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Governor Paterson Asked to Clarify Education Funding Delay

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 By Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY, Contact
December 15, 2009

NEW YORK - Education advocates want Governor David Paterson to clarify his decision to delay school aid payments to public schools and let New Yorkers know how long a delay he intends. They are up in arms after the Governor delayed $750 million in state payments, including $582 million to public education, saying the state doesn't have enough cash on hand to pay its bills.

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, says Wall Street bonuses typically bring an influx of revenue in January, and he's concerned that the Governor may be over-reaching his authority to deal with what Easton says is likely only a temporary shortfall.

"If he's planning to make these cuts permanent then he's overstepping his constitutional authority, but even a temporary delay will hurt schools. Really the Governor should come clean, crystal clear, as to what he is proposing to do. "

The State Board of Regents meanwhile has released its state school aid proposal for the coming year. Easton says the recommended $469 million increase there, including $53 million for Pre-K, is more in line with the needs of public education in New York.

"It's very important, when the economy is so difficult, that we give priority to our school kids, particularly those who are in districts that have the highest needs. That's what the Regents are saying; it's a small increase, but nevertheless it will help continue to address the needs that are there. "

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity is also hoping Governor Paterson will follow through and make a down payment on the court-ordered commitment to education funding.

Paterson also cut $112 million due to cities and counties across the state, saying his hand has been forced by state lawmakers' inaction on the budget shortfall. Some legislators have threatened a lawsuit over Paterson's move to delay state payments.

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