If Gov. David Paterson gets past the continuing controversies over his private life, he may emerge as a formidable advocate for private-school families.
Paterson “is a friend to efforts to secure help for tuition-paying families,” says Michael Tobman of Teach NYS, the group lobbying for a tax break for private school parents. “As Senate minority leader he supported the 2006 education tax credit campaign.”
The former Harlem state senator, who attended public schools in Hempstead, L.I., may even turn out to be a stronger advocate for a tuition tax break than his predecessor, says Tobman.
In drawing a distinction between Eliot Spitzer and Paterson, who is the state’s first black governor, Tobman said “The former [backed an education tax credit] as part of some political calculus, grudgingly, while the latter does believe in his heart it’s the right thing. Add to that [the fact that] the school choice movement and communities of color have been close allies for years, and in fact the effort to secure help for tuition-paying families wouldn’t exist without the support of the African American, West Indian and Hispanic families, and he personifies that relationship.”
A spokesman for Paterson, Michael Whyland, said on Tuesday that the governor is “reviewing the issue.”
A tax break is not currently in the budget proposed by Spitzer, but Tobman said his coalition of Catholic, private and Jewish schools was discussing a tax credit with legislators. “Things are very fluid in Albany now, and like everyone else we are waiting to see what happens,” he said. Tobman said he was encouraged by the recent special election in upstate Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, in which Democrat Darrel Aubertine was elected to the Assembly notwithstanding opposition by the statewide teachers union because of his support of education tax credits.
“Gov. Paterson has historically supported the full spectrum of school choice and has been an energetic supporter of public charter schools and sympathetic to the plight of tuition-paying parents,” Tobman said.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been a strong opponent of tuition credits, but in 2006 implemented a $300 credit for every child, something he said would be a greater benefit.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a “coward” when it comes to protecting the people of Sderot, said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind after three days of braving Palestinian rockets there this week.
Hikind and a group of New Yorkers visited the southern Israel town on a three-day Purim solidarity mission. “There were 10-20 Kassam rockets, two of those on Shabbos,” said Hikind in a call from Jerusalem on Monday. “We got a real sense of what it was like to live in a war zone.”
At one point Hikind and his entourage were surveying the view into Gaza from a hilltop when an alert sounded and, with nowhere to take cover, they flattened against a nearby wall, watching as an ambulance driver abandoned his empty vehicle in the middle of a street and joined them. The group, which also included Brooklyn Zionist Organization of America activist Ruben Margules, distributed about 1,000 shaloach manot packages, with contents purchased from struggling local vendors.
Although there was plenty of holiday rejoicing, Hikind said Sderot residents are furious.
“The common refrain I heard from people is, ‘Why does Israel have an army? Isn’t it supposed to protect its citizens?’ … The prime minister and defense minister are not doing their jobs. There is no question in anyone’s mind what should be done. Everyone feels Olmert is a disaster. What I called him is a coward. He is afraid to take decisive action.”
Hikind recalled that Shaul Mofaz, then chief of staff of the army, vowed in 2005 when Israel disengaged from Gaza that if rocket attacks struck Israel there would be a price to pay.
“I met mothers who said their biggest challenge when an alert goes off is which child to grab first. You only have about 15 seconds from the warning [before impact].”
A Sderot principal told the visitors how a rocket slammed into a classroom only minutes after students had left the room. “It’s beyond comprehension that this is happening in the State of Israel where Jews are supposed to go as a haven, and instead they are living in terror,” Hikind said.
The Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side will hold what is perhaps the first major political event of the upcoming mayoral race with its legislative breakfast on Sunday. But there’s some confusion about the participation of a top Democratic contender, Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Organizers sent out a mailing last week touting the participation of two top Democratic contenders, Rep. Anthony Weiner and City Comptroller William Thompson. Consultant Ezra Friedlander said the flier was printed before he got an answer from Quinn.
But Quinn’s spokesman, Jamie McShane on Tuesday insisted, “We don’t have an invitation. It’s unclear whether or not she’s going to be able to go.”
Friedlander, in a later call, insisted that invitations had been sent to three members of Quinn’s staff asking her not only to attend, but to be an honoree.