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Metro&Beyond: Cuomo Proposes 2019 Budget

Jacob Kornbluh

Despite budgetary belt-tightening, yeshivos still a priority for Cuomo

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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N ew York governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2019 budget proposal last week, seeking to balance an increasing deficit with an appealing reelection package, a challenge for any politician.

“The budget is going to be a challenging one,” Cuomo said. “There’s a $4.4 billion deficit. We have tremendous federal cuts, especially in health care, and then we have pressing needs all across the state. So the budget as a budget is going to be difficult to resolve.”

Continued Funding for Yeshivos

The preliminary budget does not include any new initiatives that would increase funding for non-public schools and yeshivos. Although the budget increases aid by 3% (to $186 million) to reimburse non-public schools’ costs for state-mandated activities, it eliminates an additional $7 million that was added last year to meet the actual cost of keeping immunization records, according to two sources briefed on the budget who were not authorized to speak on the record.

Funding for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP), which reimburses private schools for costs associated with keeping attendance records, remained at the same $60 million level as last year.

The budget maintains a $5 million reimbursement program for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. Last year, New York became the first state in the nation to mandate that the government compensate non-public schools, including yeshivas and day schools, for the costs of STEM instruction to cover the salary of qualified teachers. The fact that the governor placed it into his budget proposal shows it has become a priority for the state government, thus opening the door to lobbying for an increase in the final budget.

There are about 400,000 students who attend non-public schools across the state of New York. Of that number, about 150,000 attend Jewish day school or yeshivah, according to the Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS, part of Teach Advocacy Network, a nonpartisan organization advocating for government funding in non-public schools.

“I think the governor appreciates the role that the 1,600 non-public schools play, and he’s trying to make sure those schools still have what they need to keep growing,” Jake Adler, director of government affairs for Teach NYS, told Mishpacha. “In a year when there’s a $4 billion deficit, that’s very hard. So the fact that he is working with the community to keep the increases there, that’s tremendous leadership on his part, and a tremendous act of chesed for us.”

Cuts to Security Funding

Last year, Governor Cuomo proposed a $25 million grant to bolster security at religious schools and institutions as part of a stepped-up effort to combat hate crimes. But, despite an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, that funding was not included in this year’s preliminary budget. Nonetheless, there is still a $15 million program for security measures, according to sources.

Jeff Leb, principal of Capitol Consulting, a New York–based political strategy firm, believes that the current leadership in Albany — Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan — accommodates non-public school students better than any state in the nation. “New York State offers Jewish day school students record amounts of funding, year after year, for items such as special education, security funding, and now STEM education. It is head and shoulders beyond any other state in the country, and families of Jewish day school students should be very appreciative of this fact.”

Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 695. Jacob Kornbluh is also the National Correspondent for Jewish Insider. 

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