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Advocates push for more state aid to high-needs school districts

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On Feb. 23, 2017, government and education officials discussed the new report released by the Alliance for Quality Education and Long Island Progressive Council titled, "New York Perpetuates Educational Inequity on Long Island" which examines the impacts of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's budget proposal and the position of the Senate and Assembly Majority regarding funding for Long Island's neediest schools. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Some education advocates are pushing state lawmakers to “fully fund” billions of dollars in state aid that districts say has been due to them for nearly a decade — money they say is crucial for systems that have high numbers of students from low-income families and an influx of immigrants.

The state Board of Regents in December proposed phasing-in $4.3 billion in funding to districts known as foundation aid over a three-year period.

The funding first was proposed after a 2006 state Court of Appeals decision that favored more spending for New York City schools. The state, after the 2008 recession, halted plans to distribute a proposed $5 billion to New York City and $4 billion to other school systems in the state.

Advocates, school board members and local lawmakers gathered Thursday outside Centennial Avenue Elementary School in Roosevelt and presented a report from the Alliance for Quality Education, an Albany-based nonprofit, that estimated what high-needs districts are owed.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said that “it is time for us, as the Assembly is fighting to do, to fully fund the formula, so that the kids in this district get the same kind of quality education that the kids in all the . . . more well-off suburban districts get.”

Hendrick Fayette, a school board trustee in Roosevelt, said the funding is key to “support students, provide programs, implement the quality of education that we all know each community on Long Island deserves.”

A spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) referred Newsday to Flanagan’s comments in a podcast with WCNY on Wednesday, during which the senator said the state has made “record investments” in education spending.

Flanagan continued, “If I said to you, I’m going to change the name, and I’m going to give you less money or I’m going to keep the name and give you the same money or more — a lot of it’s in the nomenclature. But we have made record . . . investments in aid to education.”

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that state aid to districts for the 2017-18 school year is likely to increase “substantially.”

“We will fund it as much as fiscally possible,” he said. “Some have said we should do more. OK, if we have the money we’ll do more . . . we’re trying not to burden the taxpayers as much as we have to.”

Melissa Figueroa, a Hempstead school board trustee, said she hopes that state leaders “will see that 10 years-plus is long enough for the folks to wait for what is owed to us.”

State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), said districts need the funding, especially because of an increase in immigrant children attending public schools. “Each of those school districts are dealing with a problem that was unanticipated in terms of expenses and costs in education,” Brooks said.

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