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March 2, 2004

Group asks for $9.5 billion in new spending for New York State schools

New York State schools need an additional $9.5 billion in spending over the next four years if they are to provide every student the opportunity for a "sound basic education" as required by the state Constitution, an advocacy group said.

The $9.5 billion estimate from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) is $2.5 billion more than the group's estimate released on February 4.

CFE is also asking state lawmakers to approve a plan that would set minimum payments for local school districts, raising the possibility of mandated property-tax increases in some districts.

Under the plan, school districts statewide would be subject to a mandated payment. The new mandated payment plan is part of the advocate's "foundation plan," which would combine 38 of the state's 50 school aid formula categories into one.

New York City schools alone would require an additional $4.1 billion, an increase of roughly one-third, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

In its February report, the group said that 517 districts, or three of every four statewide, "do not currently have sufficient resources to ensure every student has the opportunity for a sound basic education." In a footnote, its report said that 163 districts in the state "already spend at or above" the needed level. School spending in New York is among the highest in the nation at $11,204 per student, 37 percent higher than the national average, according to the National Center on Education Statistics.

The state Court of Appeals ruled in June 2003, in a case brought by CFE, that New York City schools do not provide every student with the opportunity for a sound basic education. It instructed Governor Pataki and the Legislature to implement by July 30, 2004, a plan that would provide adequate resources to New York City schools. CFE seeks to extend the court's findings to require increased funding for most school districts across the state.

The CFE proposal is available at www.cfequity.org/.