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LI Assembly members criticize governor's education plans

Gov. Andrew Cuomo address a group during a

Gov. Andrew Cuomo address a group during a Rotary luncheon in Rochester on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Credit: AP

A bipartisan group of Long Island Assembly members and more than 50 parents, teachers and union leaders called Sunday for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to increase school funding and strip out education policy proposals from budget negotiations.

Lawmakers said spending should be increased by $1.8 billion as the Assembly proposed, rather than the $1.4 billion being discussed now.

"We're speaking with one voice and that's to properly fund our schools," said Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) at a news conference in Mineola.

Cuomo and legislative leaders continue to try to negotiate a budget by the April 1 deadline.

Cuomo has proposed placing greater emphasis on student performance in standardized tests in teacher evaluations. He wants the state to take over schools that keep missing academic standards. He said more students, particularly in low-income areas, are being trapped in "failing schools."

Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said, "The governor is committed to enacting an aggressive reform agenda to fix New York's broken education system that spends more per pupil than any other state in the nation, while condemning over 250,000 students to failing schools over the last decade."

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) said money for schools should be separated from Cuomo's proposals.

"If the tangle between policy and money can't be untangled, it's an artificial crisis," Englebright said. "We have a surplus. We have the resources to do the right thing."

Lawmakers said Cuomo's proposal to boost the use of test scores would pressure teachers to tailor lesson plans to tests.

"School funding cannot be held hostage to policy changes," Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) said.

Speakers said having the state take over failing schools has been unsuccessful.

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, pointed to the state's takeover of Roosevelt schools for 11 years ending in 2013. Critics said it failed to improve academic performance.

The Assembly members also included Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), David McDonough (R-Merrick), Al Graf (R-Holbrook) and Tom McKevitt (R-East Meadow).

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