Orthodox Union Testimony to NY State Joint Budget Committee

In his testimony before the New York State Joint Budget Committee today, Jake Adler, New York Policy Director for OU Advocacy-Teach NYS, emphasized that 89 percent of New York City’s Jewish day school community is unable to participate in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Universal Pre-K (UPK) program. Adler pressed the Committee to address the needs of the Jewish day schools before authorizing funding for Year 2 of the City’s UPK program.

OU Advocacy-Teach NYS is the public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, representing Jewish day schools and the students they serve.

Because Mayor de Blasio requires an additional hour and 20 minutes to the State’s regulations of five hours of uninterrupted secular education—to make a 6-hour and 20-minute day—it is nearly impossible for the City’s Jewish day schools to participate in the program while still maintaining appropriate levels of privately-funded religious instruction, Adler testified.

“New York City’s Jewish day schools are the largest provider of non-public education in the City and, as such, should be a partner in Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to reach the goal of complete enrollment,” said Adler. “11 percent enrollment is far from universal.”

Adler reminded the Committee that New York City received $300 million—the vast majority of the $340 million allocated by the State Legislature for the state’s UPK program—to create a “truly universal” full-day pre-K program.

“The extra regulations the Mayor implemented created a $300 million dollar program that leaves the majority of New York City’s Jewish day school students out in the cold,” Adler said.

Maury Litwack, OU Advocacy’s Director of State Political Affairs, noted the urgency for Jewish day schools to be told whether they will participate in Year 2 of the program. “It is now almost February and schools need time to plan for the upcoming school year,” said Litwack. “The Mayor simply cannot reach his goal of complete enrollment of all New York City’s four-year-olds in UPK without Jewish day schools. Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio has responded to our requests to accommodate the needs of Jewish day schools with no clear plan or timetable.”

Adler concluded his testimony by asking the Committee to provide additional funding for UPK programs outside of New York City. “Both the public and non-public school communities outside of the city need additional funding to give every child the solid educational foundation he/she deserves,” Adler said.