PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – The Pleasantville Union Free School District Board of Education is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill that opponents argue would give families more power to send their children to religious schools at taxpayers’ expense.
Both houses in the State Legislature approved bill A10722A, which would require schools to take “home life and family background” of special education students into consideration when considering whether to place a child in a public school or pay for private schooling.
“It’s a slippery slope toward a voucher system, where you’re choosing between private schools and public schools,” said school board member Larry Boes. “I mean, if we’re going to sit here and be supportive of our public schools, this is like the worst bill imaginable.”
School board member Louis Conte, who was in Albany when the bill was passed, believes officials did not have enough time to properly review the legislation before voting on it because it was added at the last minute.
“The end of the sessions are typically dominated by bills that name streets or authorize towns and villages to move signs, and stuff like that. That’s what typically goes on in the last frenetic moments of a session,” Conte said. “Not a bill that, frankly, re-designs an education system.”
Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter said along with not providing students with the best special education, the mandated bill would also be very costly for the district. If upheld, the bill would require re-imbursement within 30 days of tuition made by parents for unapproved placements.
“The very fact that this got approved this quickly without any cost analysis associated with it totally flies in the face of what we were told in the last year,” Fox-Alter said.
Boes called the bill “politics at its worst” and school board member Shane McGaffey said “it’s a terrible bill that's not good for us and it’s not good for the kids.” The board approved a resolution to send a letter to Cuomo urging for the bill to be vetoed.
“It seems to me that the tax cap has really turned into state takeover of local property tax. There’s a feeling here that this is now a new credit card and they don’t pay the bill,” Conte said. “This is just a bad law.”