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CITY SCHOOLS 7TH ON 'NEEDY' LIST

Buffalo is the seventh-neediest school district in the state and would benefit considerably from a Board of Regents proposal to target state-aid increases to "high needs" districts, officials said Monday.

Lackawanna, which is ranked ninth in educational need, also would receive a healthy state-aid increase, as would city school districts in Niagara Falls (ranked 21st), Salamanca (24th), Dunkirk (34th) and Jamestown (36th). There are 718 school districts in the state.

The Board of Regents recently proposed a $723 million state aid increase and urged that $450 million of the new money, or 62 percent, be directed to the 45 districts with the greatest need.

The proposal is based on the premise that poorer districts need more funds in order to meet tougher high school graduation requirements now being phased in.

"These districts have additional educational costs through no fault of their own," said Deborah Cunningham, associate in school financial aid for the state Education Department. "The state should share in those costs."

Andrew Maddigan, a spokesman for Buffalo Public Schools, cautioned that extensive budget deliberations lie ahead.

"The budget ought to include full funding of the Regents recommendations," Maddigan said. "The only way urban districts like Buffalo are going to be able to compete on a level playing field is if the resources are made available."

Districts are ranked by the state on a mathematical formula based on the number of elementary school pupils eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, students with limited proficiency in English and the number of students living in geographically sparse areas.

While precise state-aid figures for individual districts have not been tabulated, state officials said those highest on the list of 45 would receive proportionately more aid than those with less need. Aid increases would range from 2.7 percent for a low-need district not on the list to 10.3 percent for the district with the greatest need.

The Wyandanch School District on Long Island tops the list of needy schools, followed by Rochester, Hempstead, New York City, Westbury, Utica and then Buffalo.

Three rural districts in Western New York also would benefit. Friendship and Scio, both in Allegany County, are ranked 15th and 30th, respectively, and the Franklinville School District in Cattaraugus County is listed as the 31st neediest.

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