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REGENTS SEEK 10% MORE AID TO PREPARE FOR NEW STANDARDS

The State Board of Regents has requested a school aid increase of $1.3 billion -- or more than 10 percent -- to help districts prepare pupils for tougher graduation standards.

The bulk of the increase would go to "high-need" school districts, including Buffalo and New York City, said Richard P. Mills, state education commissioner. New rules also would give districts more flexibility in using the funds.

"Schools have taken on the big and essential job of raising learning standards," said Regents Chancellor Carl Hayden. "The Regents proposal would greatly boost their ability to ensure that students reach those standards."

The Regents sent Gov. George E. Pataki a proposed $13.8 billion budget. The governor is expected to present his overall state spending plan next month, and it will then be considered by the State Legislature. A state budget is supposed to be in place by April 1, but is almost always late.

The Regents proposal is merely the first step in a long and often contentious process. But it frames the debate and often contains figures that are reasonably close to the final budget.

The bulk of the proposed increase would cover escalating funding hikes agreed to in previous years.

For example, an additional $140 million would be provided for prekindergarten programs, $52 million would be added to an existing fund for academic intervention, and $65 million would be targeted for elementary school class-size reductions. The proposal also includes $86 million for summer school, $25 million to help immigrant and refugee students learn English, and $76 million to attract and retain teachers in schools with high levels of student poverty.

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