Dear Partners and Friends of OU Advocacy,
As 2013 draws to a close and the 2014 legislative session in Albany approaches, we wanted to reflect on the tremendous gains we have made together for the New York Jewish community and focus on the work ahead of us.
During the 2013 session, OU Advocacy, together with our partners, schools and lay leaders, secured nearly $50 million for Jewish day schools throughout the state:
- OU Advocacy and our partners succeeded in securing an increase of $14 million in funding for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) and Mandated Services Reimbursement (MSR) programs—two state initiatives that provide funding for anti-truancy programs and mandated services required by private schools—in the New York State budget. This increase translated to a total of $45 million in direct funding for Jewish day schools through CAP and MSR.
- OU Advocacy and our partners also secured another $4.5 million in security funding for Jewish day schools across the state.
Last year, OU Advocacy conducted missions to Albany with a handful of dedicated schools to promote our issues. As we embark upon 2014, we are excited to share with you that the number of schools and lay leaders participating in our advocacy work has nearly doubled. Our network is growing and our voices are being heard.
As part of OU Advocacy’s ongoing efforts on behalf of the New York Jewish community, our New York team has crisscrossed the state of New York for the Schools in Session initiative. Schools in Session—a one-of-a-kind program—brings legislators, schools and parents together to discuss tuition affordability and other challenging issues facing our schools, and the ways that government can be helpful. From Buffalo, Rochester and Albany, to all five boroughs of Manhattan and Westchester, our New York team is on the ground coordinating meetings between State Senators and Assembly Members with our schools and community members. To date, we have conducted 13 school visits with another 20 visits taking place in the near future.
We want to thank the following schools who have hosted Schools in Session meetings:
- Bnos Malka Academy, Queens
- Hillel Community Day School, Rochester
- Kadimah Jewish Day School, Buffalo
- Luria Academy of Brooklyn
- Maimonides Hebrew Day School, Albany
- Manhattan Day School
- Ramaz Lower School, Manhattan
- SAR Academy, Riverdale
- Schechter School of Long Island Lower Division
- Schechter School of Long Island Upper Division
- Westchester Day School
At each Schools in Session visit, day school leaders, parents and OU Advocacy staff have an open and candid dialogue with our elected officials about the legislative priorities for the community, including:
- A full repayment to CAP and MSR funding of the state’s arrears—leading to $75 million for Jewish day schools
- Enactment of the Energy Parity Act, which would provide non-public schools the same discounted rates and energy efficiency programs that the New York Power Authority makes available to public schools—reducing their electricity bills by an estimated 50 percent and leading to a savings between $15,000 and $200,000 per year, depending on school size
- Passing the Education Investment Incentives Act, which would allow individuals and corporations to send a portion of their tax liabilities to scholarship organizations benefiting our schools, which could potentially yield millions of dollars for our schools.
Schools in Session is already bearing fruit for Jewish day schools and our 2014 legislative agenda. Our legislators value every opportunity to meet with constituents and the Schools in Session meetings gives them a chance to meet with community leaders in an intimate setting and hear about the important issues facing the Jewish community.
During two Schools in Session visits, our legislators voiced support for our issues:
While visiting the Ramaz School, State Senator Liz Krueger pledged her support for the Energy Parity Act, stating, “The rising cost of energy affects all schools, regardless of whether they are public or private. The Energy Parity Act will allow all schools to receive the wholesale rate on their energy bills, saving each school thousands a month. This frees up resources that can be put into the classroom instead of into the hands of corporations.”
While speaking to parents at the Luria Academy about the Education Investment Incentives Act, Assembly Member Walter Mosley said, “Growing up in central Brooklyn, my mother was able to make the finest choices concerning the education of her children. We need to make sure parents today have the same opportunities my mother had to do what is best for their families”
These are real results and are just the beginning of the successes to come from the Schools in Session initiative. If you would like to schedule a Schools in Session event in your school, please contact NY@OUadvocacy.org or call 347-774-1613.
The goal of all of our efforts is simple: greater state funding for Jewish education. We had a banner year in 2013 and we head into 2014 stronger than ever before—but we rely on the ongoing support of our partners, schools and community leaders to achieve our successes. Thank you to all of the schools, community members and activists who have worked with us and continue to work with us.
To read more about Schools in Session and see photos from the visits, click here.
Best wishes for a wonderful 2014.
The New York team of OU Advocacy
Jeff Leb, NY Director of Political Affairs
Elliot Schreiber, Director of Field Operations
Jake Adler, Associate Director of Field Operations
Zehava Birman, Associate Director of Field Operations