Paterson’s School Daze

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Adam Dickter in New York:

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 4,000 people had called a toll-free number set up by TEACH-NYS, a coalition of independent and religious schools, that was routed to the state budget office to protest some $55 million in funds for reimbursement of costs incurred by non-public schools. The calls came within about 24 hours since the group sent out an e-mail blast to dozens of schools, who then sent out the word to their communities.

“We overwhelmed their voice mail capabilities,” said David Greenfield, executive director of TEACH-NYS. “At one point there were three per minute. We had to re-route the calls from the budget office to the executive chamber.

According to TEACH-NYS says Gov. Paterson’s budet proposal ”would eliminate the Comprehensive Attendance Program (CAP) for non-public schools, cutting almost $55 million in funding as compared to last year’s budget.

“CAP is a state mandated program. It is a security measure that requires that schools take attendance at the start of every period to ensure that students are attending their classes and not leaving the school during class time. Without CAP, non-public schools will have to shoulder the burden of carrying out these security measures. If they cannot find the necessary funding to continue these security measures, they will be forced to cease them.

“Including CAP, the Mandated Services Reimbursement program for non-public schools totaled almost $135 million last year. The proposed budget cut would reduce funding for non-public schools to $80 million. That is a 41% permanent cut in funding for non-public schools.

“We understand that our current fiscal crisis warrants deep budget cuts, but the disparity between the 3.3% cut for public schools and the 41% cut for non-public schools is outrageous,” said David Greenfield, a spokesman for Teach NYS. “The cut amounts to a loss of hundreds of dollars per student for many schools, and will put schools in a situation where they will be forced to increase tuition at a time when many parents are already struggling mightily with the cost of tuition,” Greenfield added. “Our communities and parents will be fighting these cuts.”

Paterson spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein said that since the CAP program reporting mandate was intended more for ” large public schools with thousands of students: and that it has been “less of a problem” for smaller private schools. “We are eliminating both the mandate and the funding that goes with it.”

She added “the governor has put forth a budget that includes shared pain and sacrifice and he has tried to do it in as equitable a way as possible while maintaining safety and education standards. It is up to Legislature now to work with us to put together a final budget.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.