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Charter School Advocates Praise Budget Deal Between New York Leaders, Gov. Cuomo

Deal Includes Charter School Protections, Universal Pre-K Funding

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Education advocates are praising a $140 billion budget deal reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders that includes new protections for charter schools and universal pre-kindergarten.

The state budget for the fiscal year that starts Tuesday contains an estimated 5 percent increase in state funding for public schools, including $340 million for universal pre-kindergarten statewide.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, de Blasio had hoped for $340 million to be allocated to New York City alone, but he’ll have to settle for the lion’s share of $300 million.

It also includes increased aid for charter schools and assurances they will have space to operate and making them eligible for pre-K funding.

“We want to protect and grow and support the charter school movement and this budget does that,” Cuomo said. “We made sure that charter schools do have alternatives which will provide reasonable space accommodations and funding to provide that space.”

Charter school advocates Saturday called the budget deal “a historic moment.”

“Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Skelos have championed parents and children by boldly moving to protect the future of charter schools,” Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz said in a statement.

“Gov. Cuomo and Albany leaders responded to a groundswell of parent voices, and made a historic down payment on ensuring all public school families are treated equally,” Jeremiah Kittredge, executive director of Families for Excellent Schools, said in a statement.

“It is the time for all of us to put aside politics, ads, rallies, divisive rhetoric and campaigning, and instead continue our shared task of delivering the best possible education to all of our children,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, in a statement.

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to reverse a decision to allow three Success Academy charter schools in Harlem to use space in public school buildings even though it was promised to them by former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio defended the move, even though it resulted in protests and several active lawsuits.

“Of the 45 co-locations carried over from the Bloomberg administration, we agreed to 36,” the mayor said earlier this month. “We disagreed with nine and I think any judge that looks at that is going to see that we’re balanced and objective.”

De Blasio said the state budget deal’s changes to charter schools does not cut into his mayoral control, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

“The way we are approaching things, which will be a different co-location process that’s fair to all the schools involved, is going to continue exactly as we envisioned it,” de Blasio said.

In terms of pre-K, de Blasio had proposed a tax hike on the city’s wealthier residents to pay for the program, but Cuomo had argued that it would create inequality for other communities in the state which don’t have the same affluent tax base.

There’s also a small catch, Sanchez reported.

The city’s pre-K money will only go to programs that are set up and ready to go. Any left over funding will have to be returned to the state.

Concerning the Common Core curriculum, new standards in English and math, the legislation would keep related test scores off the transcripts of students in third through eighth grades through 2018.

The budget also provides some tax relief for businesses, homeowners and renters.

In the new plan property taxes are set to be frozen for two years, saving 2.8 million New Yorkers an average of $300 a year, Sanchez reported.

There is also a planned reduction in the business tax rate, manufacturing tax cuts, and a phased in elimination of the utility tax surcharge.

The budget deal also includes eliminating the “move to die” tax. New York, one of a shrinking number of states that still taxes estates, will increase the exemption from $1 million to 5.34 million.

That means 90 percent of estates would pay no taxes, Sanchez reported.

Gov. Cuomo said he believes the move will keep people who would move because of the “punitive estate tax regimen” from leaving New York.

In order to balance the budget, there are cuts to transportation.

The deal will take $30 million from transit funding dedicated to subway, bus and commuter rails.

Critics argue that will put pressure on fares and service.

There is good news for some commuters though. The budget deal also includes $40 million for pothole repairs.

Lawmakers are expected to return Sunday to discuss the bills and vote Monday.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)