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SCHOOLS STRAIN TO DO MORE WITH LESS CHILDREN CAUGHT IN CASH CRUNCH

Tightfisted city politicians and free-spending school officials are squeezing Buffalo schools dry.

They're the reason for creaky buildings, low-tech libraries and teachers buying classrooms supplies out of their own pocket.

"They expect you to do more and more, and they give you less and less help," said Diane Monahan, a teacher at School 3.

Schools are strapped for cash because:

The city is spending relatively little on education.

Buffalo's allocation for schools averages half that of the typical big city.

And city officials are talking of cutting that for the coming budget year.

The district isn't spending wisely.

Inefficient spending practices and generous labor contracts are costing the district millions of dollars that could otherwise be spent in the classroom.

"We need more money, and we need people to work more efficiently," said Anthony Palano, principal of the Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute.

The lack of funds has hurt many school programs.

Take school libraries, for example. It's bad enough that some don't have computers. What's worse is that many don't even have full-time librarians -- in this, the Information Age.

Of course, for 10 schools that still heat with coal, it's still the Industrial Age.

The lack of money has crippled efforts to maintain and rebuild the district's scores of school buildings, most of which predate the Depression.

"We need to give our kids more to work with," School 4 Principal Jacqueline Woodbeck said. "This is an investment in tomorrow, and that investment doesn't come cheap."

Part 2 of The News' series on city schools begins on Page A-6.

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