Today’s news:

More money for schools - Governor’s budget contains big increases

If the governor’s proposed state budget is approved, city schools will receive nearly $1.5 billion more than what a court deemed necessary to rectify years of underfunding. Under pressure from parents, Governor Eliot Spitzer outlined a plan to increase school aid statewide by $1.4 billion this year. Over the following four years, funding will receive a $7 billion hike. Approximately $3.2 billion of that money will go to city schools. That figure brought smiles to the faces of many local parents who were counting on the governor to keep his promise to ignore a Court of Appeals order that city schools need just $1.93 billion more to cover operating expenses. “More money is always good,” said Brian Cohen, co-president of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) at M.S. 51, which is located at 350 Fifth Avenue. However, he cautioned, “It’s only as good as the decision and the common sense and the good sense that gets applied to using the money.” Since Spitzer made improving local schools a priority while on the campaign trail, some Brooklyn parents wondered why he didn’t propose allocating the $4.7 - $5.6 billion in operating aid that a judge initially said should be provided to the city. “Why is he giving less?” questioned Rachel Gertzog, a Park Slope resident with two children enrolled at P.S. 230 in Kensington. “If the court established [$4.7 - $5.6 billion], why is the governor suggesting another number?” City schools could ultimately receive a funding increase close to that figure. The city has agreed to allocate an extra $2.2 billion, which combined with the $3.2 billion from the state would bring the total increase in funding for local schools to $5.4 billion. Brooklyn parents offered suggestions for how that money should be spent. “I’m hoping that the money is used to improve the quality of teaching, support good teachers, to expedite the pace of some of the school construction projects, address failing schools – all the things that we read about in the paper,” Cohen said. Lowering class sizes is also something educrats should focus on, parents say. Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, an education advocacy organization, says, “Reducing class size is one of the few educational reforms shown to improve student achievement and narrow the achievement gap between ethnic and racial groups.”

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