For Immediate Release
January 21, 2014
Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center expressed its appreciation for the sections of the New York State Executive Budget, released today by Governor Andrew Cuomo, that increase funding for education and are beneficial for the New York Jewish day school community.
Included in the governor’s budget is a fully-funded, optional universal pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program, which would make full-day pre-K available for any community throughout the state that wants it.
“We commend Governor Cuomo’s focus on education as a funding priority for the upcoming fiscal year. Pre-Kindergarten is recognized as an important factor in creating an early atmosphere of learning for children and for giving them a ‘leg up’ in their education. We hope the legislature will pass Gov. Cuomo’s UPK program, but also urge legislators to recognize that all children deserve a ‘leg up,’ regardless of whether they attend public or non-public school. OU Advocacy will work to ensure that all schools, including private and faith-based schools, are included in this legislation,” said Jeff Leb, NY Director of Political Affairs for OU Advocacy.
Gov. Cuomo maintained his commitment to security funding for non-public schools, reallocating $4.5 million for the 2014-15 budget year. This funding allows non-public schools to be reimbursed for any safety equipment they purchase.
Gov. Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion Smart Schools initiative to be voted on in November. “If approved, the Smart Schools initiative would be a tremendous asset to make sure that all schools have the cutting edge technology they need to enable students’ learning. As with the UPK program, OU Advocacy will work to ensure that the scope of this bill includes non-public schools,” said Leb.
OU Advocacy is also working on other legislation that would benefit private and public schools, namely the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) and the Mandated Services Reimbursement (MSR)—two state initiatives that provide funding for anti-truancy programs and mandated services required by private schools—and the Education Investment Incentives Act.
Since the CAP and MSR programs were created, they have been continuously underfunded by the state. In his proposed budget, Gov. Cuomo increased funding for CAP and MSR by more than $5 million.
“While we are very happy that MSR is now fully funded and the state has begun to pay off its arrears for that program, the CAP program remains underfunded. OU Advocacy will continue to work with New York legislators and the Administration to have the state return the funding for CAP to its full funding level and also repay private schools for the approximately $226 million the state had underfunded the CAP and MSR programs since they were introduced,” said Leb.
The Education Investment Incentives Act is designed to increase individual and corporate donations for education by changing the tax status of these donations from a tax exemption to a tax credit. Donations can be made to scholarship organizations to award scholarships for children to attend private schools and public schools, including non-profit organizations that support public schools.
“The Education Investment Incentives Act could create millions of dollars for scholarships to private or public schools. In addition to increasing the pool of charitable donations and the scholarship opportunities for children in poverty or from working-class and middle-class households, this bill could reduce the financial pressure on private schools to raise tuition, which affects all families, regardless of whether or not one’s child is a scholarship recipient,” said Maury Litwack, Director of State Political Affairs and Outreach for OU Advocacy. “We are hopeful that, through our work with the governor’s office as well as the Senate and the Assembly, this legislation will be passed.”
The Orthodox Union is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization; the OU Advocacy Center, formerly the Institute for Public Affairs, is the non-partisan public policy arm of the OU and leads its advocacy efforts in Washington, DC and state capitals.