They say they want their fair share and they want it now.

Thursday, hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and local politicians gathered at Madison Square Park to demand that the state give more money to New York City Schools.

"So we can learn more and people won't get left back as much," said one child.

"I would hate to have to leave the city to move to the suburbs for a better way of life because one of the most expensive places to live in the entire world doesn't fund their schools," said one mother.

Last year a judge ruled that the state's school funding formula shortchanges city kids, and gave legislators until July 30th of this year to come up with a fair plan. So far, the state assembly, state senate, and Governor George Pataki have come up with individual plans, but can't agree on how to reconcile them.

The protesters from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity say they want to get this done before the legislative session formally ends next Tuesday.

"We have a historic opportunity to improve education for children in New York City," said "Sex and the City" actor Cynthia Nixon. "If we miss this July 30th deadline this opportunity will not come again."

"I think it's a shame," said Councilman John Liu. "I think that people are dragging their feet on this issue meanwhile ultimately the kids in our school system are going to suffer."

After rallying at Madison Square Park protesters then marched to Pataki's office at 40th Street and Third Avenue. They were hoping to personally deliver thousands of letters from students, parents and teachers to the governor, but when they got there they were told they couldn't enter the building.

"The troopers immediately closed the doors and did not allow the children to come in or us," said Councilwoman Margarita Lopez.

But, 20 minutes later a representative from Pataki's office greeted the crowd, and promised to deliver the letters to the governor.

"They finally decided after deliberating for 20 minutes that it was in their best interest to come down and I'm glad they finally did," said Councilman Robert Jackson.

The protesters are hoping the state will come up with a deal soon. At any rate, if lawmakers don't, the court will.

ö Ruschell West