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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘sheldon silver’

New York State Achieves Historic Funding Support for Yeshivas

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

As New York State’s legislative session began in January, our community – and the nonpublic school community broadly – had the highest hopes. For the first time in perhaps decades, there were several legislative proposals on Albany’s agenda that, taken together, would significantly support Jewish day schools and bolster their finances.

And while New York legislators did not enact all the measures we sought, we see, with the budget having been finalized last week, that we achieved historic levels of government support for our schools in the Empire State.

These successes are the result of our community’s advocacy, its partnership with likeminded allies, and the responsiveness of the legislative and executive leadership in supporting our community’s needs.

We are privileged to have allies in Albany such as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The speaker has been an ally on efforts to bring real funding to help alleviate affordability issues facing yeshivas and day schools, and that was the case in this budget cycle.

We also express our deep gratitude to Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein and to Governor Cuomo for their commitment to creatively serving our community.

Still, some in our community are critical of our state leaders because we did not see every item on our wish list become law. Certainly, we share the concerns that the Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC) did not make it into the final budget agreement, though it was a lofty goal. Almost a decade ago, when TEACH-NYS was first formed and OU Advocacy was initially expanding its policy and political efforts to statehouses, this was the first policy each of us supported in Albany.

However, even without EITC, this new budget, taken objectively, is the best any yeshiva day school advocate has seen in decades. That’s true in terms of net dollars and cents, and it’s equally true on precedent-setting inclusion in new state funding programs.

New York’s Mandated Services Reimbursement (MSR) is fully funded this year at $90 million and an additional $7 million was allocated to pay past-due amounts. In addition, CAP, the Comprehensive Attendance Program, an anti-truancy mandate from the state, is now at $45 million, an increase from last year and the largest amount we have received for this funding.

Furthermore, an additional $16 million in back payment for CAP was allocated, equal to over ten percent of amounts owed. The back payment was part of an unprecedented multi-year payment plan, championed by Speaker Silver, which will ensure that the state make good on the hundreds of millions of dollars in CAP arrears. This represents the largest combined payback of the CAP and MSR debts owed our schools. These are bedrock state programs for the nonpublic school community.

In addition, nonpublic schools will receive almost $5 million in security funds. Besides the crucial, lifesaving need this program – like its federal counterpart, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program – addresses, what is unique here is that last year’s initial $4.5 million grants were thought to be a one-time allocation. However, we have now proven that with dedicated advocacy we can maintain such programs. The security funding came about last year as a separate allocation due to our community schools being left out of the state’s SAFE Act for public schools.

This year we were able, through our advocacy, to ensure our children’s participation in new programs including both the budget’s Smart Schools bond and Universal Pre-K (UPK) programs. In neither of the initial versions of these programs was there equal or equitable treatment of nonpublic school students.

Of course, there is no reason – legal, constitutional, or policy – for students to be left out just because they are in a nonpublic school. Every child deserves the most current technology if they are to learn to be productive in our tech-centered society. Every child – in any program – deserves that opportunity.

Over $31 million will be available to our community if the bond proposal passes in a voter referendum, and any school is able to access UPK reimbursement so long as they have a certified teacher (for which reimbursement is $10,000/student) or are working toward certification (reimbursed at $7,000). These provisions of the new budget are almost surely a result of the Assembly Majority’s budget, due to Speaker Silver’s insistence.

We cannot thank enough our professional staff, their partners in our coalition (Agudath Israel, the Catholic Conference, and UJA-Federation), and the dedicated educators, rabbis, community leaders, parents, and especially students who called, e-mailed, and traveled to Albany to press this case.

But of one thing we are certain: as important as advocacy is, it is nothing without champions in elected office. Champions like Assembly Speaker Silver, who continues to be an advocate for our cause each and every day and who fought for unprecedented funding in this budget cycle. Champions like Senate co-leaders Klein and Skelos and Governor Cuomo, who helped deliver this record funding.

We must note that the year is not over. Special education funding and energy parity legislation are still being debated in Albany. We can continue to succeed through the continued partnership of our communal advocates and our legislative champions.

