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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tax Credit Missteps

I saw this item over at he Politicker last week, referencing a meeting between president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten and government affairs leader of Agudath Israel of America, Dovid Zweibel. Evidently, this discussion seems to many insiders to be about a possible quid-pro-quo between the teacher's union and the Agudah. Presumably, the idea being that the Agudah would support the teachers' Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit against NY State, in exchange for the teachers' union's support for the tax credit proposal. Teach NYS, a lobby supporting the tax credit proposal, apparently did not appreciate the Agudah linking these two issues, and Teach NYS's Michael Tobman blasted off an open letter in response to the Politicker's report of the meeting:
TO: Agudath Israel
FROM: Mike Tobman

I am terribly, deeply shocked and disappointed.

Meeting w. Randi to discuss Education Tax Credits – regardless of whatever else was discussed – was wildly inappropriate.

Agudath Israel, an institution for which I still have deep respect, is in no position to speak for larger coalition efforts.

Linking CFE w. Education Tax Credits is simply wrong.

CFE is a $5 billion statewide school-funding discussion involving all courts, public officials and players.

Education Tax Credits are a $400 million helping-hand for lower through middle income parents. It is absurd to link the two.

The politics of relevance notwithstanding, your work this past Friday jeopardized a statewide effort that would benefit Agudath’s constituency more than any other non-public school group. Of course, public school parents would benefit more than any other group.

That having been said, it occurs to me that you were spun good and we may all suffer for that.
Tobman comments further in a piece in this week's Jewish Week:
“This is consistent with [the UFT’s] ongoing efforts to mischaracterize tax credits,” said Michael Tobman of TEACH NYS, the pro-tax credits lobby, who insisted his movement is supported not only by Jews and Catholics but by public-school parents who stand to benefit from school expenses like tutoring or test preparation.
It seems to me that the Agudah has been making a muck of this tax credit proposal. First, they called a meeting with elected officials to proclaim their support for the tax credit proposal - and at the same meeting, they announce that they will not allow the students in their community to attend a rally in support of the same proposal (relevant post here).

In my opinion, which seems to be borne out by these missteps on the part of the Agudah, the Agudah has always been more of an advocacy type of outfit. They are the place to go if one needs help defending their religios freedoms, such as bris, sabbath observance, or shechita. But to attempt navigation of the evidently treacherous world of hard-nosed lobbying in New York politics, without a good grasp of the hyperactivity of the New York press may not be the Agudah's calling. Perhaps the internet ban has prevented them from having an accurate read on how fast news like this travels in the blogosphere. But they may have to consider upping their level of savviness (fast), or stepping away from this type of involvement. Because mistakes like these, made by our very representatives, are the last thing we need when it comes to the uphill battle for tuition assistance.

20 Comments:

Blogger SephardiLady said...

Sadly I have found out that the Agudah cannot be budged regarding support for the tax credits. The lack of support seems to be much deeper than not sending buses for the rally.

I also saw Mike Tobman's post on the Politicker and am very disturbed. So many people in the frum community rely on the Agudah to advocate for them and they are failing miserably when they are angering a head of Teach NYS.

Just recently I was able to get my hands on the Agudah Paper, "Coalition." In the recent coalition the Agudah proclaimed success in helping kollel families keep their section 8 housing, something that was in jeopardy because of some upcoming legislation.

Already being very aware of the Agudah's lack of support for the rally, I was left extremely disheartened. The Agudah will bend over backwards for those who choose not learn and forego a living, and yet they leave the Jewish "working poor" who are struggling to provide their children with a Torah education hanging?

I don't want to think negatively of our leadership, but I am having a hard time finding the light!

1:42 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

Tobman is "simply wrong".

The CFE is a court mandate and is desparately needed. The tax credits could easily piggyback onto that. And they probably won't pass without something happening regarding CFE. Failing to support CFE makes it look like we only care about ourselves. And just as a practical matter, unions are sufficiently powerful in NYS that it makes sense to get them on our side.

2:01 PM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

i am confused on agudahs take on this tax credit thing. just this morning i saw a full page add in the jewish press informing people of the tax credit and urging them to go. agudahs name was on this add. it seems they do support it and i am far from being a agudah supporter.

