This week, the New York State Legislature held its annual joint Senate and Assembly budget hearings on the topic of education in New York State. These hearings directly impact the final budget allocations for education-related expenses in the state. The Legislature heard testimony from Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and other stakeholders.

Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudath Israel’s Director of New York Government Relations, testified on matters of concern to the Orthodox community. On the matter of substantial equivalency, he related how over 140,000 individuals and groups commented last summer opposing the regulations proposed by the New York State Education Department. Those regulations which followed similar guidelines stuck down by the courts last April were extremely rigid in their “one size fits all” set of rules which would have forced virtually every yeshiva and day school across the state to completely alter their curriculum and hamper their ability to carry out their mission entrusted to them by their parents.

The day before Rabbi Silber testified,  the Board of Regents stated at their monthly meeting that they will begin a process to reengage with stakeholders on the issue of substantial equivalency. Agudah supports that approach and looks forward to working with the regents, staff at SED as well as members of the legislature to find a solution that is workable for all.

Rabbi Silber also testified regarding other issues of concern: In light of recent anti-Semitic attacks, he requested that the  budget include an increase in school security funding for non-public schools, noting that neighboring New Jersey  doubled the security allocation for non-public schools last year. He also requested that the Legislature allocate $9,000,000 to reimburse non-public schools for their expenses in enforcing the state mandate for immunization compliance.

“It is a great honor to testify on behalf of the schools in the Orthodox community,” said Rabbi Silber. “Our day schools, Yeshivas, and Bais Yaakovs save the State billions of dollars each year and produce wonderful students. We should proudly advocate on their behalf.”