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In budget deal, NYC seems to take a hit but still come out ahead

ALBANY — New York City won’t get back the $240 million it could lose by missing a teacher evaluation deadline, according to a tentative budget deal that legislators struck tonight. But it will get more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo originally proposed, meaning that the city will make up some of its lost funds.

Exact figures aren’t yet available, but of the roughly $1 billion statewide school aid increase, officials said New York City schools would get $300 million next year. That’s about $100 million more than what Cuomo laid out in his proposed budget earlier this year.

Cuomo said at a press conference tonight that the agreement does not restore the $240 million in school aid that New York City forfeited under state law when it failed to adopt new teacher evaluations earlier this year. Lawmakers in both houses, but especially the Assembly, had pushed for full restoration, and in recent days leaders signaled that at least partial restoration was likely. (Cuomo is currently barred from carrying out the penalty while a judge decides whether it is legal.)

The agreement would be disappointing for the city, but it seems that legislators have found a way to soften the blow. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said tonight that he wasn’t worried about funding for New York City schools.

“I think the city of New York will do well,” Silver said tonight.

Legislators did not say tonight where the additional funding would come from. One possibility is in funds freed up by an agreement to reduce spending requirements to pay down debt. The agreement, the first budget bill passed, reduced planned payments from $1 billion to $500 million, meaning that there is an extra half billion dollars freed up in the executive budget proposal.

Assembly officials said that the overall increase in education aid would be around $1.2 billion when the budget is finalized. That total would include a $290 million pot of “target” funds that would go toward teacher centers, libraries, and high tax aid funding for suburban districts.

The deal also sets budget lines for some of the projects that Cuomo announced this year, including an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and longer days for some schools. Cuomo said the agreement did not adopt a proposal to require busing for students in school after 4 p.m, something that city officials said would be costly.

We’ll have more details about the agreement and its implications for the city’s schools tomorrow. The next step for legislators is to wait out a three-day period required before they can vote on the budget bill. Lawmakers hope to wrap up by Monday, when the Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown.

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