Cuomo Official: Yeshivos Likely Eligible for Free Pre-K

BROOKLYN -

Yeshivos will be eligible to apply for the free full-day prekindergarten program released in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 budget blueprint, a top official on Thursday told several dozen Orthodox community leaders and yeshivah representatives at an event in Boro Park.

As part of a series of presentations across the state following the governor’s release Monday of the state’s $137 billion budget, Kenneth Adams was at the Boro Park Y to discuss portions of it that were relevant to the Orthodox community. The president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, a state entity, Adams is charged with overseeing all real estate developments in New York.

Some of the budget items relevant to the Orthodox community, Adams said, are a renter’s tax credit, the elimination of a $600 million surcharge on electricity bills known as the “18-a tax,” and — the topic which consumed most of the question-and-answer session — if yeshivos are eligible for Cuomo’s announced universal prekindergarten program.

“I know charter schools, and my suspicion is that yeshivos also, are going to be able to apply for some of that funding,” Adams said at the event hosted by Yeruchim Silber of the Boro Park JCC.

Adams later clarified that yeshivos would indeed be eligible.

An additional part of the governor’s education plan is setting up afterschool program across the state and awarding $20,000 best teacher grants. Also, Cuomo proposed putting a referendum before voters in November to approve borrowing $2 billion for his Smart Schools initiative. That would install computers and other technology in all schools.

Yeshivos would “probably” be eligible for all of it, Adams said.

The universal pre-K initiative allows school with a plan to apply for funding through the hundreds of school districts. Many schools, including large yeshivos such as Satmar and Bais Yaakov of Boro Park, already have the program, although only for a half day. Cuomo wants to extend that to a full day.