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State budget education details released

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Albany/HV: State budget education details released
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School districts statewide are getting a better idea of what they'll be getting from the state as school runs are released. As Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports, many districts are struggling to stay within the new two percent tax cap this year.

NEW YORK STATE -- The details of this year's education bill were fleshed out at the Capitol on Thursday with the release of the school runs, a breakdown of how much money each district receives.

"There's money for all portions of the state. There was a strong emphasis on high-need rural districts," said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan.

The usual Albany debate over how much to spend on education and where was different. After a tax code overhaul in December financed a four percent boost in education aid, Governor Andrew Cuomo turned to using some of the money for changing how teachers are evaluated.

"I believe we have to inject performance into the education system, by and large. That's why teacher evaluations are important. That's why having an agreement with SED on a statewide teacher evaluation was important. That's why the four percent linked to the evaluations on the local level is important," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo had initially proposed to set aside $250 million for competitive grants. He later called that merely a placeholder figure and in the end he got half that : $125 million for competitive aid, including $50 million in grants that went unused this fiscal year. Overall spending is rising by $805 million.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous said, "The school aid formula is a mess. It's an abomination. Very few people can explain it or understand it. What was important to me was to get money to the schools, particularly the poorer schools, the rural upstate schools. Money that they can use directly, money that didn't have strings attached and we were able to do that."

Lawmakers like Senate Education Chairman John Flanagan say getting more direct aid was key to helping school districts that continue to struggle in a sluggish economy.

"I think our general thrust was before you spend any more, significantly more money on capital grants or those type of grants let's see how they work out and especially now when we're still in a tough economy and the school districts are still in a tough position we thought it was better to redirect money back directly into the districts," Flanagan said.

The education spending bill is due to be voted on Friday, one of the final budget measures before Saturday's deadline. New York typically spends the most on education and health care, making up about half of the $132.6 billion spending plan.

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