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State shortchanging city schools: Bloomy

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Bloomberg said in an address to state legislators that the use of city school funds would be too restricted and warned that the state was siphoning too much money from the city.Gov. Eliot Spitzer had insisted in his Jan. 24 budget address that his educational allocations were on track, despite a less-than-expected increase in school funds in this year's proposed state budget."We are not moving one iota from our goal" of allocating $21 billion to schools statewide this year, Spitzer said, adding that the extra $1.4 billion included in this year's budget compared to last year's was a state record.But against a backdrop of mounting anxiety over the economy, funding for high-need districts would come in at about $93 million less than what was stipulated in last year's budget as part of a four-year statewide goal.Overall, the city will receive $8.1 billion under the 2008-09 proposal budget proposal, the Associated Press reported. The share of state revenue allocated to city schools, which serve 1.1 million children, increased by 7.1 percent to $1.29 billion -- "a tremendous commitment," Spitzer said.While the governor said the state is "on the precise trendline" it set out to meet for educational spending, he noted internal shifts of money within that category.State schools will receive a "diminished" amount of school-related foundation aid, resulting in $350 million less than expected, a hit the governor said would be "somewhat offset" by grants and taxes in the amount of about $280 million."What we're really looking at is about a $50-or-$60 million overall drop," Spitzer said, adding that schools need to be cushioned from economic fluctuations as much as possible.He said the overarching theme of tying investment to accountability in schools was very successful and cited an outpouring of creative ideas as a positive trend, among them initiatives in shifting school hours, more teacher training and smaller class sizes.Nonetheless, the governor candidly noted the worsening economic picture on a national level."We have to protect our core priorities in a moment of economic uncertainty," he said, saying the country was experiencing a "bungie-jump economy" and "a period of economic turmoil and economic uncertainty."Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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