CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – The Chappaqua Central 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 S7722A, 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.
"This is very concerning to us because it bears no relation to education," said school board President Victoria Tipp. "It really opens up all kinds of claims and takes away money from not only special ed programs but from general ed programs in order to funnel taxpayer dollars and school district funds to religious and other organizations."
School board Vice President Alyson Kiesel said she was disappointed with state legislators who promised not to approve additional state mandates without first performing a cost analysis.
"I’m shocked that when the state has gone through the process of putting together a mandate relief council, that’s taking time and taxpayer dollars to review relief petitions on education mandates, that they would create another mandate,” Kiesel said.
School board member Jeff Mester said the bill creates a slippery slope of allowing parents to send their students to private schools using taxpayer money.
"This is a case where special interests have really tried to, through the special ed process, carve out de facto vouchers for their individual student’s education," Mester said. "This is a back-door way to create a voucher system for religious school education."
The board unanimously voted to send a letter to Cuomo urging that the bill be vetoed. Cuomo lives in New Castle and within the Chappaqua Central School District.
"Hopefully the governor will watch what is going on in his home district," Tipp said.