Major Developments In Cap Funding For Yeshivos: Last Year’s Millions Released


kidsGood news for yeshivos regarding expenses entailed in compliance with the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) program arrived on two fronts this week: reimbursement for last year’s expenses, and allocation for next year’s. The CAP program reimburses nonpublic schools for costs associated with implementation of the state’s student attendance policy.Applications for the approximately $40 million owed by the state for costs yeshivos and other nonpublic schools incurred in complying with CAP in the 2006-07 school year have finally been released, according to Mrs. Deborah Zachai, Agudath Israel’s Director of Education affairs. Mrs. Zachai reports that now it is up to yeshivos to process the CAP forms and submit them to the State Education Department. When they do, she said, the payments should begin to flow.

The case for the state’s responsibility to make good on the appropriation of CAP funding in last year’s budget was part of the agenda of an Agudath Israel mission to Albany in early February. Delegates met at that time with, among others, the Director of the State’s Division of Budget, Ms. Laura Anglin, who assured her visitors that the Division of Budget had given the New York State Education Department the green light to release applications for those funds. Ms. Anglin promised the Agudath Israel delegates that she would ask the Education Department to see to it that the funds were released in a timely manner.

Shortly thereafter, says Mrs. Zachai, the State Education Department reached out to the “mandated services workgroup,” a group of nonpublic representatives whose Jewish members include Mrs. Zachai, Mrs. Judy Oppenheim of the Board of Jewish Education and Rabbi Nissan Gewirtzman of Yeshiva Consulting Services, to help yeshivos receive and process the forms in an expeditious manner.

Although mandated services reimbursements from the state to nonpublic schools are still outstanding for expenses the schools incurred in the 2003-2004, 2004-2005 and 2007-2008 fiscal years – and expenses for 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 were underfunded – the news that CAP forms for 2006-2007 have been released, says Mrs. Zachai, “and that schools can hopefully expect to receive a check within a few weeks was music to the yeshiva administrators’ ears.”

The Agudath Israel representative offered special thanks to Agudath Israel’s vice president for community services Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz and to community activist Rabbi Shiya Oestreicher for their past and ongoing efforts in Albany “regarding this and many other issues of importance to yeshivos.”

One of those other issues, of course, is the future funding of CAP. After intense advocacy by Agudath Israel and other nonpublic education representatives – and a rally in the Bronx that was attended by representatives of various religious communities, including Rabbi Lefkowitz and New York Cardinal Edward Egan – New York Governor David Paterson included $30 million in his current budget proposal for the program. Close to 27% of that allotment, or approximately $8 million, should be for Jewish schools across the state. Although the CAP allotment is considerably less than the estimated actual costs of nonpublic school compliance with the CAP mandate, the inclusion of $30 million in the budget was a relief to nonpublic school advocates. Further, the language of the budget bill suggests that the balance – as much as $25 million – remains the state’s obligation, to be repaid at some future date.

“Given the harsh fiscal realities of the times,” says Rabbi Lefkowitz, the latest news from Albany must be seen as a significant victory for our yeshivos and other nonpublic schools.”

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Governor Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver,” the Agudath Israel representative added, “for their foresight and leadership on this vital issue.”

{Elisha Newscenter}