Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement upon the announcement that New York’s legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo have agreed to a framework resolving the outstanding issues in this year’s legislative session:
It is no secret that Agudath Israel of America has long been a strong advocate for passage of education tax credit legislation in New York. We had cause to be hopeful that this would finally be the year that such legislation would be enacted, as the Senate passed an outstanding tax credit bill at the very outset of the session and the Governor proposed his own exemplary Parental Choice in Education bill. We accordingly helped organize a massive grassroots campaign, as did several other advocacy groups, through which thousands of e-mail and telephone messages were sent to members of the Assembly urging them to pass the tax credit bill. Unfortunately, however, the Assembly did not pass any bill of its own, and ultimately blocked tax credit legislation. To put it mildly, this is deeply disappointing.
We are pleased that the final legislative deal allocates $250 million to reimburse nonpublic schools across the state for costs they have incurred in carrying out certain state mandates. In truth, these are monies owed by law to nonpublic schools, to which they are entitled pursuant to state statute. However, over the past decade or so, the state has not made good on its full statutory obligation, allocating only a fraction of the mandated services funds to which nonpublic schools are entitled, thereby allowing a significant debt to accumulate. Agudath Israel’s advocacy efforts in recent years have placed high priority on getting the state to make full payment of its mandated services reimbursement obligations to yeshivos and other nonpublic schools. While the state’s agreement to now finally allocate a significant sum to pay down much of its debt under the mandated services law is by no means a consolation prize for its failure to enact tax credit legislation, it is nonetheless a significant and welcome development.
We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in championing the interests of the nonpublic schools, both by including funding for a tax credit in his initial executive budget proposal and by introducing the Parental Choice in Education Act. These were acts of political courage and historical import. We also appreciate that the Governor was instrumental in responding to our longstanding pleas for payment of the mandated services reimbursements to which our schools are entitled.
The Senate deserves great thanks for its role in aggressively advancing the tax credit concept. Under the leadership of former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and more recently the current Majority Leader John Flanagan, and with important contributions from people like Senators Simcha Felder and Martin Golden, the Senate has distinguished itself as a great champion of the nonpublic school community. We look forward to continue working with them in addressing the plight of hard-pressed tuition paying parents in our community.
Our disappointment in the Assembly’s obstructionist role in blocking education tax credits in no way diminishes our appreciation for the many Assemblymembers who worked hard to promote such credits: Assemblymembers Michael Cusick and Michael Simanowitz (who were the lead sponsor and co-sponsor of an Assembly education tax credit bill); and Assemblymembers Steve Cymbrowitz, Phil Goldfeder, Dov Hikind and Helene Weinstein, to name just a few.
The 2015 legislative session may be over, but the battle on behalf of our yeshiva community continues. It is our job now to redouble our efforts to work with the Governor and all members of the legislature to fashion meaningful relief for our precious children and their hard-pressed parents who heroically carry the heavy fiscal burden of yeshiva education.
We came close this year to accomplishing something historic. We’ll be back again next year.