N.Y. Politicians Weigh Rabbinical School Funding

Elected officials in New York have struck a backroom deal that would require taxpayers to foot an $18 million annual bill for rabbinical training.

Gov. David Paterson and his legislative allies included the religion subsidy in the state budget, expanding the Tuition Assistance Program to include 3,660 students at a dozen rabbinical schools in New York City and its suburbs.

Paterson, a Democrat, was planning to run for reelection as the budget was being prepared, and many suspect this move was a gift to the politically powerful Orthodox Jewish community.

“Obviously, it’s totally inappropriate to advance a significant new program, when we’re cutting [State Uni University of New York], when we’re cutting [City University of New York], when we’re cutting community colleges,” Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) told the New York Post.

Legal experts also question whether the measure will meet the requirements of the New York State Constitution, which has stricter prohibitions than the federal constitution. Article XI, Section 3 of the New York Constitution forbids use of public funds “directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught.”

According to the Post, the Assembly is seeking to kill the program. The legislature is already months behind in approving the budget, and had still not taken action when Church & State went to press.