Gov. David Paterson will take a third shot at allowing tuition subsidies for students at rabbinical schools in a special legislative session he announced Tuesday. Paterson said he’ll call lawmakers back to Albany Nov. 15 and ask them to pass a set of education proposals he reluctantly vetoed, including one that would authorize annual tuition grants of up to $5,000 for low-income students at 41 rabbinical colleges.He said he’ll also ask the Legislature to accept $607 billion in federal school aid and pass a bill to reorganize the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.
“While we have not finalized the agenda for this session, it will include time-sensitive legislation that is either overdue or should not wait until the next administration takes office,” Paterson said in a statement.
Orthodox Jewish leaders have been pressing state leaders to offer rabbinical students the same aid that their peers get at secular colleges through New York’s Tuition Assistance Program. They point out that the federal government includes religious schools in its Pell Grant program, which is also for low-income students.
They lobbied Paterson in person at a fundraiser in Kiryas Joel in January, underscoring their case with $140,200 in campaign contributions.
Paterson supported the request in his budget proposal nine days later. His administration estimated then that rabbinical school grants would cost $12.8 million this year and $18.3 million next year.
Lawmakers passed the bill that included that proposal, but Paterson vetoed it in July to eliminate additional school aid that he said the state could not afford.
In his veto message, he lamented: “In essence, the Legislature has presented me with a Hobson’s choice: veto this legislation despite the positive aspects it contains, or accept the irresponsible spending it compels, and agree thereby that New York State have a budget that is out of balance from the onset.”
The governor asked lawmakers later that month to pass an amended version of the bill authorizing rabbinical college grants and the other education program changes, but they didn’t take it up.