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Cuomo, lawmakers tangle over schools and ethics

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in the Red Room at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY -- Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tangled Thursday over school funding, toughening teacher evaluations and an ethics proposal in the stress of the final days of budget negotiations, but said they remained confident they can adopt a spending plan on time before Wednesday.

No major issue was finalized Thursday, including how to spend a windfall of more than $5 billion from bank enforcement settlements. Talks were to continue through the weekend, and voting could begin Monday.

More proposals emerged to counter Cuomo's plan to toughen teacher evaluations, which he says are too easy and subjective. Cuomo wants to make student performance on standardized tests a larger part of evaluations.

Legislative leaders are considering creation of a commission to work out a new teacher evaluation system. Lawmakers and Cuomo could agree to create a new system as part of the budget deal.

Cuomo has tied his policy proposal to school aid. He said if the State Legislature agrees to his teacher evaluation changes, school aid would increase by $1.1 billion. If it refuses, the state's more than 700 school districts would get $377 million, about a 1.7 percent increase, he said.

"We've been pretty clear we don't want to see funding for schools attached to any policy," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). "We are still discussing education, all the different ways to go. There is no agreement."

Senate Education Committee chairman John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said a major issue is ensuring that teachers in schools in impoverished neighborhoods aren't penalized.

Also Thursday, all sides cited progress in divvying up the windfall of more than $5 billion. Earlier this week, Skelos said that issue might have to wait until after the state budget, which is due by midnight Tuesday. But Thursday he indicated leaders are trying to come up with criteria to allocate the money.

Cuomo said a "successful budget" must include his policies.

"To repeat, I will not sign a budget without real ethics reform or agree to a dramatic increase in education aid without education reform that provides accountability, performance and standards," Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo has wanted to force lawmakers to reveal their private law clients to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest and Assembly Democrats have agreed. The Senate's Republican majority had sought to limit which clients are identified.

With Yancey Roy

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