As State Budget Deadline Looms, NY Legislators Tell OU Mission Delegates to Keep Up the Pressure on Albany to Support the Education Tax Credit

With just days left until the April 1st deadline to pass the New York state budget, state legislators urged the OU Advocacy-Teach NYS delegation in Albany today to keep up the pressure on elected officials to support the Education Investment Incentives Act, commonly known as the Education Tax Credit.

The nonpartisan public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, OU Advocacy-Teach NYS has brought four advocacy missions to Albany in support of the Education Tax Credit, its top legislative priority for the 2015 Legislative Sessions. Today’s Advocacy mission participants included rabbis, Jewish community leaders, day school leaders and students from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island.

Delegates met with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Senate Education Chair John Flanagan, and Senator Simcha Felder, and held 15 individual meetings with members of the Assembly. Assembly Members Michael Simanowitz and Phil Goldfeder addressed the group at lunch.

Noting that the Education Tax Credit has been a top legislative priority of his for the last three years, Assembly Member Simanowitz said that the bill is “probably the most comprehensive legislation that benefits both public and non-public schools.”

“Public education needs to be funded properly. That doesn’t mean that our private schools should get shortchanged,” Simanowitz added.

Assembly Member Goldfeder stated that he wanted to “dispel the rumor” that allocating funding to private schools takes funding away from public schools. “New York State has a budget of $142 billion. We can find funding for non-public schools within the budget. We can find ways to provide for every parent in the state,” he said.

Both Simanowitz and Goldfeder urged the delegates—and all parents who send their children to Jewish day schools—to get involved and contact their state legislators about the Education Tax Credit. Both legislators said that they would vote against the state budget if it does not include the Education Tax Credit.

The Senate leadership was equally adamant that mission participants must make their voices heard and encouraged the group to be aggressive when communicating with legislators.

The delegates, who represented New York Jewish day schools and yeshivas, voiced their frustration with several legislators about the lack of movement on the Education Tax Credit. “This is the fifth year that we have been advocating in Albany on this issue and we take the bill very seriously,” said Chuck Mamiye of Brooklyn. Rafi Chemtob, also of Brooklyn, added that the Education Tax Credit is not something the community wants, “it’s something we need.”

Addressing the rumors that the Education Tax Credit was pulled from the state budget earlier this week, Maury Litwack, Director of State Political Affairs for the Orthodox Union, said that the fight to pass the bill is “far from over.”

“If passed, the Education Tax Credit would create a new funding stream for the Jewish day school community that is critical for families. By easing the burden schools face when needing to provide scholarships to an ever-increasing pool of students, the Education Tax Credit would help every family with a child in non-public school, not just those on scholarship,” said Adler. “We have mobilized the Jewish day school community throughout New York State to help get this bill passed and we will continue to fight for this bill until it becomes law.”

Rabbi Ira Ebbin of Congregation Ohav Sholom in Merrick, reiterated the message that the delegates received from legislators throughout the day. “All of us who came to Albany must contact our legislators and get our community members to contact our legislators as well. We must be aggressive. We’re New Yorkers. We can be aggressive and make our voices heard.”

Prior missions OU Advocacy-Teach NYS organized in support of the Education Tax Credit include a delegation of high school students from Yeshivah of Flatbush and Nazareth Regional High School, a delegation of individuals with special needs and mainstream high school students co-sponsored with Yachad, the flagship program of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities, and a joint delegation with UJA-Federation of New York representing Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester and Upstate.

By encouraging individuals and corporations to make charitable contributions to public schools or scholarship-making organizations for tuition-paying families, the Education Tax Credit could generate an unprecedented amount of support to tuition-paying families and ensure that the program benefits the broadest swath of New York’s schoolchildren. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included the credit in his Executive Budget. The bill in the state Senate is sponsored by Senators Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn) and Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn); in the state Assembly, the bill is sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island).