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Source: Assembly Dems want to restore $600M to schools

ALBANY - The Assembly's Democratic majority is seeking to restore $600 million in funding to public schools, according to an education advocate familiar with the effort.

The advocate spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks concerning Gov. David A. Paterson's proposed $1.1 billion, or 5 percent, cut in state school aid.

The Assembly effort is significant because Democrats hold a supermajority there, making the chamber a powerful voice in budget talks between the lame duck governor and a Senate with a slight Democratic majority.

The Assembly's budget proposal is expected today.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wouldn't confirm or deny that the target is $600 million. School aid is now $21.6 billion.

"Nothing is final, we are in conference, but clearly we are a conference committed to education even in this difficult year and we believe some restorations should be made."

A $600 million restoration would ease the $1.1 billion proposed cut in operating aid - which excludes building, transportation and other longer term aid - proposed by Paterson and supported by the Senate's Democrats. New York City faces $492 million of the proposed cut that the Bloomberg administration estimates would force layoffs of more than 8,500 teachers.

New York State United Teachers executive vice president Andrew Pallotta said the union also believes the Assembly is seeking to restore $600 million.

The deadline is April 1 for the budget expected to total about $136.1 billion. It must contend with a $9.2-billion deficit caused by declining revenue in the recession.

Silver said Assembly Democrats also are considering Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch's plan to borrow up to $2 billion this year.

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