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Tight-Fisted State Puts Brooklyn School Projects In Jeopardy

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Now that Governor George Pataki has once again refused to allocate billions of dollars to city schools, dozens of school construction projects are in limbo. In his $110.7 billion state budget, Pataki failed to abide by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court ruling, which deemed city schools severely underfunded and called for the state to rectify the situation. A judge ruled that local schools must receive an extra $5.6 billion in operating funds over the next four years and $9.2 billion over the next five years for capital projects. Pataki has adamantly fought the ruling, going so far as to file an appeal last spring. The appeal was upheld and there has since been no progress in getting the CFE money released. In his latest – and last – state budget, Pataki increased school funding throughout the state by just $634 million. Last year, he increased school funding by $864 million. However, much of that money went to school districts outside of New York City. Educators and politicians were outraged that Pataki again ignored the CFE court order. “It is disappointing that the governor squandered his final opportunity to honor the CFE ruling and fulfill the state’s obligation to stop shortchanging our city’s public school students,” said United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten. “Every public school student should have the opportunity for a quality education no matter where they live in the state,” said Assemblymember William Colton. “The governor must not only correct the funding formula but also rectify decades of inequitable funding.” “The governor lost another opportunity to right the wrongs of years past and give our children what they deserve,” Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) President Jill Levy said. “We can only hope he will reconsider his position during the upcoming budget negotiations. Our schools are depending on him to show strong leadership on this issue.” “It is also time for the governor to face facts and drop his appeal of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case,” Levy said. “If he understood the magnitude of the problems school leaders face, he would not continue battling against the best interests of children.” Before the state budget was released, parents and educators were hoping against hope that the governor, who is mulling a run for president, would try to mend ties with the city by releasing the CFE money. Without that money, 80 to 90 school construction projects throughout the five boroughs lack adequate funding and are in danger of being dropped. Now that the state budget has been made public, parents are waiting to see which projects will be eliminated. The city Department of Education (DOE) will officially drop projects by April 1. Among the projects in danger are plans to create an annex for Midwood High School, relocate a store-front elementary school to a recently-closed Catholic school, and build new schools in Sunset Park, Canarsie, Bensonhurst, and Brooklyn Heights. Many have insisted that all of these projects could proceed if Pataki had invested this year’s surplus in education. “For years, the governor has claimed there was no more money for education,” Weingarten said. “Now, when there is a $2 billion surplus that could be used to make a real difference with proven programs and accountable investments, he is turning his back on the needs of our public school children.”

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