School Aid on Chopping Block in Budget; Historic Cut Proposed

Public school advocates say proposed cut will force thousands of teacher layoffs, larger classes and hurt students the most

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011  |  Updated 11:45 AM EDT
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School aid is atop the agenda in today's budget hearing.

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New York's lawmakers will get their hands on the part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget most dear to many of them: School aid.

Tuesday's budget hearing in Albany will set the course for some of the year's most heated confrontations between the popular new governor and the Legislature.

Cuomo proposes a historic cut of 7.3 percent in school aid.

Public school advocates say that will force thousands of teacher layoffs, larger classes and hurt students the most.

Lawmakers, led by Assembly Democrats, are listening.

A poll released Monday shows New Yorkers who support Cuomo's hard-times budget least want to see any cuts in school aid.

Advocates note $1.2 billion being cut from school aid is nearly equal to the additional amount that was required under a court order to adequately fund education.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy is expected to testify for the Cuomo administration, as well as New York City schools Chancellor Cathie Black, the former Hearst Magazines chairwoman and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial choice to run the nation's largest school system.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan will ask for the $270 million in state funding he said has been withheld from the Catholic school system because of an error by the state Education Department dating back to the 2002-03 school year. He said that, along with the $7 million annual payroll tax to bail out the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, have forced tuition increases and some school closings.

He will make another pitch for what he calls "parental choice," which is usually in a voucher or some other form to use more public money to fund private school education for students whose parents, he will remind lawmakers, still pay school taxes.

"There are thousands of children trapped in chronically low-performing government schools — schools that have proven ineffective," Dolan says in his prepared text. "The cost to the taxpayer and society in general is exorbitant. The cost to the family, in the form of shattered hopes and dreams and lost human potential, is far deeper and more painful."

Dolan says cuts in aid to nonpublic schools in Cuomo's budget would be 8 percent, more than the cut facing public schools.

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