Brother Cameron, John Kerry Is Not an Antisemite, He’s an Idiot

Friday, February 14th, 2014

In an op-ed in the Friday edition of Yedioth Aharonoth, John Kerry’s brother Cameron Kerry rebuked the Israeli and Jewish-American right for their recent personal attacks on his brother. In doing so, he turned to the Holocaust, which, in my book, loses him the argument off the bat:

I don’t have the article in front of me, because it’s taken me years to recover from the disgusting Israeli habit of bringing 50 pounds of newspapers into the house every Friday and then OD’ing on them through the Shabbat – and I’m not going to put my already fragile psyche at risk for this job. So I’m relying on the JTA report, which is probably based on the English language original Kerry emailed them.

Anyway, Cameron Kerry described touring the Czech Republic last week with fellow members of his Boston congregation, Temple Israel, and saying Kaddish for siblings of his grandmother who were murdered by the Nazis.

“These experiences and their deeply personal meaning for my family make it all the more disturbing that some have recently suggested that my brother, John Kerry, had expressed ‘antisemitic undertones’ in his pursuit of a framework for negotiations, and some even suggested that he ‘has declared war on God’,” Cameron Kerry wrote, declaring, “Such charges would be ridiculous if they were not so vile.”

It’s a great technique, brother Cameron, to pick the most extreme and most primitive missive thrown at you, pretend it represents the overall content of the attacks on the Secretary of State, and be done with it.

But the majority of the criticism against your brother had nothing to do with his religiosity or his love of Jews, but with the fact that he’s a privileged buffoon seeking to aggrandize himself at a very heavy cost to the United States and to hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs.

We don’t think John Kerry is an evil antisemite, we think he’s an idiot.

We also don’t think he’s an honest broker. And we think he lies. In fact, we don’t only think it, we’ve established it, just Google your brother’s name, it’s everywhere.

According to JTA, the Kerry brothers first learned that their paternal grandparents were Jewish in 2004, during John Kerry’s run for the presidency, when The Boston Globe uncovered his grandfather’s roots, after Cameron Kerry had converted to Judaism. That same year, he teed me off when his brother sent him down to the Lower East Side, to be his messenger to the Jews.

You don’t see Obama sending his brother to be his messenger to Kenyan people.

So, anyway, back to my 10 year grudge against brother Cameroon Kerry. If you came to this article only to find confirmation for your concerns regarding the Secretary of State’s IQ count, there’s nothing about in the next few paragraphs. We’re going now down memory lane, to the 2004 presidential campaign, where John Kerry couldn’t defeat one of Barbara Bush’s less gifted children.

“For Kerry’s Jewish brother, pickle choice is order of day,” a Jewish Telegraphic Agency story ran in the fall of 2004, as the Democratic party’s nominee’s brother “discussed Jewish issues over a pastrami sandwich with [NY State] Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.”

That the event took place, according to JTA, at “Noah’s Ark deli on Grand Avenue,” can be forgiven. Grand Street, Grand Avenue, they’re all basically non-number thoroughfares down there, below Houston Street, where Jews and other colorful ethnics munch on their spicy foods. Less forgivable was the fact that the entire affair was depicted as a deleted scene from Fiddler on the Roof.

“The talk quickly turned to more important issues — like pickles,” reported JTA (a news agency featuring the telegraph in its name and, presumably, transmitting its reports by Morse code). The story continued: “Kerry said he preferred the half-sour variety, which he demonstrated by biting into one.”

NY Assembly Bill to Punish Colleges Supporting BDS

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly would suspend funding to educational institutions which fund groups that boycott Israel.

The legislation, introduced earlier this month by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and first reported by Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist news site, would ban state funding to colleges which fund groups that boycott “in countries that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.”

A08392 “Prohibits the use of state aid by colleges and universities to fund or provide membership in academic institutions that are boycotting a country or higher education institutions of a country.”

