Finding Funds for Jewish Day Schools

By Roslyn Singer

When OU Advocacy and Luria Academy in Brooklyn initially met in the fall of 2013 to discuss the work that OU Advocacy-Teach NYS does on behalf of New York Jewish day schools, they planted the seeds that would bear fruit for both organizations.

Luria quickly joined OU Advocacy-Teach NYS’ efforts to educate state legislators about the challenge of tuition affordability. Luria hosted one of the first meetings for OU Advocacy-Teach NYS’ Schools in Session initiative, which pairs state legislators with Jewish day schools in their districts.

The “win-win” relationship blossomed for Luria when the school started working with OU Advocacy staff to help maximize its government funding.

“So many Jewish day schools and yeshivahs are unaware of the state funding for which they’re eligible or they simply don’t know how to apply for the various funding sources available. In many circumstances, schools may receive grants, but don’t realize that they are eligible for much more money than they’re getting,” says Michelle Twersky, OU Advocacy’s associate regional director.

“When I met with Luria Academy, I realized there were many funding opportunities the school was simply not taking advantage of—particularly New York’s Mandated Services Reimbursement program, which can make a real difference to a school’s bottom line,” Twersky adds.

Through the Mandated Services Reimbursement (MSR) program, New York State compensates nonpublic schools for conducting state-required activities, such as taking attendance and administering state exams.

As part of OU Advocacy’s Government Maximization Services, Twersky introduced Luria Academy to the MSR program and walked the school through every step of the filing process, providing step-by-step instructions, templates, phone and e-mail support and in-person consultation.

As a result of OU Advocacy’s support, Luria Academy successfully filed for MSR funding for both the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 school years.

“We are indebted to OU Advocacy for essentially teaching us ‘how to fish,’” says Luria Academy Head of School Amanda Pogany. “OU Advocacy identified this funding availability and, through their consulting services and guidance, helped us feel confident that we can file for MSR on our own.”

Maury Litwack, OU Advocacy’s director of state political affairs, noted that the Government Maximization Services are meant to help schools learn how to file for MSR and feel comfortable with the process. “Like everything that is new, the first time you do anything is the most challenging and each subsequent time it gets progressively easier. We give schools the tools to succeed so that they can eventually ‘graduate’ from our services and file on their own.”

Since September, OU Advocacy’s Government Maximization Services team has worked with seven Jewish day schools in New York including Manhattan Day School, Solomon Schechter School of Nassau County, Bnos Bais Yaakov of Far Rockaway and Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Queens. It has helped each school identify, on average, an additional $10,000 in government funding that it was leaving on the table.

OU Advocacy also helps Jewish day schools and yeshivahs receive funding under the federal Title Services program. Part of the No Child Left Behind Act, Title Services provide schools that have at-risk or failing students with help in reading, math and English as a Second Language (ESL) and professional development for teachers, among other services.

Yosef Kanofsky, OU Advocacy’s director of government services, has successfully helped 150 Jewish day schools in New York City navigate the process to receive Title I instructional services as well as various professional development services.

Because the steps to identify eligible students are complicated, schools often forego the entire process, leaving millions of dollars in services on the table. Over the past five years, Kanofsky helped these schools generate and utilize more than $10 million in Title Services.

“When I first start working with a school, I’ll help that school understand and navigate the entire Title Services landscape,” says Kanofsky. “I also help the school create a testing plan to identify its Title-eligible students so that the school can receive the services it deserves,” Kanofsky adds.

Kanofsky also co-coordinated a teacher-training program for yeshivah and Jewish day school educators to help struggling readers. Now in its second year, the program has trained more than sixty teachers from Jewish day schools and yeshivahs throughout the city. And since the program provides professional development for teachers, it was funded entirely by federal Title II A funds from the New York City Department of Education’s Division of NonPublic Schools-21st Century Partners in Learning—a value of more than $2,100 per participant.

“Because the training program requires the participants to provide sixty to ninety hours of tutoring, it was a great value for schools, teachers and students,” says Kanofsky. “This program is just one of many ways OU Advocacy-Teach NYS can harness federal and state funds to help yeshivahs and day schools achieve their educational mission. Our goal is to help our schools continue to take advantage of these opportunities,” he adds.

To learn more about OU Advocacy’s Government Maximization Services and how we can help your school, please contact info@OUAdvocacy.org.

Roslyn Singer is the director of communications, OU Advocacy.

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This article was featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Jewish Action.
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