Assembly Hikes School Aid To $25B — No Tuition Relief

ALBANY -

New York’s Democrat-controlled Assembly on Monday proposed increasing aid to public schools by $1.8 billion to nearly $25 billion for the fiscal year that starts April 1 — but did not include a tuition tax credit passed by the Senate and pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the proposal makes a commitment to the state’s public school children. It is $830 million more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for and would have the school budget jump from $20 billion last year to nearly $25 billion next year. New York spent $21.5 billion on its schools this year.

There are 2.8 million students in the public school system; they get the lion’s share of state funding. The 400,000 pupils in non-public schools get some of the money, principally for busing, special education and textbooks. The $100-million tax credit would go half for public school education and half for private schools.

Heastie told an Agudath Israel of America mission two weeks ago he was open to passing some form of tax credit. However, he told a radio interviewer on Friday that he doubted there was enough support among Democrats for the legislation.

“Within our conference, there wasn’t enough support to include it in our one-house resolution or bring the vote to the floor,” he said. “I’m a consensus builder. We didn’t have enough support to move forward with that.”

Still, Heastie didn’t close the door to its approval. “The governor would like to see it and the Senate supports it, so I would say we’ll stay tuned on that issue as well,” he said.

Cuomo wants to tie the measure to the DREAM Act, which gives tuition aid to illegal immigrants. Democrats support it while the Senate GOP campaigned successfully for a majority last year based on their opposition to it.

The Assembly and Senate’s formal budget proposals are expected to be released at midnight going into Tuesday. State Sen. Simcha Felder, a primary sponsor of the tax credit in his chamber, held off comment until he sees the proposal.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, a Midwood Democrat, told Hamodia late Monday afternoon that the budget was finalized and was in the process of being printed out for the members.

“I can tell you that the tax credit is not in the Assembly budget,” he said.

Cymbrowitz explained that the Assembly did not put in the credit since they knew the Senate has it in their budget proposal. Each chamber’s proposal represents the issues they want on the negotiating table.

The Assembly majority would extend mayoral control of New York City schools until 2022 and raise funding for universal pre-K to $835 million — with $80 million for New York City.

Another issue Orthodox groups have been watching is the East Ramapo school board. The district, which is home to Monsey and New Square, receives less than it should based on poverty level and number of children.

The dwindling funds have led to clashes between minority groups who send to public school and the Orthodox-led school board. It reached a peak last month when the state-appointed monitor requested veto power over how the school board is run.