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

(page 2 of 3)

Weinstein, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1980, said in an interview with the Forward that she introduced the special education bill following a spring meeting with representatives of Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group that lobbies for ultra-Orthodox interests.

The bill would make a handful of changes to the way in which school boards reimburse private school tuitions to families that believe public schools cannot meet their children’s special education needs.

Orthodox families generally send their children to private yeshivas rather than public schools. But children with learning and other disabilities are particularly expensive to educate privately. New York State public schools are required to provide such children with tailored educational programs, but parents can make claims for reimbursement after placing their children in special education private schools.

The new bill will allow parents to request that school boards also take into account the educational impact of “differences between the school environment and the child’s home environment and family background” when deciding whether a special education child is eligible for private school tuition reimbursement.

The law does not define what it means by “home environment and family background.” Agudath Israel’s Leah Steinberg, who works on special education affairs for the group and attended the spring meeting with Weinstein, said that the phrase was not meant to refer specifically to Orthodox children.

“If you’re talking about a child who’s in the middle of the [autism] spectrum, there are going to be things that they are going to be able to learn… but if you’re not going to put them in a place where they’re comfortable… it will impact on their ability to incorporate what’s going on in the classroom,” Steinberg said.

Critics of the bill said its language will lead to Orthodox Jewish children receiving placements in private Jewish schools.

The motive of the legislation appears to be “tipping the scale” against a special education placement that “is not religiously segregated,” said Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association. Worona has emerged as one of the bill’s chief opponents.


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!
  • 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
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.