Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jewish Press columnist misfires on private school aid

In this week's Jewish Press, Uri Kaufman goofs on an important item. Here is the link to his front page essay about the Florida Supreme Court's overturning of a private school aid program:

Here is the problem:

'Since it also permitted government aid to African-Americans, the court concluded that it violated a Jim Crow-era constitutional amendment.'

'The lower court ruled that "[e]ven if the no-aid provisions [of the Florida State Constitution] were 'born of bigotry,' " these provisions still had to be enforced against the hapless students.'

Mr. Kaufman then rants and raves about James Blaine, the 19th century anti-Catholic bigot and Republican Presidential candidate who convinced most states (including New York and Florida) to prohibit the use of tax funds for religious schools -- and then goes on to rant and rave about educating illegal immigrants. Now, ranting against illegal immigrants may be good red meat for conservative audiences, but a lot of relatives of those immigrants vote and won't be particularly favorable to Mr. Kaufman's cause, Gov. Pataki's proposed tax credit for students who incur expenses outside of public schools (including but not limited to private and religious schools). Also, his organization, Teach NYS, was incensed when there was a reasonable suggestion that the tax credit be linked to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which seeks to finally get underfunded city school districts an adequate funding source for their public schools. (I'll comment on that in a separate post.) Now Mr. Kaufman links the tax credit to immigration?

But the biggest goof is that he erred on what the Florida Supreme Court did. It overturned the program based not on Mr. Blaine's unfortunate amendment, but on a "uniformity" clause that is in many state constitutions -- but not New York's! Thus, the Florida Supreme Court's reasoning is completely irrelevant to the situation here in New York. Here is an article that accurately describes what the court did:

Is Mr. Kaufman more interested in getting the tax credit passed, or in raising the hackles of politically conservative Jews who would love to hear more about how liberals and unions are preventing them from educating their children. We ought to be reminding the unions that the Catholic schools in New York are unionized and that this might just put money into their members pockets. We ought to remind immigrants that this will give their children more opportunities. We ought to remind NYC legislators that this does not prevent the Campaign for Fiscal Equity from being successful. And essays like this will not do that.


Blogger orthomom said...

Actually, Charlie, even though the Florida Supreme Court overturned the program based on the uniformity clause, the Lower Court (which is actually the ruling that Mr. Kaufman referenced) used the Blaine Amendment for its ruling. Just a minor quibble. Don't necessarily disagree with anything else here - I don't particularly love the linkage here between illegal immigrant issues and education tax credits either.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Uri Kaufman said...

Hi Charlie. I'm the guy that wrote the piece in the Jewish Press you attacked.

Just to set you straight (i) as is clear from your own quote, I was referring to the Florida appellate court when I noted the "born in bigotry" quote. My point was that discrimination against people of faith is the last form of bigotry that is upheld by Courts. I can't imagine an appellate court saying that about any other group in this country.

As for the illegal immigrants, I too support educating them. We're a wealthy country, we can afford it, it's the right thing to do. My point -- as is obvious from the piece -- is that if illegal aliens can get a government paid education, isn't it only fair that people of faith should as well? Isn't it crazy to discriminate against some of our own citizens merely because they believe in God?

During WWII, it is said that German POW's travelling through the South were allowed to eat in "White Only" restuarants while black U.S. soldiers guarding them weren't. Discrimination creates bizarre anamolies like that. I was pointing out such an anamoly by comparing religious people with illegal aliens.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

charlie - i can't get to the link you're referencing (it gives you an error when you click on it).
i'd like to be able to read mr. kaufman's letter for myself. based on his comment, it seems like he was headed in an entirely different direction from the one you chose to pick up on.

8:53 PM  

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