Hundreds of students from Jewish day schools and yeshivas came to the State Capitol recently as part of the Orthodox Union’s Teach NYS delegation to advocate for increased and sustainable funding for nonpublic school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Now in its third year, the Teach NYS Albany mission has become the largest annual lobbying event in Albany on behalf of nonpublic schools and yeshivas. The students hailed from more than 50 schools in New York City, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland County, Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.
Throughout the daylong program, more than 700 students and lay leaders heard from and met with over 90 legislators sharing their desire to increase funding for STEM programing and instruction within their schools. Last year, a similar Teach NYS mission helped to influence the historic tripling of state-funded STEM programs in nonpublic schools from $5 million in 2017 to $15 million in 2018, allowing the State to reimburse nonpublic schools directly for the cost of qualified STEM instructors.
Legislators addressed the crowd, sharing their commitment to increasing nonpublic school funding for STEM education and the importance it will have on the future economy of the state. Following the speeches, the students and lay leaders broke into groups and went to the Statehouse where they met with more than 90 state legislators, including: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers), Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), Chairman for the Committee on Education Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx), Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Westchester), and Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).
The day closed with an inspiring and empowering panel of legislators who graduated from yeshiva and nonpublic day schools and are now giving back to their communities by representing them in the New York State Assembly. That panel included Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens), Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Queens), and Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Brooklyn). The panel was immediately followed by a chance for the students to hear from NYS Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James.
OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin told students, “Today is about how you change the way state government thinks about education and our schools. Today is about hundreds of students, parents, and administrators coming to Albany to talk to our elected officials, to explain that the education of our children matters, that education is a civil right, that your right to choose how and where to be educated, without financial penalty or hardships, is a civil right that every parent and student in this state should enjoy.”
“Teach NYS works year-round with schools, community activists, and other organizations to advocate for equitable government funding of our yeshivas and day schools. Missions like this, involving parents and the students themselves, allow the members of our community to play a central role in reminding our legislators of the breadth and commitment of our community. By seeing and hearing from our students, they can better appreciate the returns that their investment in our children’s education will bring the state long term,” said OU President Moishe Bane.
Teach NYS, a division of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, was founded in 2013 to advocate for equitable government funding for New York nonpublic schools. It has secured $1.5 billion in funding for day schools, which is used to increase security, enhance education, and defray higher tuition costs. Teach NYS created a program to reimburse nonpublic schools for the costs of qualified STEM instructors. In 2018, it championed a historic pilot program to begin providing kosher and halal meals to students enrolled in both public and nonpublic schools in New York City.
MTA’s New York Political Action Club Lobbies In Albany
By Jonathan Sherman (‘21)
On Tuesday, March 5, MTA’s New York Political Action Club (NYPAC) went to Albany to see firsthand how local government works. The students prepared for months to advocate and lobby for more private-school security and STEM funding and had close to 50 meetings with members of the Senate and Assembly. Many of the students met with their local elected officials and discussed the political issues that affect their communities. The group was privileged to be introduced on the Assembly floor by Washington Heights Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, who visited MTA last year and met with NYPAC. They also toured the Senate chamber with Senate Education Chair Senator Shelley Mayer. NYPAC members enjoyed this unique experiential learning opportunity and look forward to returning to Albany next year to continue their important work lobbying for issues that affect the Jewish community.
YOSS Debate Club Joins Teach NYS on Mission to Albany
On Tuesday, March 12, the Yeshiva of South Shore Mechina Division Debate Club, led by Mr. Daniel Winkler, general-studies principal, and Rabbi Gershon Greenberg, rebbe and co-chair of the Debate Club, took a trip to Albany, NY, joining over 40 other yeshivos and day schools.
The 15 talmidim were selected for their overall diligence and dedication to working hard and achieving results. For the past five months, they have participated in a voluntary debate club, spending hours of their own time researching and preparing intellectual material, mostly government related, to discuss and debate. To celebrate their tremendous accomplishments, Yeshiva of South Shore rewarded these talmidim with an exciting and engaging trip to Albany.
The boys woke up in the predawn hours and came to the yeshiva, where they boarded a luxury charter bus at 6 a.m.. After traveling for an hour, they davened vasikin on the bus with a minyan led by Rabbi Greenberg, followed by a shiur.
After arriving in Albany at 9:30 a.m., they were treated to a kosher breakfast arranged by Teach NYS. They were then given a tour of the New York State Capitol Building and the New York State Museum.
They then met privately with Assemblyman Ron Kim of District 40 and State Senator Kevin Thomas, of the 6th District, to discuss various issues facing yeshivos in New York, and steps taken by the government to accommodate them. In addition, a number of students were interviewed and had a chance to express themselves and have their message broadcast to a wide-reaching audience.
One of the issues the talmidim advocated for was STEM funding. Currently, Yeshiva of South Shore talmidim have made tremendous advancements in the Wolosoff STEM Program curriculum. The government has promised funding for STEM, and the initial funding is supposed to arrive for the first time ever next month. STEM funding was initially allocated at a very low level, and the boys will be joining their peers in asking for this program to be fully funded.
Another important issue the boys discussed was security funding. In light of increasing antisemitic threats facing our community, the boys requested from government officials that security funding to yeshivos and day schools be increased. The lawmakers heard the students and spoke to them about the progress they are making on tackling issues and accomplishing victories for yeshivos in this legislative session.
After a prepared dinner, arranged by the Teach NYS Coalition, the boys headed back to yeshiva.
Over the day, the talmidim learned about each issue and how they can intelligently speak about these to their local elected officials. They came prepared, as they were each taught about the NYS government structure and how legislation works. Based upon their research, they were able to debate the topics prior to the mission and were fully prepared to clearly articulate their position with knowledge and passion.
Sen. Kaminsky Addresses Orthodox Union Mission To Albany
Senator Todd Kaminsky addressed hundreds of yeshiva students and parents at the State Capitol as part of the Orthodox Union’s (“OU”) Teach NYS Mission to Albany. The senator also met later with local parents, teachers, and students from the Five Towns and West Hempstead. Kaminsky hosted Rabbi Adam Englander, head of school at HALB, as he delivered the daily invocation before the State Senate.
“Ensuring that all students have access to a world-class education must a top priority, and it is imperative that adequate funding for our community’s yeshivas be included in the state budget,” said Senator Todd Kaminsky. “Yeshivas continue to excel and provide students with a top-notch dual-curriculum education to prepare students for a competitive world. This funding will go a long way toward educating and protecting our children, and I look forward to continuing to work hard to ensure that our yeshivas get the funding they deserve”