A special education bill sponsored by local Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, which would have demanded that evaluators consider the “home life and family background” of special education students when placing them in schools, was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.

Although the bill does not specifically address religion,  religious parents were elated at the bill’s stipulation that “home life and family background” be considered when placing special education students in schools or reimbursing parents for private school tuition. However, Cuomo put and end to this excitement, saying that the mandate was too broad and would have forced taxpayers to cover the expense of religious education.

“This administration … is committed to providing the best education and assistance to every child in New York, including children with disabilities,” Cuomo wrote in his veto message, according to the Wall Street Journal. “However, this bill unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of private education.”

But Weinstein said the gov’s got it all wrong. This isn’t about religious or private education, it’s about streamlining the existing process for special education placement, she said. Currently, parents of special needs students who believe their child would be better suited in a private school need to repeatedly make their case to the city to obtain taxpayer-funded tuition reimbursement, often with the costly help of a lawyer.

“It is about parents of children with special needs not having to get a lawyer every year to fight for that which had been granted the previous year,” Weinstein told the New York Times. “It is about ensuring that parents of children with special needs are not waiting indefinitely for tuition reimbursements.”

Leah Steinberg, the director of special education at Agudath Israel of America, an organization which helped lobby for the legislation, said that the bill was about providing the best possible education for all special children.

“It has nothing to do with religion at all,” she said.

Steinberg feels that it is vital for evaluators to take into account the home life of children with special needs when placing them in schools. If there is a disconnect between the student’s home and school environment, the child will not learn effectively, Steinberg said. She believes that this bill would have made it easier to take care of the specific needs of each child.

While this bill has not been discussed by the mainstream media until Cuomo’s veto on Tuesday, it has been heavily reported on by the Jewish media during the past few weeks. Sites including vosizneias.com, and papers such as the Jewish Daily Forward have presented this bill as one which will benefit religious children, particularly Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Daily Forward even titled their article “State Cash May Fund Orthodox Special Ed,” leading readers to believe that this bill was targeted towards public funding of special education in Jewish schools, and helping shore up Weinstein’s bonafides among religious constituents ahead of the November elections – when she faces off against Orthodox Jewish Republican Joseph Hayon.

Weinstein issued a statement saying she will continue to fight for the bill’s passage. The Times said that this indicates that she will attempt to gather the two-thirds majority necessary to override the governor’s veto, but is currently seven votes shy.

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  • Barkingspider07

    I would totally stop paying taxes before supporting any private school or religious institution.  Good for Andrew Cuomo. One of the very few people in Government who has a head on his shoulders.

    • Czarbloomberg

      Andy sure is dandy, Secretary of HUD that put into place much of the machinery for the housing collapse all the while collecting checks from his convicted pedophile boss/business partner who raped dozens of boys all over Sheepshead Bay and Brighton  Beach. “Andy” is just a swell guy all around.

      • levp

        Convicted pedophile gave donations to the Governor = we should give taxpayer’s money to religious schools?
        If this is NOT what you are saying, then please clarify the point of your comment.

      • Subway Stinker

        I was no fan of HUD Sec’y Cuomo, but geeze, what are you talking about?  I despise blind items and no-name accusations. Useless.

  • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

    Philip Seymour Hoffman?

    • Kon

      Every time I see her face I start thinking about the song “Lola” by the Kinks. “I’m not dumb but I can’t understand why she looks like a woman but talks like a man.”

      • ES

        She’s a really nice lady. Absolute salt of the earth. Why is it necessary to disparage a person’s features?

        • Subway Stinker

          Silly to complain about her ‘looks’ when on the merits, she is a useless member of the Assembly. She should have been voted out of office years ago for poor performance but the sheep-ple of this District have no sense. Weinstein relies on know-nothings like KON to survive; she is a classic ‘go along to get along’ pol put in place by our County leader. All Hail.

          • Kon

            Go fuck yourself. 

  • Brightonresident

    The State should NOT be paying for private school if it is a problem of religion!  There is supposed to be a separation of church and STate.  If a parent needs to send their child to a school based on religious needs then that parent should pay for it!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      True, there is a separation between church and state. While I am not a fan of religious education I recognize that some feel that public education violates their beliefs. Special needs children need special accommodations. The costs may not be within the means of some religious school organizations. So do we deprive special needs students of the means in which to obtain an education?

      The courts have generally interpreted this sort of aid as a form of government entanglement with religion. But there have been rulings that have made special allowances. However, getting past the “Lemon” test is not easy. Especially the third prong.


      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RON6KB5HMRHTKIYTK6HFBLVVZ4 orly r

        “Public education violates their beliefs,”  a religion that preaches separation from society is a cult.  

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

          The definition of a cult is more complex than simply that. Most religions have tenets that suggest that separating one’s self from non-believers is a desirable way to live.

      • PA

        I agree with your comments, and respect everyone else’s, but want to add that this Bill would have enabled special needs children to access better educational placements regardless of the presence or absence of religion. I have a child with special needs I have been home schooling for the past 3 years because the last school he attended wrecked his nerves, self esteem, you name it. I have not been able to find a public school with a viable environment and/or special needs program. Of note: I DO NOT have a religion. Also, I pay (as we all do) a small fortune annually in school taxes alone even though my son cannot benefit from what the school district has to offer. The one school in my area with a viable setup is private (not religious) and has a tuition cost of ~ $16,000 per year. I could never afford it but I desperately wish I could because at present our day to day life is practically a house of cards. The logistics are dizzing. Gratefully my child has been thriving but my energy level is at an all time low. I want for him what all of you want for your kids: safety, peace, respect, understanding, and a viable educational setup where he could thrive. For the perants of children with special needs finding appropriate schools for their children is quite difficult …. unless of course you have a lot of money and can afford the ‘other’ school.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

           In general the totality of inclusion is why I support this bill. Public schools find maintaining programs difficult and attempt to mainstream students who would thrive in a special environment but suffer academically in one where their special needs are not properly addressed.

          Special education programs were wonderful back in the 1960s for children who had moderate disabilities. Those with  more serious disabilities had more difficulties. And children with learning difficulties were treated as unteachable. Even when I was young I was able to ascertain the difference. More funding and better training would have given all special needs children a education that would benefit them. We know so much more now, we can do what we couldn’t before. But training, screening, and very important funding are needed to make that happen.

  • Arthur Borko

    Public Money should never, under any circumstances, go towards anything involving religion. EVER. They get billions of donations a year, to say nothing of actual payments from parents and followers for their services.

    • Subway Stinker

      Arthur we have already lost this fight. Houses of worship get tax exemption, school bus service, off site classrooms and lots of other stuff I dont even know about. But, you are fighting the good fight to support that Wall of Church/State separation.

  • Logo

    That’s a handsome woman.

  • Pingback: Advocates Say Special Education Bill Was Misunderstood – New York Times | Education for Live

  • Guest

    Reading most of these comments makes me feel like one of the classier people of the neighborhood, and that’s a real sad statement.

  • Logo

    That guy Weinstein has some nerve!

  • SchoolBoardMember

    This bill was so bad for kids on so many levels that I can not thank the Governor enough for putting kids first and vetoing it. If the supporters of this bill wanted an honest debate, they would not have adopted a strategy to sneak it through on the last day. No one advocating for public schools was consulted.  Already five legislators who were for it last time have told us they understand the forces at work and will vote no next time.