State Sen. Simcha Felder yesterday was given the powerful chairmanship of a newly created subcommittee handling education issues in New York City, dealing the senator representing the so-called “super-Jewish” district an outsized voice on yeshivah budgets and tuition relief.
Mr. Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat representing the largest number of yeshivos in the nation, will have a hefty say, according to the Senate rules, on “any bill referenced to the Education Committee whose subject matter shall solely impact education matters in New York City.”
“All New York City schools and children are facing unique educational challenges which demand and deserve creative and innovative solutions,” Mr. Felder said in a statement yesterday morning. “I am confident that together with my Senate colleagues, we will identify and implement positive changes for over one million students who are counting on us.”
Hamodia reported the news two weeks ago, citing a source close to the Senate majority, but it was not officially declared until yesterday.
The new six-man committee will supervise the $24 billion education system which educates 1.1 million students, more than double any other city in the nation. Importantly for Mr. Felder, it will also have a powerful say on funding private and parochial schools, bus transportation for late homecoming yeshiva students and cutting the bureaucracy surrounding cultural sensitivities in special education.
While nominally a Democrat, Mr. Felder is caucusing with the Republicans. He sounded like a conservative when he promised to focus on transportation issues for yeshivos, and reducing the control unions have over yellow busing.
“Almost anything that government gets involved with, the private sector can do it cheaper and better,” Mr. Felder said. “Now, there are some things that can be an exception. You can’t just have a private police force … but anything else, especially service things like that, we know for a fact that [the private sector is better].”
For example, Mr. Felder cites the bloated budget for school transportation, currently at $1.1 billion.
“They are paying over $6,000 to bring every public school kid to school,” the senator said. “Yeshivos can do it at half the price and still make money on it.”
The current school bus driver strike, now in its third week, may afford the legislature the opportunity to wrest control away from the unions. While union proponents have long argued that the city cannot break a contract signed with the union, they are currently working without a contract.
As for his agenda to improve the public school system, Mr. Felder said that he does not yet have a Senate schedule but would like to hold hearings on increasing the number of therapists working with the children.
“Right now there is one guidance counselor for every 200 children, which is outrageous,” Mr. Felder said. “Explain how anybody could do anything with that.”