By Shimmy Blum
The New York State Education Department has taken a long overdue step to compensate New York yeshivos and other nonpublic schools for costs they incurred in complying with the state’s Comprehensive Attendance Program (CAP).
Under CAP, schools throughout the state take attendance multiple times during the day, and follow up on students’ poor attendance patterns. State Law requires that nonpublic schools be compensated for their costs in carrying out the CAP mandate. However, the state has been delinquent in making such payments, and owes a considerable amount to the schools.
The State Education Department has now announced that it will compensate nonpublic schools 7.88% of their 2007-08 school year CAP claims, and 27.6% of their claims for the 2008-09 school year. The schools were shortchanged by those amounts, respectively, those two years due to severe state budget shortfalls.
In the state budget last spring, the legislature, for the first time, appropriated funds — $16 million specifically — to begin paying down the significant debt the state owes nonpublic schools for uncompensated prior year CAP claims. Approximately $14 million of the $16 million was utilized to make these most current payments to the nonpublic schools, translating into approximately $4.6 million for yeshivos.
Agudath Israel of America welcomes this move and the additional funds it will provide to New York’s nonpublic schools, including nearly 400 yeshivos. “Yeshivos are struggling to balance their budgets.” says Mrs. Deborah Zachai, Agudath Israel’s director for education affairs. “This cash infusion will significantly help the yeshivos cover their rising costs.”
For several years, Agudath Israel of America has been engaged in a multifaceted lobbying effort to ensure that nonpublic schools receive their full share of reimbursement for costs associated with CAP and other state mandates. According to some estimates, over the past eleven years, the schools received approximately $350 million less than they were entitled to according to the CAP formula originally agreed upon by the State Education Department and nonpublic school representatives.
Agudath Israel of America remains committed to helping nonpublic schools receive compensation for the remainder of the uncompensated funding. Among other efforts, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, recently penned a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo requesting that compensation for the full remaining CAP gap should be included in the upcoming state budget, and covered by the budget surplus.
“Schools such as ours rely on CAP and mandated services funding to help close staggering budget gaps each year,” says Rabbi Baruch Rothman, director of institutional advancement, Yeshiva Darchei Torah of Far Rockaway. “On behalf of our students, I would like to thank Agudath Israel of America for never relenting in their efforts to work with elected officials to help our community.”