NYS Yeshivos to Receive Millions in Mandated Services Funding

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agudah12.jpgThe New York State Education Department (SED) has finally released the $39.9 million appropriated in last year’s budget to reimburse the state’s nonpublic schools for their  compliance with the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) for school year 2005-2006.

This development, “though long overdue, is extremely welcome,” says a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, “and we look forward to an even larger state allocation in the coming year’s budget to cover the cost of CAP compliance.”

Under New York State law, nonpublic schools are reimbursed from the state for costs they incur in carrying out state mandates. (Last year, the nonpublic schools received $87.5 million under the mandated services program, with yeshivos receiving approximately 20% of that number, or $17.5 million.) CAP, a mandated service in effect since the start of the 2003-2004 school year, stipulates the number of times a school must take attendance and requires that a principal or administrator review the attendance records so that appropriate action can be taken regarding unexcused absence, lateness or early departure.

The Division of Budget’s release of the $39.9 million appropriation – approximately $8 million of which will be received by yeshivos – brings closer to final resolution  a nearly two-year long dispute between the SED and the nonpublic school community over appropriate CAP reimbursement.  While non-public schools received $500 per school as repayment for the cost of developing the Comprehensive Attendance Policy in school year 2002-2003, they were not in subsequent years reimbursed for the costs of implementing the policy.

When, in the spring of 2006, an audit report issued by the Office of the State Comptroller confirmed that the SED was indeed required to compensate the schools, Agudath Israel and other nonpublic school representatives met with SED officials to push for the reimbursement.  But after months spent reviewing a few models of determining the actual costs for CAP, the SED announced that the maximum it would be willing to reimburse the nonpublic school community for this mandate was $2.3 million, a figure that was subsequently rejected by the New York State Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Nonpublic Schools – of which Agudath Israel executive vice president for government and public affairs Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel is a member — as far short of the amount necessary to cover the schools’ actual costs.

With the matter unresolved, the SED held up the distribution of mandated services forms that would have enabled nonpublic schools to file claims not only for costs incurred in complying with CAP but with other state mandated services such as administering state tests and maintaining student immunization records. 

Finally, in February of 2007, the SED agreed to distribute the forms necessary to begin the process of reimbursing nonpublic schools for all of the previous year’s mandated services expenditures except those related to CAP. After continued discussions and negotiations, the SED at last acknowledged that the non-public schools are entitled to approximately $39.9 million in CAP funding for the 2005-2006 school year, and the appropriation was subsequently included in the 2007-2008 state budget.

Then, at this past October’s Annual Conference for Nonpublic School Administrators in Albany, Governor Eliot Spitzer publicly proclaimed his commitment to the full funding of the CAP mandate, and a top-ranking state education official announced that the $39.9 million would be released by November 1.

A day after these public pronouncements, however, the SED discovered that it had made an error in calculating the cost of CAP and that the actual figure should have been approximately $55 million. In order to bridge the sizable gap between the numbers, the agency has spent the last two months adjusting the formula it had initially used to arrive at the cost of CAP so as to “back into” the lower figure that had already been included in the budget, thus enabling them to finally release the funds this past week. 

“While we are happy that the $39.9 million has been released and that the yeshivos will begin receiving long-awaited payments, we are working to ensure that future budgets reflect the accurate annual figure of approximately $55 million,” says Mrs. Deborah Zachai, Agudath Israel’s director of education affairs. 

In a memo sent this week to yeshiva principals and administrators, Mrs. Zachai reported that Agudath Israel had informed the SED that by accepting “partial payment at this time, schools are not relinquishing their right to claim additional CAP reimbursement – both for the 2005-06 school year and the preceding and succeeding years.

“Indeed,” the memo goes on, “we are continuing negotiations with the Governor, the Legislature and SED to appropriate the additional funding for CAP for the 2005-06 year and other school years which have not been reimbursed.”


5 COMMENTS

  1. The discriminatory policy of the Government towards religious schools is an ongoing scandal.

    If a child goes to a Government school, where the worst kind of atheism and filth is taught, the Government rewards the child by providing $8,000 per year to “advance” his education.

    However, if a child chooses to go to a religious/parochial school where good midos are taught in a respectful atmosphere, amidst superior educational standards, the Government punishes the parents by denying them assitance, except for a few crumbs that it is compelled to provide, with great reluctance.

    The excuse is “separation of Church and State,” a concept that appears nowhere in the Constitution, and was created out of whole cloth about 50 years ago by left-wing anti-religious judges.

    In earlier years, it was understood that religious children were to be treated equally.

    So, today, relious parents pay a heavy “school tax” to fund “education,” but they don’t get to have any of the benefits of theis “education” tax.

    If they want to avoid the debased Government system, they have to pay for “education” twice–once for the Government system, and again for their own system. This is a national scandal.

    The Government is attempting to finacially starve the religious/parochial schools out of existence.

    The Government’s anti-religious bureaucracy would really like to close all religious/parochial schools, but they are prevented from doing so by the Supreme Court’s “Yoder” decision, which established the right of the Amish to stay out of “morally corrupt” Government schools.–Thank G-D for the amish!

  2. to number two- have you actually read the first ammendment to the constitution (known to most people as the bill of rights) well anyway if u didn’t here it is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” now I guess you can maintain that people have taken this to mean that there is a seperation between church and state (which what actually happened) but that did not happen 50 years ago, 50 years ago is when it started becoming a problem but it is attributed all the way back to John Lock and first used by Thomas Jefferson and I do not think these people lived 50 years ago.