April 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Students Join Teach-NYS in Virtual Albany Advocacy Day

On March 23, Teach-NYS’ Virtual Mission to Albany connected 1,000 students with legislators to support funding school-related programs. The annual state budget process ends on April 1.

Teach-NYS advocates for quality, safe and affordable nonpublic schools, helping to deliver $276 million to the state’s nonpublic schools last year. Teach-NYS is a member of the OU’s Teach Coalition, representing 90% of Jewish day-school and yeshiva students nationwide.

Westchester and Bronx schools SAR, WDS, WTA, WHHS and Leffell met regional State Senators Gustavo Rivera, Jamaal Bailey, Patrick Gallivan and Shelley Mayer, and Assemblymembers Nathalia Fernandez, JoAnn Simon, Steven Otis, Amy Paulin, Jake Ashby, Pam Hunter, Thomas Abinanti and Jeff Dinowitz.

Participants asked lawmakers to fund the STEM reimbursement program for nonpublic schools at $90 million, increasing quality while reducing costs to parents.

They also discussed the governor’s $45 million expansion for the Nonpublic School Safety Equipment Grant (NPSE) program to prevent hate-motivated violence, and to ensure health, safety and security in schools. Since state law requires physical education for K-12 students, they requested $5 million to fund non-public schools’ PE reimbursement.

OU Executive VP Rabbi Moshe Hauer defined “an enormous commitment made by families sending children to private school, a dual curriculum in a framework of Jewish values and Torah environment. A community of faith is critical to your life and future. You’re committed to your education so that you can be contributing members to your community, city and state. These are your first steps in communal involvement and advocacy.”

Teach-NYS Executive Director Maury Litwack told student advocates: “The people you’re speaking to today will decide where billions of dollars are going. Why are they speaking to you? Why do they want to hear from student advocates? Because you showed up.”

Litwack continued: “Each of you represents a large voice of not just students on the mission today, but 400,000 nonpublic school students including 170,000 yeshiva day school students. You will engage with important elected officials. They want to hear from you. Elected officials will remember, and you’ll make a powerful impact on their decision-making. Don’t just speak, but speak with passion. Don’t just ask for legislation, but truly explain what it means to you and your family.”

Senate Education Committee chair Shelley Mayer declared: “I hear you here in Albany; I wish you were up here. With Teach-NYS, you’re making your voices heard. It makes a difference in what we decide to do.

“We want to make your school fantastic in every way and give you every opportunity,” Mayer continued. “I’m glad we’re expanding STEM programs. Whatever grade you’re in, if you have STEM in your school, when you’re speaking to your legislators, make sure they know what it means to you. Your enthusiasm translates into our fight for money and resources for your schools.

“I want to say to the girls on this call, make sure your voice is not silenced. Make your voice loud, make your voice strong, and tell us what you need. Regardless of where your school is, anything you need to say, today is your day to say it to an elected official like me. We’re going to continue to fight for every kid, regardless of zip code, regardless of what school they go to. That’s our job.”

Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA/Federation-NY noted the mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic and significant changes in learning environments and practices, impacting all students and schools. He said that nonpublic schools educate 15% of students in the state but receive only 1% of education funding. “UJA has worked with Teach-NYS and interfaith partners demonstrating the importance of state funding for non-public schools.” Goldstein noted. “Philanthropy is doing its part, but philanthropy can only do so much. We look to Albany to increase support for nonpublic schools so we can continue to safely educate our children successfully during these challenging times.”

Governor Kathy Hochul was the final speaker. “Through your participating in this mission, you understand there’s nothing more valuable than education to unlocking opportunity. It changes lives across generations.” She said that in her executive budget, “we propose the highest level of state education aid ever, $31 billion, to help strengthen our teacher workforce, improve schools including nonpublic schools, like Jewish day schools and yeshivot. It includes an 18% increase in funding for nonpublic schools as well as a $15 million increase in the STEM program.

“I believe education can solve many of our state’s issues,” Hochul affirmed. “Together, we’ll ensure students are safe and prepared today, so they can help lead our great state tomorrow.”

Teach-NYS is a nonpartisan, single-issue advocacy organization devoted to securing government funding for nonpublic schools to offer affordable, high-quality education in a safe, productive learning environment.

To learn more about Teach-NYS, visit their website at https://teachcoalition.org/nys/.

By Judy Berger

 

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