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Court payout should boost city teacher pay: Report

The City Council-appointed Commission on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity this week issued a series of recommendations on how to best use an anticipated $5.6 billion increase in yearly operating funds for city schools as well as a $9.2 billion infusion for capital projects over the next five years.With a fifth of Queens schools found to be low-performing, the funds would be a boon to the borough, where overcrowded classrooms are widespread.The Campaign for Fiscal Equity is an educational advocacy group that filed a lawsuit in 1993 against the state seeking to provide city schools with what they say is a fairer amount of state funding. The State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the organization in 2003. In February, State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse ordered the state Legislature to craft a plan by mid-May to provide the extra $14.8 billion in funding, but Gov. George Pataki has appealed the ruling and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed that all funding should come from the state. In early April, the Legislature passed a budget that provided an extra $322 million for city schools in the state's $24.6 billion allocation for education, but did not touch upon the CFE ruling.The commission's recommendations hinge upon raising teacher salaries and upgrading their training, as well as reducing classroom sizes to provide a better education for students. In particular, the commission noted that the median salary of Nassau and Suffolk county teachers was $65,570, nearly 24 percent higher than the $53,017 median salary of a New York City teacher.A teacher in nearby Manhasset, L.I. could earn a top salary well into six figures, while a comparable teacher in Queens would max out at $81,000. The commission said that with low-performing students concentrated in particular schools and communities, improving educator quality through better salaries and development was essential."Recruiting well-prepared teachers, investing in their growth and development and providing working conditions conducive to good teaching is at the heart of the report," said Anthony Alvarado, former schools chancellor and executive director of the commission, in a release. The commission's report noted that the borough has the second-lowest rate of low-performing schools at 21 percent, with Staten Island registering the lowest percentage of low-performing schools based on the 2002-2003 Annual School Report at 12 percent. Twenty-nine percent of Manhattan schools, 59 percent of Bronx schools, and 40 percent of Brooklyn schools were found to be low-performing.The commission, co-chaired by Teachers College President Arthur Levine and Community Service Society President David Jones, will issue a second part of its report on leadership, facilities, community involvement, and instruction later this year.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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