ALBANY - One Long Island lawmaker is firing back at the widespread phone call and mailer campaign to pressure legislators to back a controversial education tax credit.
Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) sent a letter to constituents saying tax-credit backers a parochial and charter school supporters a are misleading the public.
"The slick PR campaign, with its glossy mailers and ads, is designed to make you think this proposal would help our neediest students," Ramos wrote. "However, the fact is, the campaign is being financed and directed by wealthy Wall Street bankers and hedge fund billionaires and the proposal would actually benefit the wealthiest New Yorkers a not those in need."
Ramos referred to the Coalition for Opportunity in Education, a pro-charter school group that has become one of the state's biggest spending lobbying entities. It has been funded by billionaire Bruce Kovner and others from the world of high finance who back school choice. Some Jewish and Catholic schools also support the tax credit.
Ramos is one of five Long Island Democrats the coalition has targeted in mailers and automated "robocalls" to households, trying to pressure him. But he remains opposed, siding instead with teachers' unions. Ramos said the credit amounts to a "huge giveaway to the wealthy" and "would divert much-needed state money away from public schools."
"The issue isn't who funds the campaign but who benefits from the campaign," countered Robert Bellafiore, spokesman for the Coalition for Opportunity in Education. "This bill would help lower- and middle-income families get real school choice - which, if Mr. Ramos had his way, would be the purview of only the wealthy."
Bellafiore added that more than 100 groups support the bill, included some unions and pro-immigration groups.