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EDITORIAL: An 'A' for federal fund distribution plan

Albany officials get top marks for their choice on how to distribute federal funds meant to save teaching jobs. State leaders this week opted to apportion the money based on the state school-aid formula, rather than along federal poverty guidelines. The result is about $99 million for Long Island.

In a year in which state officials reduced Long Island school aid by $172.6 million, the money can certainly be put to good use here. Federal officials haven't written in too many spending restrictions. The funds must be used for staff and staff support - not to pad "rainy day" accounts - but beyond that, superintendents will have a lot of discretion.

School leaders should use these dollars where they will most benefit children in the classroom. Hiring extra teachers or aides, or holding the funds in case there are midyear state cutbacks, are fair responses. Schools have until September 2012 to decide where the money is most needed.

Superintendents should also look to giving extra help to students who did poorly on standardized math and English tests. This year, New York raised the cutoff scores, effectively identifying many more kids in need of remedial work.

Of course, the money could also be used to add back raises for union members - this fits within the federal guidelines. But unions should decline to enrich themselves at the expense of their students. Our schools will be smarter in the long run for having made educated choices today. hN