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Legislature refuses to act on Paterson schools bill

ALBANY - The Legislature in a special session last night refused to act on a bill Gov. David A. Paterson said is needed for the state to have a chance at $700 million in federal school aid.

Republican senators, who were ignored by the Democratic majority when they tried to bring Paterson's bill to a vote, said the result will likely be loss of the federal aid, higher school taxes and a net cut of hundreds of millions of dollars in statewide school funding.

The Legislature was due back in session this morning. But there was little support among majority Democrats for Paterson's bill that would allow more charter schools than the Legislature's bill, which also restricted how charter schools operated and could be approved.

Paterson scolded Democratic lawmakers who blocked his bill last night, saying he suspects their anger toward mayoral control of New York City schools or possibly toward him are factors. Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly supports Paterson's bill.

Paterson also accused lawmakers of "elitist sophistry" for saying they want to win the federal grant, while dooming the state's chances. He accused them of not wanting to work "for the schoolchildren of New York who need this."

"They are setting an example to New York State's schoolchildren, and I don't think it's a particularly good one," Paterson said.

He said that the Legislature's bill "doesn't meet the threshold at all" for the grant.

The federal application in the Race to the Top competition, aimed at improving education, is due in Washington at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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