Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: Public-school supporters call for funding changes

At a June 4 forum at John Bowne High School in Flushing, sponsored by the New York City Board of Education, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Alliance For Quality Education and the Office of the Queens Borough President officials urged residents o to pressure the New York State government to provide a fair share of the state education budget for their schools.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a not-for-profit corporation, is a coalition of parent organizations, community school boards, concerned citizens and advocacy groups. It seeks to reform the school finance system to provide a sound basic education for students throughout the state who are not receiving one. They maintain that the current school aid formula is actually a haphazard collection of 48 different formulas and grants.

Terri Thomson, Queens representative to the Board of Education, Alexandra Rosa, chief of staff to Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Michael Rebell of the CFE, and Regina Eaton of the AQE all spoke to the audience of about 300 parents, students, principals, school board members and teachers, as well as John W. Lee, Queens superintendent of high schools, District 26 superintendent Michelle Fratti, and other administrators.

Chancellor Levy showed slides explaining that per-pupil spending in New York State in 1998 was $9,810, in other large cities it was $10,103 and in New York City it was $9,934. He explained that New York City has 38 percent of the state's students but receives just 36 percent of state education money - and our city students must meet the same state standards set by the Board of Regents.

Michael Rebell spoke of the court case started in 1993, with the eventual decision calling for a "sound basic education" for the state's children. The decision was upheld by a higher court but the governor is now appealing the decision. It was pointed out that the state spent about $12.5 million to fund the seven-month trial. The CFE used pro-bono lawyers. At the current time there isn't even a state budget because the three men who effectively control the state government - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Gov. Pataki - can't agree how the money should be allocated.

Regina Eaton explained that the Alliance For Quality Education is campaigning for more money for education. The state has a $2 billion surplus but some parties want a $1.2 billion tax cut. In the meantime, the Board of Regents in 1999 recommended $245 million in new programs to implement their new standards, but the legislature provided only a $30 million increase.

At the forum the AQE distributed a sheet containing four postcards to be separated and mailed to the governor, legislative members and the AQE. (Call the AQE at 718-222-1089 for the postcards and for more information.)

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

After a three-year, $149 million reconstruction, a new Queens Hospital Center building will open next month. The good news is that there are new bright rooms, the use of modern technology and three specialized centers of care in cancer, diabetes and women's health. Old dingy rooms with eight beds are being replaced with bright rooms with two beds each. Doctors and other staff members will track patients with Palm Pilots and handspring visors linked to the Internet. The hospital is being reduced to one building from three.

The bad news is that the total number of beds has been reduced from 303 to 200. This will save money. The number of detoxification beds for drug abusers and alcoholics is being cut from 36 to 15. The number of psychiatric beds is being reduced from 65 to 3 5. The current 10 pediatric beds are being eliminated. Patients needing the eliminated beds will be referred to other hospitals, but it's unclear if the hospital will transport them or let the patients find their own way.

The 22-member community advisory board had opposed the smaller facility but were told that the reconstruction would be delayed if they opposed it. There are plans to demolish some of the current buildings but Bernard Diamond, chairman of the advisory board who is also a member of Community Board 8, feels that one or two of the buildings should be maintained in case the new hospital attracts too many patients.

There are plans to build an 800-student health careers high school, a six-story biomedical research building and an additional residential housing building on the campus.

Reach columnist Bob Harris by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229300, Ext. 139.

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