Yeshivos and other nonpublic schools in New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester will be seeing an additional $7 million in mandated services funding heading their way. This breakthrough came about through the efforts of Agudath Israel of America, which successfully pushed last year for an increase in the total per pupil reimbursement for state-mandated immunization recordkeeping and reporting.
As explained by Mrs. Deborah Zachai, director of Agudath Israel’s Yeshiva Services Division, nonpublic schools in New York State were being reimbursed at 60 cents per pupil for verifying, maintaining, and reporting student immunization statuses, a rate that had been established in 1984. While state law capped reimbursements at the 60 cent level, it seemed incomprehensible that, more than 30 years later, the amount had not been adjusted to reflect rising actual costs, including higher staff salaries and new immunization requirements, which have grown more complex over the years.
In working to address this inequity, Agudath Israel’s Yeshiva Services Division conducted a survey to determine how long it takes to get the required documentation and which staff are involved in that process. A detailed analysis of actual immunization costs incurred by 63 yeshivos throughout New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester, performed by Avrohom Weinstock, associate director for education services for the Agudah, showed that non-public schools were spending approximately $7.7 million in unreimbursed expenses each year to comply with the state immunization record-keeping requirements.
Seeing this as an action item that needed to be corrected by the legislature, Agudah advocates raised the point on numerous occasions, including at an Agudah Albany mission in March 2017. Ultimately, these efforts resulted in the State allocating $7 million for this purpose. Additionally, the law was amended to allow for future increases in this allocation should the need arise.
After having spent the past several months clarifying the per pupil costs, the New York State Department of Education has announced that under the new measure, qualifying schools will be reimbursed at the rate of $29.39 per child, an increase of more than 4,798%. This increase was welcomed by yeshivah administrators who oftentimes operate on shoestring budgets.
“This additional funding will help alleviate some of the financial challenges faced by already overburdened yeshivos and their parent bodies,” explained Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, director of New York Government Relations for Agudath Israel of America. “We thank our friends in the legislature as well as Governor Cuomo for recognizing these inequities and addressing them.”