BY MICHAEL RICONDA
On Tuesday, July 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed S7722, a controversial bill which would have allowed parents to seek tuition reimbursement for special education students attending private schools for cultural reasons.
S7722, which was pushed by the Catholic school system and Orthodox Jewish communities, passed through both houses of the state legislature, surviving a loss of support from some legislators. The veto came amid public and legislative debate on the bill, which opponents claimed would have unconstitutionally provided public funds for religious institutions and overburdened already struggling school districts by forcing them to pay for private special education.
Despite the victory, several of the bill’s local opponents stressed continued vigilance and cited the possibility of a renewed effort by the bill’s supporters. Co-Host of the East Ramapo Underground radio show and East Ramapo Stakeholders member Peggy Hatton expressed disappointment in local legislators who supported the measure and anticipated a second push for the bill.
“It is my understanding that the bill is being redrafted to be resubmitted in the next legislative session,” Hatton said. “We must be vigilant in watching out for the public school system, even if our own ER [East Ramapo] administration and board lack the moral fortitude to do so,”
Carole Anderson, a Zoning Board of Appeals member for the town of Wesley Hills, also stated that she was already preparing for a second bill.
The bill had received significant attention in the Rockland County Legislature, where County Legislator Joseph Meyers proposed a resolution to discuss the bill and formally request Cuomo’s veto. It was a particularly strong issue in the East Ramapo Central School District, where the school board has faced criticism for budgetary cutbacks, allegations of improper placement of special education students, and providing school materials to private yeshivas, among other complaints.
In particular, New York State school boards have heavily criticized the bill for allegedly segregating schools at the taxpayer’s expense. In a public statement, the New York State School Boards Association, which advocates on behalf of more than 650 school boards in New York State, applauded the veto. “Although we respect the personal choices that parents make to raise their children in accordance with their faith and culture, it would have been wrong to obligate taxpayers to pay for these private choices,” the NYSSBA stated.