Agudath Israel: NYS Budget a “Mixed Bag”


albanyIncluded in the new New York State budget for the coming fiscal year, finalized over the weekend in Albany, were a number of provisions that had been on the list of priorities for Agudath Israel of America and other advocates for the nonpublic school community: increases in funding for mandated services and CAP (comprehensive attendance policy) reimbursements, including a special allocation to start repaying the state’s longstanding CAP reimbursement debt to nonpublic schools; funding for school safety equipment in the nonpublic schools; inclusion of nonpublic schools in a proposed state bond to upgrade technology in schools; making permanent and increasing the funding level for late hour school transportation services; and ongoing funding for a variety of programs from which the state’s nonpublic schools have benefited over the years.

Glaringly absent from the budget, however, is any funding for the proposal Agudath Israel and other groups had identified as their top priority for the coming fiscal year: the Eduation Investment Tax Credit (EITC).

“The outcome of this year’s budget process must be considered a mixed bag,” according to Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president. “We of course appreciate the positive provisions of the budget, but the rejection of EITC is a difficult pill to swallow.”

The New York State Senate, in its earlier budget proposal, would have allocated $150 million for the coming fiscal year, and then $225 million and $300 million for the two following fiscal years, to fund EITC. Half of those funds would have been earmarked for tax credits for private sector contributions to private school scholarship funds for needy students. The final budget deal, however, rejected the Senate proposal and excluded EITC entirely from state funding.

“The EITC would not have been just another nice program for the nonpublic school community,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “It would have been a real game-changer, a program that would have generated tens of millions of dollars annually to help needy families whose children attend yeshivos and other nonpublic schools.

“We thought we had the support necessary this year to at long last enact EITC in New York, as it has already been enacted in a number of other states across the country. Alas, it was not to be. So yes, we’re disappointed — but we’re also still determined. Our yeshivos are the most precious communal asset we possess, and we will never stop battling for their interests.”

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