, said the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

Clark said many of New York City’s school districts have not received sufficient funding from the state. The court’s decision “shines a spotlight” on the funding issue and has pressured the state’s policymakers to provide more money to the city’s public schools, she said.

“Gov. Pataki believes we can and should resolve the issue by coming together in a bipartisan way to reform the school aid formula,” said Joe Conway, Pataki’s spokesman. “We are focused at moving forward with a flexible reform which provides the highest levels of aid in state history with sweeping reform to promote accountability in our schools and to target additional assistance to the highest need districts. So, no child is left behind.”

Many observers have cited a deficiency in state funding as one of the reasons for severe overcrowding in Queens public schools.

In his ruling, DeGrasse cited overcrowded schools in Queens and the other boroughs to illustrate the city’s overwhelming need for additional resources. DeGrasse’s decision was hailed by the coalition of parents and advocacy groups that originally filed the lawsuit in 1993, and sparked praise from many borough political leaders.

DeGrasse ordered the city and state to fix the educational funding problems by Sept. 15 and appear in court in June to discuss the progress of the reforms.

Two weeks after DeGrasse’s decision Pataki said he would appeal the judge’s ruling that the state must reform its education funding formula.

“While these legal and political delays are happening, our children are still being forced to attend schools which lack the resources needed to provide a sound education,” Clark said. “Steps must be taken, now, to shield children from the lifelong harm that the lack of a good education could cause.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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