Jeff Leb, political director for the Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS Partnership, testified in Albany before a joint legislative committee on key issues related to New York State’s budget and its impact upon Jewish and other nonpublic schools. Mr. Leb’s appearance comes in the wake of the Orthodox Union and Teach NYS partnership announced earlier this month to ease the tuition burden of New York private-school parents.
In his testimony, he called attention to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to increase Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) and Mandated Services (MS) reimbursement, asking the legislature to meet the governor’s funding request. New York’s private schools spend roughly $150 million annually to comply with testing, attendance reporting, and other requirements imposed by the state. The state partially compensates private schools for these costs, but the state has underpaid private schools by roughly $210 million over the past decade, according to the New York Department of Education.
Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal increases reimbursement for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy and Mandated Services programs to $128 million–roughly 4 percent over last year’s funding level. Although reimbursement for these programs is still below the actual cost of compliance–an estimated $150 million–is is an important step in the right direction.
In his testimony, Mr. Leb stated: “We must still do more to repay private schools the $210 million the state owes them for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy and Mandated Services. Even at current funding levels, the government is paying private schools $22 million less than the full cost of CAP and MS. However, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal is a good first step in addressing that problem.”
Mr. Leb also addressed the state’s newly enacted gun safety legislation, which appropriates additional funds for public schools to enhance building security. The legislation also creates new School Safety Improvement Teams charged with reviewing safety plans for schools. However, these programs are only available to public schools–even though private schools face equal security threats. Jeff asked the legislature to make the new building security funding and Safety Improvement Teams available to private schools on the same basis as public schools.
Mr. Leb emphasized, “The need for gun safety and building security goes beyond the public-school system. There is no reason that the state should set aside extra funding to secure public-school students but provide no additional funding to secure private-school students.” v