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State’s lag on ed funding blocks new boro schools

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The Queens projects, which include elementary, middle and high schools stretching from Hunters Point to Flushing, would provide nearly 5,000 new seats for a borough that many criticize as plagued with overcrowded classrooms.But the city's elected and education officials said the construction would be indefinitely shelved due to the state's refusal to give billions of dollars that a court ruled it owed to the city's schools."It's time for the state to end its delinquency," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "New York City schools are being shortchanged year after year and the courts have determined that the state has a constitutional obligation to provide this critical funding."The city has long awaited a $5.6 billion annual increase in school funding from Albany since a court ordered it in 2003 based on a lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Gov. George Pataki, who has stalled on the issue, announced in his budget proposal that the state's $2 million surplus would go toward a tax credit for parents of schoolchildren rather than directly to city schools under the court ruling. This fiscal year the city's Department of Education is short by $1.8 billion in funds, city officials said."As a result, many of our students will be relegated for yet another year to inadequate classrooms and to schools without libraries, laboratories, gymnasiums or playgrounds," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said.The school funding issue is thought to be the impetus behind Bloomberg's possible move to back a Democratic councilman from Howard Beach, Joseph Addabbo, against the longtime Republican state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), whom he considers unkind when it comes to city education funding. The suggestion has sent angry ripples through the GOP Senate majority, including sharp rebuttals from its leader, Sen. Joseph L. Bruno (R-Rensselaer).Among the Queens projects put on hold are two 500-seat high schools and two 630-seat K-8 schools slated to go up on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. Residents had hoped for a ribbon-cutting in 2007 that would then relieve some of the tremendous overcrowding in their district's classrooms. Now the fate of the new schools is uncertain.The other delayed projects include PS 245 in Ridgewood, PS 246 at the existing PS 199 in Sunnyside, PS 244 in Flushing, PS/IS 262 at St. Anthony's in Woodhaven, PS 78 Annex in Hunter's Point and the New Gateway High School in Jamaica Estates.Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesleder.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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