With significant state budget cuts looming ahead, local Agudath Israel leaders met with State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) to discuss how the cuts will affect the Orthodox community. “Skelos is one of the top three individuals making the decision on the budget,” Rabbi Yonah Feinstein said. “Our concern is the yeshivas and community organizations and these are all constitutionally approved services.” Rabbi Feinstein of Agudat Israel organized a March 6 community breakfast for Skelos.
“There is transportation, Title One programs, tax credits, all in relation to secular studies such as math and reading,” the Agudath Israel government affairs director Yehiel Kalish said.
The breakfast, held at the Lawrence home of Asher and Tova Schonkopf had a feeling of urgency, as the state struggles to close a $10 billion budget deficit. The cuts include the elimination of $12 million in tuition funding for special education programs in private schools. “Generous government support provides vital services to growing families,” Yeshiva Shoar Yashuv board chairman Moshe Feuer said. “The new budget will determine the fiscal health of our communities.”
Currently, if a parent of a special needs student wishes to opt out of public school, but still receive tuition reimbursement, the burden of proof that the public school does not meet the child’s needs falls on the school.
But in a proposal announced by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, the burden of proof would be shifted onto the parents who would have to sue for state funding for tuition reimbursement. “State law requires New York City taxpayers to send some special education students to private schools and pay their full tuition, even if their parents refuse to consider city schools that provide special education services,” Bloomberg said at a February 7 testimony before the State Senate. “We can provide services to those students at a fraction of that cost.”