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Clinton promises Queens added money for schools

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U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) came to Queens Monday with a vow to build more seats for children in the city’s most overcrowded schools and a promise to help clean up the borough’s industrial wastelands.

Speaking at the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon, the former first lady told the audience of business and political leaders that the controversial No Child Left Behind act was well-intended but grossly underfunded.

“The schools in Queens are doing a great job, but they’re stretched to the breaking limit,” said Clinton, citing a statistic that 83 percent of the borough’s schools were overcrowded — the most in the city. “You need help.”

The senator said the Bush administra­tion’s No Child Left Behind act, which allows students in failing schools to transfer to well-performing schools or receive private tutoring, had the admirable goal of school accountability.

But she said the administration had not come through with the money it had promised to fund the changes. The senator said her attempt to secure $296 million in construction funds for Queens schools had been whittled down to $110 million, a sum she said was not sufficient.

Although school overcrowding remained a problem in the borough, Clinton congratulated the audience at Terrace on the Park on Queens’ economic performance as well as its diversity.

“We need to be sure we tell the story of Queens,” said Clinton. “It’s a story of the American Dream.”

Clinton said the borough’s job growth outpaced that of the city, state and nation in the first half of 2003.

“There’s a lot of good news,” she said.

The senator said her office would assist those who wished to clean up and develop the borough’s brownfields, or polluted industrial lands, in order to preserve the rest of Queens’ open spaces.

Clinton also supported an effort by the Queens Chamber of Commerce to improve meeting spaces near Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports and lamented the fact that for many, the New York experience was limited largely to Midtown Manhattan.

“You fly into Queens. You ought to spend a little time on your way,” she said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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