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On RttT deadline day, Paterson proposes $1.1B in school cuts

Gov. Paterson’s proposed budget for next year includes cutting $1.1 billion in school funding — and spending $750 million in supplemental federal funds that the state doesn’t yet have.

Most of the cuts would come as a 5 percent reduction to districts’ per-pupil funding, according to budget documents Paterson’s office released this morning. Paterson is also proposing to halt plans for new pre-kindergarten programs and eliminate grants for school districts the state deems to be failing.

Paterson is counting on Race to the Top funds to balance the state’s budget. According to the budget summary, Paterson’s proposal includes a $750 million “in anticipation of a successful application for competitive funds” through Race to the Top. The state is actually eligible for about $700 million in Race to the Top funds, but winning them is hardly assured.

This morning, legislators paused their debate over laws intended to boost the state’s chances of winning to attend Paterson’s budget briefing. The state’s Race to the Top application is due in Washington, D.C., this afternoon.

Paterson’s proposed cuts are sure to ignite a budget battle that could stretch well into the spring. The legislature must approve a balanced budget by the start of the state’s fiscal year on April 1.

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