New Jersey: Restoring Funding and Reintroducing the OSA
These past few weeks were exciting as the legislative session kicks into high gear.
We have been busy meeting with the governor’s staff and with legislators on both sides of the aisle to discuss the importance to our community of restoring technology grants and nursing aid to the non-public schools as they prepare the budget. This aid will bring some relief to our schools as their fiscal challenges grow larger and our children require appropriate in-school technology to succeed in the 21st Century.
We have also been very involved in crafting the latest version of the Opportunity Scholarship Act which we hope will pass by June. The act – although smaller in scope than the version introduced in the Senate last session – will still be a strong first step towards families the opportunity to choose the school best suited for their child.
New York: Meetings Legislators in Albany
In the past weeks, we have continued to forge new partnerships with New York State legislators, leaders, and groups. We have had considerable success building excitement and support for the OU’s New York agenda.
We met with Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rhoda Jacobs, who also is the longest serving female in the state legislature. She was excited to work with the OU after learning that the OU is increasing its community engagement.
We also met with several legislators who represent New York’s ethnic groups. We met with Senator Ruth Hassel Thompson, who chairs the Conference of Black Senators, and newly elected Assemblymen Rafael Espinal and Francisco Moya, who represent large Latino communities. All are interested in working with the OU to find common ground in our tuition affordability efforts.
In the Jewish community we met with Senator Joe Addabbo, who represents many Orthodox Jews in Queens and wants his constituents to benefit from the OU’s extensive programming. We also met with Senator Toby Stavitsky, who represents Queens as well and is the only Jewish NYS senator.
Finally, we have begun to coordinate our tuition affordability efforts with the UJA Federation of New York’s newly hired day school advocate. We have also sent out introductory letters to many of the Yeshivas across the state informing them of our heightened community engagement activities. We are now setting up meetings with day school leaders to introduce our New York advocacy plan and to engage the entire community in our tuition affordability issues.
Federal Government: ABLE Act
In the last two weeks, we have met with seven congressional offices asking them to co-sponsor the ABLE Act, which will create special savings accounts for individuals with disabilities.
We will continue to meet with representatives and asking them to support this crucial piece of disabilities legislation.
Federal Government: Security Initiatives
In 2005, the OU/IPA spearheaded the creation of the Non-Profit Security Grant program under the Dept. of Homeland Security. Since 2005, synagogues, day schools and other non-profits in designated urban and suburban areas have received nearly $100 million in grants to upgrade the physical security of their facilities. For the current fiscal year, Congress substantially cut the overall appropriation of funds to a number of DHS grant programs, including the NPSG.
We are presently engaged in intensive discussions with DHS and White House leaders over the amount of funds that will be available for grants this year and other opportunities to receive support for security needs. We anticipate being able to inform the community of this year’s application and other information later this month.