Cardinal Timothy Dolan released a carefully worded statement this afternoon that seemed to suggest some form of the DREAM Act is very much alive as legislative leaders and the governor continue to try to hammer out a budget deal.

“We have been advocating for the Education Investment Tax Credit as a critically needed measure to help provide scholarships for families to pay tuition for children attending private and parochial schools,” Dolan said.

“At this time in Albany, there is discussion of expanding this education tax credit concept to include scholarship funding for college students in need, including those students who might not otherwise qualify for other assistance opportunities. We support this expanded concept and urge its passage.”

“Students who might not otherwise qualify for other assistance opportunities” sounds a lot to me like students who aren’t able to access state-funded programs to help pay for higher education due to their immigration status. (In other words, they’re undocumented). But Dolan, who is a DREAM Act supporter, specifically avoided any mention of the controversial legislation in his statement.

I called the state Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust, who told me that during the course of negoitations “it has become clear that the framework of discussions includes some elements” of the DREAM Act. If what the four men in a room are considering is a straight expansion of the education tax credit the church has been pushing, then it would definitely apply to undocumented students, Poust said, because the bill in its current form makes no mention of immigration status.

Poust said the cardinal and the governor have been “keeping the lines of communication open,” and Dolan put out this statement because “it was felt that it would be helpful” as negotiations continue.

It had been suggested that the up to $300 million annual education tax credit could be “traded” (in budgetspeak) for the DREAM Act, which is opposed by the Senate Republicans and failed by two votes on the Senate floor last week. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the governor had put that idea on the table, but Silver didn’t think it was “viable.”

The teachers unions have opposed the tax credit, even though supporters – like Dolan – say it will help public as well as private (and parochial) schools.