State Cash May Fund Orthodox Special Ed

N.Y. Bill Promises More Public Funding of Yeshivas

Reading Tea Leaves: Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein reads to students at a Brooklyn yeshiva. In a nod to growing Orthodox political power, the lawmaker introduced a bill that will expand state funding of special education students at Jewish schools.
courtesy of helene weinstein
Reading Tea Leaves: Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein reads to students at a Brooklyn yeshiva. In a nod to growing Orthodox political power, the lawmaker introduced a bill that will expand state funding of special education students at Jewish schools.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 29, 2012, issue of August 03, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A bill currently awaiting the signature of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offers the Orthodox community the possibility of significantly increased public funding for private religious schools.

The bill, passed by both houses of New York State’s legislature in June, will enable at least some — and perhaps many — Orthodox children with special education needs to be taught in Jewish parochial schools at state expense rather than in the public school system’s own special education programs.

UPDATE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to veto the bill that offers the Orthodox community the possibility of significantly increased public funding for private religious schools.

If signed, opponents say, the new law will create a religiously segregated special education system. The bill’s defenders say that it will allow for placement of some children in social environments better suited to their needs.

The bill’s passage marks a political milestone for New York’s ultra-Orthodox community, which lobbied hard for the legislation. This comes as Democrats face increased competition from Republicans for Orthodox votes, particularly in Brooklyn. Two Brooklyn Democrats have already lost elections that looked like easy victories. Now, incumbent Democrat lawmakers from these same areas appear to be listening to Orthodox constituents with increased attentiveness.

“You pay attention to people who have the potential to put you out of office,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a right-leaning New York Democratic political consultant. “I think Democrats have reason to pay attention and to be very mindful of servicing a constituency that, frankly, is marginal, long term, for Democrats.”

A recent study from the UJA-Federation of New York found that Jews make up 23% of the population in Brooklyn. Those Jews, the study suggested, aren’t necessarily liberals. More than half the Jews the study counted in New York City are members of the conservative-leaning Orthodox or Russian-speaking Jewish communities.

The New York State Assembly member who introduced the special education bill, Helene Weinstein, represents a Brooklyn district where Jewish support for Democrats has been particularly fickle.

Weinstein’s district overlaps in part with the congressional district represented by Republican Representative Bob Turner, whose surprise victory in a special election last fall was attributed largely to dissatisfied Jewish voters. Her district also overlaps with the heavily Jewish State Senate district where Republican David Storobin, a Russian-speaking Jew, narrowly won a special election in May that he was expected to lose.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.