Last week, the Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn state senator Simcha Felder showed he knows how to use his position as the divided legislative body’s swing vote when it came to allocating $16 million in discretionary education funds.
Over 24 programs in Felder’s South Brooklyn district and a social services group for Orthodox Jews, received funds from the GOP leadership-controlled grants.
In the chamber of 63 members, Felder’s portion of the funds, which was equal to over $1.2 million, far surpassed those given to any other Republican or Democrat. As little as $5,000 was doled out to some of the other Democrats for their districts.
According to The Post, “The only reason the GOP controls the Senate is that Felder caucuses with them, providing a one-vote margin over the distressed Democratic minority. That paid off big time for libraries and schools in his district, as well as the Agudath Israel organization that focuses its social services on Orthodox Jews. The group received grants totaling $850,000 — $350,000 for community-services programming, $300,000 for a legal-services initiative and $200,00 for educational-access services. Felder recently teamed up with Agudath lobbyists to keep Albany from enforcing stricter academic standards at yeshivas. Two dozen other facilities in Felder’s district also shared in the windfall, from the Sephardic Bikur Holim community-service network ($90,000), to the Yaldeinu School for autistic children ($50,000), to the Midwood Library ($30,000). A dozen elementary schools received either $5,000 or $10,000. A high school that serves women, Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice, got $5,000.”
Felder said, “I’m very proud to do everything possible to help schools and libraries in my district provide services they wouldn’t provide otherwise. I only wish I could get them more money.”
Felder’s longtime connection with the organization was scoffed at by Senate Democrats, who claim it wasn’t need but rather politics that determined the funds’ distribution.
There were only four other senators who received over $500,000 for their districts, and they were all Republicans. The most was $745,000 which was secured by the Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino. While the Senate Democrats were given grants ranging from $5,000 to $225,000 for their districts.
Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Every New York student deserves access to good schools and a world-class education. The Senate Republicans continue to play politics with our children’s education aid.”
It was confirmed by Felder that he did speak up for the majority of the groups that were granted funds, but he maintains that he cannot take all the credit for Agudath Israel’s $850,000 grant. Felder said he only applied for a $205,000 grant for one of the group’s programs, and the other grants were given without his assistance.
By Rebecca Gold