The intent of the bill, according to its sponsors, is spelled out:

The legislature hereby finds that it is beneficial to students of this state to have access to an education that is not bound by borders and to have the opportunity to obtain a global education. The legislature further finds that it is important that New York State undertake efforts to ensure that its students succeed in a world that is continually becoming more interdependent and diverse and further that students have access to international higher education institutions. A global education allows students to connect, compete, and cooperate with their peers around the world. Therefore it is the policy of the State of New York that colleges not use state funds to support boycotts of countries, or higher education institutions located in countries, that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

The bill, which currently has 48 sponsors out of 150 members, would cut funding to institutions that pay dues to groups such as the ASA or which subsidize travel to its conferences.

A number of New York-based universities have Israel branches, and Silver made clear in a statement that the target was groups that boycott Israel. According to Mondoweiss, while the word “Israel” is not mentioned in the bill, New York’s Regents board has certified institutions located in Israel, Lebanon, the Czech Republic and Hungary—and one of these states are obviously not like the others.

Also, Assembly Speaker Silver—my representative from the Lower East Side, may God grant him health and many long years, has made clear that he introduced the bill “in response to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel and its academic institutions.”

“Colleges should not use funds to support boycotts, resolutions or any similar actions that are discriminatory and limit academic opportunities,” Silver said in the statement.

The ASA was one of three U.S. academic groups to boycott Israeli academic institutions last year.

The legislation was criticized by Dima Khalidi, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support group as unconstitutional. Khalidi wrote MW that, in her view, boycotts are speech, and that the First Amendment also prohibits public officials from denying public benefits as a way of censoring speech activities.

She would have had a point, had the protections of the First Amendment clearly included Hate Speech. Should the case go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would be interesting to see if they extend the BDS the same rights they did corporations. I welcome comments from the legal professionals in our crowd.

The teeth of the new bill are in this segment: “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no college shall be eligible for state aid during the academic year that such college is in violation…”

It means, I believe, that while the school is struggling through the appeals process, grounds worker Willie must go without pay. It’s kinda’ thuggish, and, for once, It’s fun to be on the side of the thugs…

A Mayoral Candidate’s Low Blow

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

We were dismayed by Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota’s opportunistic call last week for New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign from his leadership position over the Vito Lopez matter.

To our mind Mr. Lhota’s injecting the Lopez Assembly controversy into the mayoral race, something that has scant relevance to anything in his campaign platform, is a transparent effort at jump-starting what has otherwise been a lackluster campaign by securing some name recognition and perhaps whipping up some financial support. We think it no small coincidence that Mr. Lhota promptly followed up his attack on Mr. Silver with an extravagant fundraising e-mail.

It should be noted that Mr. Lhota’s remarks were directed at someone who has long been the single most productive elected official in the country in terms of laws enacted to protect the rights of Jews as a minority group. And while politics is politics, Mr. Lhota could not have been unmindful that his attack – were anyone actually paying attention to anything he says – could have helped fuel the anti-Silver bandwagon being driven by the city’s daily tabloids.

It is also a fact that the major candidates for mayor on the Democratic side have all been leaders in advocating for women’s rights and all have expressed support for Speaker Silver in the Lopez matter. In addition, Mr. Silver enjoys nearly unanimous support on the issue from the members of the Assembly Democratic caucus – including its female contingent, which has pressed for many women’s rights initiatives. Indeed, Mr. Silver himself has long been key to many of the achievements in this area.

There is another very current issue on the state level if Mr. Lhota is truly searching for a state issue to address. As we discussed last week, the Assembly had passed a bill sponsored by Speaker Silver that prohibits domestic insurers from including on their financial statements investments in companies that engage in investment activities in Iran. State insurance regulators rely on such financial statements to determine whether a company is solvent and able to pay claims.

Mr. Silver has said his bill addresses a concern that investments in Iran are not financially sound given the political turmoil there. Yet he also noted that he hopes this legislation would further encourage divestment in Iran in tandem with federal legislation. This is certainly something our community, along with most New Yorkers, is interested in. Sadly, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate, Dean Skelos, did not even allow Silver’s bill to be voted on before the legislature adjourned last Friday.

Rather than commenting on this clear failure on Senator Skelos’s part, Mr. Lhota chose to challenge Speaker Silver over the Lopez affair.

Come election time, our community should not forget Mr. Lhota’s priorities.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/a-mayoral-candidates-low-blow/2013/06/26/

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