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Group plans city rally for fair school funding

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Queens students still need your help.

That’s the message Queens legislators and educators want to get out to borough residents this week in anticipation of a Campaign for Fiscal Equity rally planned for Oct. 25.

Despite the financial and physical havoc unleashed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Queens elected officials said it is important for the borough to come out in force for the Manhattan rally and show its support for the CFE case.

Earlier this year the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a coalition of parents and advocacy groups that filed a lawsuit against the state in 1993, won a landmark ruling urging the state to correct its arcane school funding formula by giving New York and several other cities a fairer share. Days later Gov. George Pataki appealed the court’s decision.

Pataki’s appeal was scheduled to be heard in State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division Oct. 25. The goal of the rally, set for 9:30 a.m. in front of the Appellate Division at Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, is to draw attention to the case.

The CFE case has been especially important for Queens, which has the most overcrowded classrooms in the city.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), who co-chairs the state Minority Task Force on School Aid Equity, said she would be taking the subway to get to the rally and hoped Queens would have a strong presence there in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.

“People have to have enough faith in the government and in our subways,” she said. “This is going to be a way to demonstrate that we’re not going to be deterred” by terrorists, she said.

“We’ve got to demonstrate to the new mayor that Queens is important,” Stavisky said, referring to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s successor, who will take office next year. “The people have to come out and show their support for education.”

Stavisky said the rally was not about getting more money for schools when all city agencies are being asked to cut back due to the billions of dollars in damages from the Twin Towers collapse.

“We must have a rational formula” for school funding, she said. “A good formula will work in times of prosperity and not.”

CFE Executive Director and Counsel Michael Rebell said in a phone interview this week it was important for people to support the Oct. 25 rally because school aid equity is a long-term issue.

“The Sept. 11 attack has reinvigorated our focus,” Rebell said. “The stability of our schools and the importance of our schools as nurturing places for young people” has become more significant, he said.

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), also voiced support for the CFE rally.

“I think they must go forth,” she said. “We’re the borough that’s most overcrowded — we need more seats. Parents all over Queens should take part, particularly.”

Queens Board of Ed member Terri Thomson echoed Clark’s appeal to parents.

“The voice of the parents is critical,” she said.

On Sept. 28, the CFE filed a 209-page brief arguing against Pataki’s appeal.

The case has been stalled in the court since Pataki appealed it in January 2001.

In January 2001 State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse sided with the CFE in a landmark ruling and ordered the state to reform its education funding of large cities.    

Throughout most of the state, school districts generate revenue through property taxes. In the state’s five biggest cities — New York, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Yonkers — the state determines how much money is given to run each city’s public schools. Educational needs, such as services required to help students learn to speak English or to meet the state’s newly raised academic standards, are not considered in funding decisions.

The city Board of Education has 38 percent of the state public school population but receives 35.5 percent of the state’s total educational budget, CFE said.

For more information on the planned rally, go online to www.cfequity.org. Clark said Monday she would sponsor a bus to take people to the rally. For more information call 479-2333.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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