Non-public schools would get a boost in profile and funding aids in an Anthony Weiner administration, the New York City mayoral candidate announced Thursday.
Speaking outside a Bronx Catholic school which was forced to shutter its doors due to a lack of funding, the former Democratic congressman said he would elevate the obscure office which helps private schools obtain funding to a cabinet level position, “giving them essentially a seat at the table at the highest realm.”
“If you’re a student, no matter what type of school you’re in — a yeshivah, a parochial school, a charter school — you’re entitled under the law to certain specific services that go into your education,” Weiner said.
The “Non-Public Schools Unit” is currently part of the Division of Operations, which is nestled in the city’s department of education. It distributes funds — last year it was $260 million — and services to which private schools are legally entitled, including textbooks, safety and nurses.
Weiner said he would make it easier for non-public schools to take advantage of what they are entitled to by digitizing the loan process so schools could submit applications online. He also proposed matching the state’s funding of technology with city money.
He stressed that his ideas would not run afoul of the constitutional separation of church and state since they would merely receive funding due to them.
A recent Zogby poll found that 87 percent of New Yorkers supported expanding school choice options, which include private, religious and charter schools. The numbers are even higher among African-Americans, Orthodox Jews and actual school parents.
While yeshivos stand to benefit greatly from these proposals, it may prove even more vital for Catholic schools. Over the past decade, more than 100 of their schools have closed, and their citywide enrollment has dropped by 60,000 students.
Weiner said he was open to changing the tax code to incentivize donations to religious schools but would not support vouchers.
“I’m not an ideologue on the idea of using the tax code to incentivize help for parochial schools,” he said. But “I’m not suggesting vouchers or anything like that.”