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Watchdogs: New York is shortchanging its schools

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Education,New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — New York state is $5.9 billion behind in funding its schools and poor districts are owed far more than the wealthy ones, according to a report released Thursday by two education watchdog groups.

The amount owed includes $4.9 billion of the $5.5 billion that the state promised by 2011 after a court ruling upheld that it was violating a constitutional obligation to provide every student with a sound basic education, according to the report by the Alliance for Quality Education and Opportunity Action.

The report said 78 percent of the outstanding balance is owed to poorer districts.

New York owes districts an additional $1 billion in Gap Elimination Adjustment funding, the report said. That is money that the state diverted from schools in 2010 and 2011 to help close budget deficits.

"Resource inequities are leading to more crowded classrooms, a narrow curriculum and the elimination of the arts and music — all smart investments that have made New York the national capital for cultural richness, entrepreneurs and ingenuity," Opportunity Action Executive Director Joseph Bishop said.

With a $6.2 billion budget surplus predicted for this fiscal year, "there is no excuse to continue to make our students lose out," said Billy Easton, executive director of AQE.

State education officials had no comment on the report.

Its authors recommend the state allocate the total $5.9 billion over the next four years and adjust funding formulas to prioritize poorer districts.

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