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State court calls for billions in new boro school funding

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State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse ordered the state Legislature to devise a plan within 90 days to provide $5.6 billion more in yearly operating costs for city schools, phased in over a four-year period, and a one-time $9.2 billion infusion for construction spread over five years.Mayor Michael Bloomberg had insisted that the city not be asked to contribute more money, claiming that the state has shortchanged his municipality for years. But DeGrasse found it was not within his purview to address who should pay."This court lacks the power to prohibit the state from requiring the city to contribute additional operating funding," DeGrasse wrote in his ruling. The state has 30 days to appeal the decision, and Gov. George Pataki is expected to do so. In the decision, DeGrasse did not hold the state in contempt for failing to follow a court order and also declined to demand additional state oversight of city educational spending as Pataki had requested but Bloomberg had denounced. By doing so, the judge followed closely the recommendations of a panel of special masters he appointed to guide him in the case after the leaders of the Legislature and Pataki failed to broker a compromise on a new school funding formula last year.The current case stems from a lawsuit filed by an education advocacy group, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, against the state in 1993 to provide city schools with their fair share of money. The state's highest court ruled in the organization's favor in 2003. After DeGrasse issued his ruling Monday, Queens legislators hailed the decision."This new funding is what we need to hire more teachers, reduce overcrowding and help us take care of the many problems facing our children including school violence," said City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), a member of the Education Committee.Working without a contract and tired of employment rules they deem restrictive, teachers across Queens wore black to work on Monday, Valentine's Day, as a protest against the city's Education Department.Meanwhile, representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday more than $32 million in new grants for the city's public high schools. The new funds will be used not only to create 35 new small schools, but also to improve existing larger schools, which some critics have accused the department of ignoring in their quest for the smaller academies.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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