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June 2, 2004

Assembly unveils $6 billion proposal to increase state aid to schools

The state Assembly has proposed a $6.1 billion increase in state aid to education over five years-which it says can be done without raising taxes. The plan would add $1.23 billion this year to the aid to schools statewide.

The Assembly plan also recommends that New York City contribute an additional $1.2 billion to its own schools over the next five years. That contribution would be directed towards programs which advance student achievement.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the $6.1 billion would go to New York City schools, and 86 percent would go to high-need districts across the state, the Assembly said in a release.

The Assembly plan would:

The Assembly plan, which was released June 2, comes after proposals to increase school aid that were released in May by Governor George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. In addition, the "Zarb Commission," a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Governor Pataki to study issues in school funding and reform, issued its own recommendations in late March.

All the proposals were prompted by a June 2003 decision by the state's highest court declaring that New York City is not adequately teaching its schoolchildren, and that the city and state must do more to ensure a "sound basic education" for those students.

The Zarb Commission called for the additional spending of between $2.5 billion and $5.6 billion phased in over the next five years to meet the needs of students in high-poverty and other stressed school systems.

The state would pay some unspecified portion of the added cost directly, with the rest coming from local and federal funds. Current fiscal projections indicate that at least the low end of the proposed spending range could be implemented without an increase in state taxes. Most of the new money would flow only after schools had plans in place to spend it effectively.

In addition to the new money, the Zarb Commission recommended that the state adopt a series of management, planning, and accountability reforms to ensure that higher spending on the schools produces the desired results.

David F. Shaffer, president of The Business Council's research affiliate, The Public Policy Institute, was one of 22 members of the Zarb Commission.

A report on the Governor's proposal. A report on the Senate's school-aid plan.