Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), governor of New York, managed to antagonize both the Democratic and Republican sides in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 with his proposal to unify two key education measures. Although the Dream Act bill miscarried in the State Senate in 2014, Cuomo is determined to put money where his mouth is and stand with immigrant rights activists and advocates to push through the bill to fund financial aid for illegal immigrants’ children this year. However, he wants to consolidate the measure with another that offers an education tax credit for people who make charitable donations to schools.
Democratic advocates have been pushing for the Dream Act financial aid bill. However, they feel the education tax credit takes money from public schools to benefit the wealthy, who can afford to send their children to the private schools that receive the majority of education charitable donations. On the other hand, the GOP is a strong supporter of the education tax credit but opposes using taxpayer money to fund education for illegal immigrants. By linking the two measures together, Cuomo’s proposal essentially unifies them to sink or swim together in an all or none move that antagonizes parties on both sides of the table.
Immigrants’ rights advocates want to fund financial aid for illegal immigrants and their children and those with deferred deportation orders. A similar bill was voted down in the New York State Senate last year. For the first time, Gov. Cuomo allocated money to turn the dream into a reality to the tune of $27 million, $10 million more than the bill’s supporters were hoping for. Labor and immigrant rights organizer Victoria Daza appreciates the opportunity for undocumented high school students to receive a quality education.
However, the target population for the educational aid measure largely fall on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum and therefore, the families are not able to send their children to the high price tag private schools that tend to attract charitable donations. Therefore, advocates argue the tax credit would hurt the immigrants by taking money away from their public education. Teacher unions also oppose the education tax credit as they worry that it would only deepen the inequality gap between public and private schools. Make the Road New York’s co-director Javier Valdés argues that it is too important an issue to not let it stand on its own.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his commitment to New York’s long standing tradition of welcoming immigrants and recognizing their beneficial economic impact on the larger community. As a thank you, his proposed unified measure would fund their dreams for the future by making tuition assistance available at the state colleges so they may pursue the higher education necessary for a better life. The power of the antagonism of both sides toward the opposite measure to once again kill Cuomo’s bill in legislative session remains to be seen.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
New York Daily News: Cuomo proposes
New York Daily News: Dream Act Supporters and Republicans