Photo: Rabbi Schnall testifying at the final live Budget Committee Hearing before the onset of the pandemic.
Over the past year, one of Agudas Yisroel’s New Jersey Office’s top legislative priorities was to increase funding for nonpublic school students for the chronically underfunded state-sponsored compensatory and remedial education services known as Chapter 192 and Chapter 193. After many conversations, legislative hearings, a letter-writing campaign, and much siyata dishmaya, the legislature added – for the first time in more than a decade – an additional $6 million to the total allocation. While the $6 million was still below what was needed to fix the programs, New Jersey Office Director Rabbi Avi Schnall felt it was a good start. “Especially in a year when – due to the coronavirus pandemic – drastic cuts were being made to virtually every state agency and program, the additional $6 million was significant,” said Rabbi Schnall.
When the New Jersey Department of Education received notification of the additional funding, they decided to use it to supplement their reserves, rather than increase the per-pupil allocation, which was obviously completely contrary to the legislature’s intent. Rabbi Schnall once again engaged the legislatures, Department of Education, and his colleagues in the nonpublic school community in a series of conversations to have the funding put towards increasing the per-pupil allocation. Just yesterday, Rabbi Schnall was notified by the Department of Education that while a portion of funding will still be used for reserves, they will use the remainder of the funds to increase the per-pupil allocation.
In a notice to school administrators, Rabbi Schnall wrote, “We are pleased to inform you that this coming year (FY21), the per-pupil allocation will be increased by $50/child.”
Rabbi Schnall went on to express his appreciation to others who assisted in the effort. “We are grateful to our dear friend Assemblyman Gary Schaer of Passaic for his tireless efforts on behalf of yeshiva students across the State and for his integral role in ensuring not only that the allocation was increased, but that the increased allocation reached its intended beneficiaries: our students. To all those who participated in our letter-writing campaign, thank you.”
Rabbi Schnall noted that while the increased per-pupil allocation is most welcome news for parents and students alike, there is still need for work in this area. “We continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to make these programs work to ensure a quality education for our most needy students.”