2:33 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Well then I am confused to, because I have been told from extremely reliable sources that there are no Agudah (boys') schools attending the rally. If that is not a lack of support, than I don't know what is.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

probably some senile litvak directed them on this matter.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

You know, I'm confused, too. i just saw a letter on my kitchen counter on Agudah letterhead, signed by David Zweibel, urging people to take Feb 14 off to travel to Albany.

Despite the condescending "trust us for your own good" tone of the letter, including one line which really stuck out, "without going into details...," the letter seemed to urgently advocate attendance foremost, and overall, the unprecedented benefits of the tax credit.

While I'm dubious about the benefit to me personally, or anyone for that matter as tuition will only be raised by whatever the credit amounts to, why is the Agudah being so ambiguous in their advocacy? I really don't get their angle. Care to enlighten me?

4:56 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

More on this issue:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=12006

Getting support from the unions will help Sheldon Silver convince the other Democrats in the Assembly (to whom he owes his job) to support the tax credit.

6:17 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Charlie, you are not incorrect that the CFE should be supported. But I do agree with Tobman that it is not a good political move to link the tax credits with the CFE issue.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

om -- hey....what about me? I'm actually waiting for your answer.

7:07 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

SW:
Sorry. I was just giving the kidlets supper. My first instinct is always to answer the comments that disagree with me - y'know, I like to help people see the light. ;)

So, I don't really have a good answer for you. The short answer is that yes, the Agudah is pro-tax credit. The longer answer is that even though they are very supportive of tuition tax credits, they seem to be doing things that imply just the the opposite. They put together the meeting that I referenced in my previous posting on this, declared their support for the proposal to all of the school principals and elected officials that were present, mentioned the rally on Tuesday in Albany to support the proposal - and then promptly announced that they would not be allowing their students to attend the rally. Then there was last week's stunt, when they met with the teachers' union. I don't really think they are against the proposal by any stretch, I just think their ineptitude is causing them to commit misstep after misstep. I feel that if they really want to show support for this proposal, maybe they should just proclaim their support and then step back and stop trying to make back-room deals to make it happen. It's certainly not doing much to help us if the press has been linking the tax-credit proposal (which should be a no-brainer) with a very rancorous and expensive lawsuit that the teachers' union has against NY State. Just my 2 cents on this. I'm sure there is someone who can explain it better. Michael Tobman, where are you?

7:47 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Are they urging 5 Town schools to go, but discouraging Brooklyn (read: frummer) schools from attending?

We got the above mentioned letter from the school today. If that's the case, I'll be a bit irked. not that I won't find it funny that the Agudah needs the 5 Towns parents who most likely won't benefit (despite the desperate need) to go protest for the the super frummies.

It will be just like asking people with jobs to support people in kollel.

8:17 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Are they urging 5 Town schools to go, but discouraging Brooklyn (read: frummer) schools from attending?
Hmm. Not that I'm aware of. I think girls' schools are being allowed to go as...girls, y'know, don't need to learn anything. Boys are being prohibited - at least the boys' schools who care about the Agudah's ruling, anyway.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

If only girls schools are being encouraged, then why did my son's school send home a flier? Ohhh....b/c boys in the 5 Towns probably don't qualify for being mevatel torah when they miss school.

So I guess my hunch was partially right. The Brooklyn (boy's) schools are not going....which ticks me off because it's hypocritical, but grudgingly understandable.

As my wife and I joked last night when we discussed the Albany rally: "Thank god there were Soviet Jews when we were in High School. They did wonders for our social lives!"

9:23 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Today's Hamodia ran a full page ad from the Agudah, to urge all its "constituents" to attend the rally.

Who do they believe their "constituents" are? Did they get elected for something? ...arrogant jerks!

9:26 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Still wonderin'. Since many have turned over power to their schools and the Agudah, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't believe they have constituents.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

in that case, it would be more precise to call them adherents, or better yet, mindless zombies...

10:01 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'the press has been linking the tax-credit proposal (which should be a no-brainer) with a very rancorous and expensive lawsuit that the teachers' union has against NY State'

I've actually seen relatively little about the lawsuit/CFE and almost nothing about the tax credit proposal since it was announced. The tax credit will not pass without the support of (1) the Republicans in the Senate, who are most concerned about property taxes in the suburbs, (2) the Democrats in the House, who are most concerned about the public schools in cities and the union members who work there. I don't think talking to the leader of one of the most powerful unions is a bad idea at all.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie,
The New York State legislature consists of the Senate and the Assembly, not the Senate and the House.

11:52 AM  
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