Albany, NY – On Wednesday, March 6th, the Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS Initiative along with the UJA-Federation of New York led a coalition of schools on an advocacy mission to Albany to urge State legislators and the Governor’s office to increase aid to Jewish day schools and private schools throughout New York State. The coalition had over 40 people, representing schools from across New York City, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland County including Barkai Yeshivah, HAFTR, Magen David Yeshivah, Manhattan Day School, Masores Bais Yaakov, Ramaz, Rambam Mesivta, SAR, Solomon Schechter School Long Island, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, Westchester Day School, Yeshiva Darchei Torah, Yeshiva of Flatbush. School leaders led the meetings with Albany leadership.
The legislative priority of the Albany mission was to advocate for the increase of funding to New York’s “Mandated Services” program and the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP). Currently, New York State owes the private school community over $200 Million dollars in funding for CAP. In addition, while $58 million is the amount that should to be distributed to the private school community this year alone, Governor Cuomo has recommended a $34 million dollar allocation. While that is a 4% increase over what had been previously allocated, it still leaves a tremendous shortfall of $24 million for the year. This money goes directly to the bottom line of non-public schools. This funding pays for a variety of services that schools must undertake in order to be in compliance with State requirements, such as taking attendance multiple times on a daily basis and maintaining those records, administering State tests, providing health and vaccination information to the Department of Health and more.
Jeff Leb, the New York State Director of Political Affairs for the OU-Teach NYS said: “We came here to Albany as a diverse group of schools united by one cause. After meeting with over 50 legislators, including the New York Senate Majority Co-Leaders – Senator Dean Skelos and Senator Jeff Klein, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Governor Cuomo’s Senior Education Advisor, we are assured that the leadership of the New York State Legislative and Executive branches truly understand the plight of the private school community and are committed to working with our coalition to help resolve it. The continued presence of the OU-Teach NYS and the UJA-Federation of New York in Albany will help to reinforce the commitment that these two organizations, representing thousands of students, throughout New York State, have to the issue of aiding parents.”
Darcy Hirsh, the Director of Day School Advocacy for the UJA-Federation of New York said “The strength of this historic partnership between the Orthodox Union-Teach NYS and UJA-Federation of New York is our ability to demonstrate the diversity and breadth of the Jewish educational community to our elected representatives. Lobbying together with one voice, we succeeded in conveying that state dollars for nonpublic schools significantly impact thousands of Jewish families throughout New York State.”
The New York State budget is expected to pass before the end of the month making the lobby day timing vital. OU-Teach NYS and UJA-Federation of New York will continue to lobby the New York State legislature on a daily basis and will work with any and all Jewish schools to help them advocate as well. Jeff Leb and Darcy Hirsh spend every work day in Albany and will continue to be there until the budget is passed.