New York’s Dream Act is dead

A measure to provide tuition assistance to children in the country illegally died in the New York Senate on Monday evening.

The so-called Dream Act would have benefited some 3,500 public school graduates and made the state the fifth to offer such assistance, but failed just two ayes shy of passage in a 30-29 Senate vote. All 28 Republicans voted against the bill. There are two vacant seats, and two Republicans missed the vote.

“I’m disappointed that the New York State Senate failed to pass the New York State Dream Act and denied thousands of hardworking and high-achieving students equal access to higher education and the opportunity that comes with it,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement. “I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York’s legacy as a progressive leader.”

Some Democrats blamed the unusual makeup of that chamber for the outcome. Even though Republicans are outnumbered, a breakaway group of five members of the so-called Independent Democratic Conference has joined with Republicans to lead the chamber. That coalition brought the bill forward late in the day with little notice, a move supporters said helped contribute to the bill’s failure, the Associated Press reported. Still, all five members of that Independent Democratic Conference voted for the bill. One Democrat joined Republicans in voting against it.

The measure included $25 million in tuition assistance and up to $5,000 a year for undergraduates attending four-year schools.

“At the end of the day, my responsibility is the voters of my district, even more so than to my conference,” Sen. Ted O’Brien, the Democrat who voted against the bill, told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “At a time when higher education funding is so hard to come by for so many people, this was just not an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer money.”

Seventeen states, including New York, give local undocumented immigrant children in-state tuition rates for public colleges and universities, according to a February roundup by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four — Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon — passed such measures last year.

California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington all also allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid, as the New York measure would have done. And Washington only joined that list late last month.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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