The Time Is Now to Send A Message to Albany

Many of those wielding the levers of power in Albany are saying the right things on behalf of greater funding for Jewish education.  But to truly support education for all, we need more than words—we need action. And Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget, now being negotiated with the State Senate and State Assembly, is a good place to start.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget and the Senate and Assembly’s revisions potentially provide a never-before-seen amount of funding for non-public schools—which, if passed, could be game changing for Jewish day schools…

If—and only if—non-public schools are included in the universal pre-k (UPK) legislation, if the state enacts an education tax credit, and if non-public schools receive a share of the proposed $2 billion technology bond—the combined funding of these three legislations for non-public schools could revolutionize tuition costs of Jewish education in New York.

It is a foregone conclusion that some form of UPK will be enacted in New York. The governor has proposed a plan and Mayor de Blasio has proposed his own. Whichever plan is adopted, our primary concern is ensuring that our children—those attending non-public schools—will be included fairly. All children, regardless of whether they attend public, private or faith-based school, deserve the “leg-up” that pre-kindergarten has been proven to provide—in school and in life. Other states, of note neighboring New Jersey, include private and nonprofit operators in their UPK programs. New York should as well.

The education tax credit bill that is being negotiated in Albany would, if enacted, immediately be one of the nation’s largest in terms of overall budget and eligible income limit for families. The current Senate proposal, which sets the household income eligibility limit for receiving a scholarship at $500,000, would cover a higher income range, allowing many more middle-income families to be eligible and relieving Jewish day schools of a significant portion of that responsibility.

Fourteen other states already provide some form of a tuition tax credit or deduction. Several other states are considering a similar program this year. These education programs have long garnered bi-partisan support from both legislators and governors in every state in which they’ve been enacted.

Finally, Governor Cuomo has proposed a bond to help schools modernize their classroom technology.  The Assembly budget draft dedicates $317 million to nonpublic schools, which comes to nearly $770 per student.  Our schools are desperate for this funding that would help them replace aging computers and utilize the latest advancements in technology.

All told, these funding initiatives could mean as much as $500 million in funding to non-public schools. They are the game changer for Jewish day schools.

But all this will only matter if these initiatives are enacted into law on April 1.

… It is crucial for legislators to hear from you, their constituents, about why this funding for non-public schools is crucial for you and the community overall.

Specifically, everyone must: Call, write, or email their representatives in Albany. 

That remains the case even if your legislators already support us in this fight.

You must make your voice heard.


 

Jeff Leb serves as OU Advocacy’s New York State Director of Political Affairs and as the Director of OU Advocacy-Teach NYS.