Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Gov. Hochul in Lincoln Square Synagogue for the announcement of the creation of “a statewide hate and bias prevention unit," December 2022

It took a full extra month and five extensions, but Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders have finally come to an agreement on a 2023-24 budget.

The $229 billion document includes many items that are beneficial to yeshivas and their families and were the focus of advocacy efforts by Agudath Israel and others.


Security funding, free meals for school children, an expansion of a child tax credit, and the saving of a program that currently provides close to $92 million to Jewish schools were among the provisions on the Jewish community’s list.

Universal Meals
A lot of attention was given to the push for universal school meals by a large statewide coalition. The legislative effort was led by Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas.

The final budget did not go nearly as far as was hoped but nevertheless will allow many schools and districts to serve free meals to all of their students, thanks to an allocation of $134 million.

“This expansion will encourage more schools to serve meals to their students, helping many struggling families, and improving children’s ability to learn and function properly throughout the day,” noted Rabbi Yehoshua Pinkus, Director of Yeshiva Services for Agudath Israel.

Saving the Mandated Services Aid Program
One of the most significant budget victories for nonpublic schools is what is not in the final budget.

Mandated Services Aid (MSA), the largest source of funding for nonpublic schools, faced a potential drastic eight percent cut and problematic language that would have placed the entire program into jeopardy.

However, thanks to the advocacy efforts of a strong coalition and the staunch support of many legislators, including Senator Shelley Mayer, Chair of the Senate Education Committee and Assemblymembers David Weprin and Simcha Eichenstein, the cut was abandoned.

MSA, first passed in 1974, reimburses schools for a host of services mandated by the state including testing, attendance taking, pupil data, immunization and more. Traditionally, the state has always reimbursed schools the full amount of their claims.

This year’s executive budget, first released in February, allocated just over $193 million for combined MSA and CAP (Comprehensive Attendance Program). This allocation had not been increased for the third consecutive year, despite being $17 million below what the State Education Department requested to fulfill anticipated claims.

More troubling was budgetary language that capped the program at the amount allocated, which means that if claims exceed actual allocations as expected, schools would not be paid in full.

In response, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudah’s Director of New York Government Relations, testified before a joint committee about the issue and later organized a coordinated response uniting the religious and independent schools and receiving the support of legislative leaders.

“Mandated Services has been a staple of nonpublic school funding for close to 50 years,” said Silber, adding that a broad group of nonpublic school advocates worked to resolve the issue.

Empire State Child Credit
The budget also includes a major expansion of childcare funding by extending the Empire Child Credit to include children under the age of four. The expansion was first proposed by Senator Jeremy Cooney and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi.

Non-Public School Safety and Equipment Security Grant
The budget also allocates $45 million for the Non-Public School Safety and Equipment (NPSE) Security Grant. This program provides security and safety to nonpublic schools and was recently expanded to allow for critical capital needs that enhance safety.

In addition, $25 million was maintained for religious and independent schools, community facilities and summer camps under the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes program.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.