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In New York, a Budget, Checks for Schools

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The New York legislature has passed the last portion of the state's $28.4-billion budget, which includes a $625-million increase for education.

Approval of the spending plan clears the way for state payments to school districts, now more than a week overdue.

Passage of the budget had been held up for nearly three weeks by partisan debate over various sticking points, including a last-minute demand by Long Island legislators for $38 million in additional school funding. The rejection of that request helped clear the way for the bill's final approval.

The final budget brings the total amount of state aid for education to nearly $8 billion, according to Jeffrey P. Lovell, a spokesman for the Senate education committee.

Included in the increase is an additional $50 million for asbestos removal in schools. Gov. Mario M. Cuomo has said he will use his line item veto to kill the appropriation.

Governor Cuomo was unable to win support for several of the education programs included in his "Decade of the Child'' initiative.

The legislature rejected the Governor's proposed universal pre-kindergarten program, which would have brought all the state's 4-year-olds into school by 1992.

However, a $6-million increase was approved for 91 existing experimental pre-kindergarten programs across the state, bringing total funding for that program to $33 million.

No agreement was reached on the Governor's proposed Liberty Scholarship Program, which would guarantee poor students who graduate from high school assistance at any of the state's colleges.

The Liberty program is opposed by lawmakers who are pushing for continued funding of the Tuition Assistance Program, which has provided aid to needy college-bound students for several years.

Mr. Lovell said the debate over the issue is expected to continue.

New York City schools garnered nearly 39 percent of the $625-million school-aid increase, raising the city's share of state aid to $220 million, the spokesman said.

Because the budget's passage was delayed, districts did not receive their portion of the $1.5 million spring payment due April 15.

State officials say several districts were forced to borrow money to meet payroll and operational costs.

The Senate last week passed a bill that would require the state to pay back the cost of interest payments on the money borrowed as a result of the delay. The measure comes before the Assembly this week.--LJ

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