With Jewish day school representatives participating from all five boroughs of New York, the greater New York area and several towns in New Jersey, the OU Advocacy Center launched its first educational seminar for Jewish day schools Monday entitled, “Maximizing Government Funding for Jewish Day Schools.” In addition to its efforts to secure government funding for Jewish day schools, OU Advocacy, the non-partisan public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, also works with the schools to ensure they know how to access and maximize the funding available to them.
Hosted at the Jewish Center in Manhattan, Monday’s seminar featured Zach Gullo from E-Rate Exchange and Rabbi Yosef Kanofsky, director of government programs for the OU Advocacy-Teach NYS Initiative, who spoke about the E-Rate program and the education programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), specifically Title I, Title IIA and Title IIIA, respectively. E-Rate provides discounts between 20 to 50 percent on telecom and technology expenses to schools and libraries in order for them to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. The ESEA programs provide a range of services and benefits for private school students and teachers, including supplemental services in reading and math, professional development for teachers and administrators, and educational services to limited English proficient (LEP) children.
Michelle Twersky, Associate Regional Director of OU Advocacy-Pennsylvania, opened the program. Prior to joining OU Advocacy, she served as a government relations coordinator at a Jewish day school in the Greater New York area.
“The fact that this school even had a position of government relations coordinator demonstrates how important maximizing government programs are for a school,” she said. “This particular school understands the importance of exploring all options and putting in the time to apply for and receive services—and I learned very quickly that a good relationship with the school district is key. There were no organizations that were able to guide me. There were organizations that gave information, but there was no organization that wanted to make sure that we were maximizing every dollar.”
Recognizing that not every school can afford its own government relations coordinator, OU Advocacy has promoted an array of legislative initiatives at both the federal and state levels to expand education reform, secure greater resources for Jewish day schools and their families, and empower parents in their educational choices for their children. The educational seminars for Jewish day schools are an additional component of OU Advocacy’s approach to helping schools navigate the complex governmental system.
“One of the most important strategies to reducing tuition is taking advantage of all the government services available, yet many schools either do not access these services at all or do not maximize the funding available to them,” said Maury Litwack, OU Advocacy director of state political affairs and outreach. “Perhaps this is due to lack of preparation, knowledge, or desire to process the forms necessary in order to receive the funding. In many cases, schools do not realize that are leaving money—potentially millions of dollars—on the table.”
“Our purpose in providing these educational seminars is to make sure Jewish day schools receive the funding for which they are eligible,” Litwack added.
In the past year, OU Advocacy has secured millions of dollars on behalf of the Jewish day school community:
In New York, OU Advocacy increased the funding for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP) and Mandated Services Reimbursement by $14 million, yielding approximately $45 million for Jewish day school students under these programs. In addition, approximately $4.5 million was secured in security aid for nonpublic schools.
In New Jersey, OU Advocacy secured $1.4 million for technology aid for Jewish day schools and another $200,000 for nursing aid for Jewish day schools. The increase in nursing aid—from $71 to $77 per student was largest one-time increase for nursing aid in many years and was due to the efforts of OU Advocacy together with its coalition partners.
In Pennsylvania, OU Advocacy succeeded in increasing the current tax credit program by $25 million and introducing a second tax credit program at $50 million. OU Advocacy-PA also worked with its coalition partners to increase the funding for the School Safety Grant Program, as well as widen the scope of the bill. The current program includes a new grant that dedicates funds to training and paying school resource officers. According to Twersky, this grant is the first of its kind in the country.
“Having worked in a public school, I understand where funding comes from, and it was very interesting to me to learn what is available to us,” said Danielle Lewis, librarian and learning center specialist at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan, who works with the school to investigate potential grants and funding opportunities.
“This event is fabulous and very important for Jewish day schools,” said Jenny Levy, chief academic officer of Magen David High School in Brooklyn.
OU Advocacy plans to host more educational events in the future to inform schools about current services and help ensure government services are maximized to the fullest.