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$700M in fed funds expected to boost boro schools

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Queens legislators cheered the federal government’s decision to award about $700 million in education funds to New York state, which officials said will help them create a statewide curriculum that will decrease the emphasis on test scores and boost teacher training.

The funds come from the Race to the Top program, which is part of the federal economic stimulus package. The city is expected to receive between $250 million and $300 million.

“New York’s victory in the Race to the Top award is a victory for the children and the families of all New Yorkers,” state Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said. “The fundamental building block for creating a stronger, more economically stable New York is ensuring that our children receive the top-notch education they deserve.”

Ten of the 46 states that applied for Race to the Top funding were awarded funds, and New York will receive $696,646,000, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday.

“This will go a long way to assure students all over the state get the quality education they deserve,” Gov. David Paterson said.

The District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island also won.

“These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” Duncan said in a prepared statement.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the funds will be used to design a statewide curriculum that “ensures each child gets a well-rounded education.” The curriculum will place less of an emphasis on test scores and provide funding for teaching training, Mulgrew said.

The $250 million to $300 million the city is expected to receive will support the creation of a new teacher evaluation system and develop a more rigorous curriculum and state assessments based on national standards, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“As a parent of a public school student, I know how much this money is needed,” said state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood). “As chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, I know Race to the Top money will go a long way in helping New York renew and renovate our education system.”

Duncan’s announcement comes a month after city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein traveled to Washington, D.C., with state Education Commissioner David Steiner, state Regents Chairwoman Merryl Tisch and Mulgrew to present New York’s application to the selection committee.

“This shows what can happen when government and labor come together,” said Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone). “Both the chancellor and Michael Mulgrew went together to Washington, and I think that was important. The union and the employer came together.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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