Michael Gannon. Journal News. 3/29/2006.

A new poll conducted by an education advocacy group has found that more than half of voters in three closely contested state Senate districts, including one in Yonkers, are "very concerned" that the Senate has not increased funding for poor school systems.

The poll by the League of Education Voters, which quizzed 900 voters in Westchester, Queens and Long Island, found 57 percent of voters were "very concerned" and 31 percent were "somewhat concerned" that the Senate has failed to resolve a 2003 Court of Appeals ruling that found the state has inadequately funded New York City schools.

The league, a nonprofit issue advocacy group, is targeting state Sen. Nicholas Spano, R-Yonkers, and other legislators for their failure to address the court ruling in the case, brought in 1993 by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

A state appellate court affirmed the ruling last week, but the GOP-controlled Senate has given no indication that it intends to address the settlement in the state's budget for the fiscal year that begins Saturday.

"Every year, Yonkers goes though a dance to deal with funding, and voters are sick of it," said Jonathan Rosen, a spokesman for the league. "Voters are expecting real leadership this year in the budget process."

Yonkers, a high-need, urban district, faces a $100 million budget hole this year. Negotiations between the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the republican-led Senate have produced more than $40 million in new, recurring revenue. The plan, however, requires Gov. George Pataki's approval.

Spano accused the league yesterday of "distorting and lying about my record" and predicted voters would see through the tactic.

"We are in the process of securing more education aid in Albany than Yonkers has ever seen in its history," Spano said. "The people of my district will recognize that I'm a friend of education."

The league's assault on Spano comes as the 10-term senator girds for a tough 35th District re-election campaign against Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins. A county legislator representing Yonkers, Stewart-Cousins lost to Spano by 18 votes in a surprisingly strong showing two years ago.

The organization spent more than $200,000 earlier this year on cable TV ads attacking Spano and state Sen. Serphin Maltese, R-Queens, for their records on education funding.

The poll, conducted March 11-18 by Washington-based polling firm Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, also polled voters in the 3rd and 11th Senate districts, which are represented by Sen. Frank Padavan, R-Queens, and Sen. Caesar Trunzo, R-Brentwood.