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Boro pol fights to keep high learning standards

A state assemblywoman from Queens is fighting to keep city education standards high despite a push by statewide groups to lower them so the state can spend less money educating students.

Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said she wants the state to come through with money mandated for borough and city schools following the Court of Appeals’ 4-1 decision in favor of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Appeals that said New York City schools were not getting enough money to educate their students.

She said she wants any amount of money given to Queens schools to be based on current State Board of Regents learning standards, not any decreased ones that could require less money to fulfill.

“Without the standards some children will be getting the good education that they are, and the others will be getting the watered- down version of the education they are getting,” Clark said. “The things we know that provide for a better education cost money.”

Clark is a member of the state Assembly’s Education Committee. She is also a former school safety supervisor and youth coordinator for the New York City Division for Youth Services.

New York state education standards call for small classrooms, more school construction, good instructional books and qualified teachers, Clark said. She said she fears groups she nicknamed the “little tornadoes” are trying to do away with those standards so that the state will not have to pay a hefty sum to educate students.

The June 26 decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit victory said New York state violated its own constitution by considering an eighth-grade education the fulfillment of its obligation for a sound, basic education in New York City.

Now, Clark said, it is during the process in determining the cost of that sound, basic education where she fears groups could attack high education standards and bring them down to save money.

Clark would not specify which groups were lobbying the 16-member state Board of Regents to lower education standards, but she did say most of them were located outside of the city in neighboring counties like Westchester.

The Board of Regents is elected by the state Legislature, with each member serving five-year terms.

The state Court of Appeals found that city students were being shortchanged by a state formula that gave them too small an amount of money in view of the city’s large contribution to the state’s tax pool.

The ruling now requires state lawmakers to formulate a more equitable method for distributing education funds that will raise borough and city students from near the bottom in terms of the money per student they receive from the state. The state has until July 2004 to come up with a formula to redistribute state education funds.

The ruling means the state’s five largest school districts, New York, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Yonkers, are not being given their fair share of the state’s education funds.

Clark said she is working with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity to maintain state learning standards. She said the education group has been holding meetings throughout New York state to increase public awareness of the cost of their children’s’ education.

“We need to have a public engagement discussion to find out how much it costs throughout the state for that sound, basic education,” she said. “New York City is at the short end of that stick.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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