Cuomo vetoes special education in private schools


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By Michael Gormley
ALBANY, N.Y. — A push by Orthodox Jewish, Catholic and other religious leaders to allow disabled children to be educated in private schools at taxpayers' expense failed on July 31, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have authorized school districts to reimburse parents for tuition costs.

Public school funding advocates, who opposed the measure, called it an expensive step toward a voucher program, which isn't allowed in New York.

“This bill unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of a private education," Cuomo said in his veto message. He said far more special education students would be placed in nonpublic schools under the bill at considerable cost to taxpayers.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the bill would have created “unsustainable financial burdens" for the state and city.

“The proposed legislation would have imposed another unfunded mandate on taxpayers across New York," Bloomberg said.

Supporters of the measure passed by the Legislature said it would require school officials to consider the home life of a student with disabilities when placing them in a school. Some Orthodox Jewish and Christian leaders and parents of disabled students had supported that as best for a child raised in a religious home.

There was no immediate comment from the Orthodox Jewish leaders who led the fight.

“We believe that parents have the fundamental right to direct the education of their children," said Dennis Poust of the New York State Catholic Conference. “This bill would have had a beneficial impact on many vulnerable children and their families, which is why it passed both houses of the Legislature. We will continue to fight for all children and families."

The bill would have required a school district committee to consider the differences between a public school setting and the child's religious home life and pay for nonpublic school tuition if that's the best place for the child. A school district would have 90 days to grant or deny a parent's choice and reimburse families for tuition.

The bill stated the fiscal impact was “undetermined."

The vote in the Senate and Assembly appear to make an override of the veto unlikely.

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