Wednesday, May 25, 2022

(Courtesy of Teach NYS) On March 16, more than 800 Jewish day school students from around New York lobbied New York State legislators to support funding for nonpublic schools during the Virtual Mission to Albany, led by Teach NYS, an arm of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition.

“Nonpublic schools are a crucial part of New York State’s infrastructure. It’s critical for our legislators to hear directly from students why New York’s success depends on them,” said Maury Litwack, founder and executive director of Teach Coalition.

OU’s Teach Coalition, which includes Teach NYS, advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools. During this Virtual Mission to Albany, students and community lay leaders promoted funding in three specific areas: STEM education, school security and COVID-related expenses.

For the last six years, Teach NYS brought busloads of students to Albany to meet with legislators in-person. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled last year’s advocacy day. This year, Teach NYS transitioned the Mission to Albany to a virtual platform on Zoom, which allowed for safe and wide participation.

The Virtual Mission began with an opening session featuring speakers from the OU and state legislators. OU speakers included Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the OU; Ms. Sydney Altfield, director of grassroots engagement for Teach NYS; and Litwack. New York legislators included Senator Shelley Mayer, chair of the Senate Education Committee; Senators Todd Kaminsky and Andrew Gounardes; and Assemblywomen Stacey Pheffer Amato and Taylor Darling.

Rabbi Hauer’s remarks expressed praise for the students and gratitude to the legislators. “Each of you have chosen to be educated in outstanding schools that will build your connection to Torah and Judaism, while educating you to be leading participants in the broader community,” he said. “Your presence here today demonstrates how much you appreciate your legislators’ support in enabling you to become those community leaders.”

Following the presentations, students and legislators met in more than 90 individual advocacy sessions. The event concluded with remarks from New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA Federation. as well as Litwack and Altfield.

“The Mission to Albany brings legislators together with students from a wide range of schools, backgrounds, and neighborhoods,” said Altfield. “The diversity of students helps demonstrate that nonpublic school education impacts countless New York families and communities.”

The advocacy day takes place just a few weeks before the state budget is due on March 31. “This is the perfect time to make sure legislators understand what is at stake,” explained Altfield. “We need to show them that the nonpublic school community has a strong voice, has important contributions to make and we deserve our fair share of funding.”

New York State spends around $24.8 billion annually on school aid, but less than $321 million on nonpublic school aid. While nonpublic school students represent 14.3% of the state’s students in grades K through 12, they only receive about 1.3% of the total funding.

Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union, is a multi-state, grassroots movement devoted to advocating for nonpublic school funding and resources. Teach Coalition advocates on behalf of approximately 90% of yeshiva and day school students nationwide.

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