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Skelos: Final budget more fair to upstate schools

ALBANY -– Upstate will see a fairer distribution of school aid funding cuts under a new deal compared to the plan proposed earlier in the year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Legislature’s top Republican said this morning.

“We’re going to have a reasonable distribution so that it’s more in terms of old shares," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said of the “shares" system that allocates education funding along regional population levels.

Skelos said the governor had proposed that up to about 59 percent of his $1.5 billion in education cuts would come from upstate schools. The final deal, the lawmaker said, calls for upstate to be in line for about 51 percent of the cuts.

Lawmakers restored about $230 million from the $1.5 billion Cuomo wanted from schools, which say teacher layoffs and classroom cuts will be coming even with the restorations.

Specific district-by-district numbers won’t be out until early this afternoon, Skelos said. The Legislature is still awaiting completion of a few final sticking points with the education and health care portions of the budget. Skelos said the full budget will be approved by tonight.

Under the “shares" system, Long Island will get 12.9 percent. New York City will see a greater percentage of the cuts than under the Cuomo plan.

Both houses are rushing to try to complete the 2011 spending plan today, though lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly are worried a demonstration by several organizations –- which have promised to take their criticism into the Capitol’s halls and possibly the legislative chambers –- could slow things down.

--Tom Precious

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