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Billions At Stake for New York Schools

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July 2, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. - Billions of dollars hang in the balance as New York State Senate Republicans and Democrats battle it out. The money comes from federal stimulus funding that requires action by New York lawmakers to get the cash flowing. Senators obeyed a court order and showed up in Albany Wednesday, but quickly adjourned without acting on the issue.

Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, says parents can rest assured that summer school will continue despite the legislative mess in Albany, but until lawmakers make a series of procedural votes, the federal money will not be allocated for New York.

"I understand it is about $3.8 billion dollars: It's 'Title One,' which is money that goes to poor children in the districts, and 'IDEA' money that goes to children with special needs."

Palast says millions in Medicaid dollars also are in the balance. They, too, require a vote in Albany to trigger spending the federal funds for public health programs in schools across the state.

Summer schools are operating in New York City under an interim agreement between Mayor Bloomberg and the borough presidents that set up a new Board of Education. Palast says that means the city, which serves more than 1 million students, was able to start summer classes on time.

"The schools will be open, and children will not be affected today because of the machinations of the so-called adults in Albany; however, every New Yorker needs to weigh in with their senators to make sure this gets resolved, because it can't go on indefinitely."

Both parties have offered "bipartisan operating agreements," which some say could resolve the leadership void, but so far, neither agreement has gained any support from the other party.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY