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Cuomo rejects Nixon's school funding jabs, touts 'highest in the nation' spending

The Democratic primary opponent has criticized the governor as neglecting public schools in minority neighborhoods.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon have exchanged jabs about state funding of public schools. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer; Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday took on his Democratic opponent, activist and actress Cynthia Nixon, on her key argument that the state has long underfunded public schools and the worst neglect has been in African-American and Latino neighborhoods in New York City.

“This state funds education at the highest rate in the nation,” Cuomo told the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC-FM in Manhattan on Friday. “We are double the national average . . . it is the highest in the nation.”

Nixon, an education activist for more than 15 years, spent her first week of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor blasting Cuomo over education funding. She said the state must be forced to adequately fund schools, then emphasized “all the schools.”

Cuomo said he’s insisting in the state budget talks now underway that school districts statewide divulge how much of state aid they allocate to individual schools, including schools serving predominantly racial minority neighborhoods. He said his concern “has nothing to do about Ms. Nixon.”

“Here’s the question nobody wants to ask,” Cuomo said, “It’s not about how much money we spend. We spend more than anybody else in the United States of America. It’s who gets the funds and what is the racial equity, the geographic equity?”

Poor funding of public schools, however, is the cornerstone of Nixon’s campaign.

“Today New York schools are the second most unequal in the entire country,” she said. “And the gap between the richest and poorest schools has grown wider today under Andrew Cuomo than it’s ever been. New York State itself is the single most unequal state in the country. The top one percent of New Yorkers earn 45 times what the other 99 percent combined.”

Cuomo brought up other hot-button issues for the primary vote in New York City, including his efforts to provide additional funding for the New York City Housing Authority. He also blamed the federal government and City Hall for failing to meet its greater obligation to fund and manage the crumbling subsidized housing and the New York City subway system, which is run by the state Metropolitan Transportation under Cuomo’s appointees.

Nixon has singled out NYCHA and the need to repair and improve the subway system in her campaign announcements this week.

Cuomo also twice noted he was the housing secretary under former President Bill Clinton, who remains an icon for many Democrats who traditionally vote in primaries.

Cuomo has a massive campaign fund after two terms. Earlier this week he dismissed Nixon’s candidacy as part of the “silly season” of politics. But Nixon said she’s not intimidated. She has so far called him a bully, vindictive and opportunist in her first days of campaigning.

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