Catholics urged to ask Hochul to keep nonpublic school aid - Catholic Courier

Catholics urged to ask Hochul to keep nonpublic school aid

Catholics in New York state are being asked to contact Gov. Kathy Hochul and urge her to keep Catholic schools in mind as she prepares her 2024-25 state budget proposal.

At issue is the state’s obligation to reimburse nonpublic schools — including Catholic schools — for the administrative expenses associated with carrying out state-mandated services, according to James Cultrara, director for education for the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops in public-policy matters.

The Nonpublic School Aid program was enacted in 1974 and requires the state to reimburse nonpublic schools for 100 percent of the costs of these mandated services, which include such activities as taking attendance, administering and scoring state tests, and submitting data to the state’s Department of Education, Cultrara said. However, the state budget Hochul proposed last year included language that would have eliminated the state’s obligation to fully reimburse nonpublic schools for these expenses, he said.

“It would have limited the state’s liability to whatever they were able to appropriate, so that that would subject the program to the financial condition of the state and the political whim of lawmakers,” Cultrara said.

Catholics asked to encourage the governor to maintain the Nonpublic School Aid program

The discontinuation of the Nonpublic School Aid program would create a hardship for Catholic schools and, in turn, for the families of Catholic-school students, he added.

“Schools would have to pass that expense on to our tuition-paying families, who are already overburdened with paying taxes to support public schools and tuition to support their own children’s education.”

The Catholic conference, via its Catholic Action Network, is asking Catholics to contact Hochul’s office and encourage her to “not only maintain the state’s obligation to fully reimburse our schools, but to advance the required increase in funding this and the other critically important programs for Catholic schools,” according to an Action Alert sent via email Dec. 18.

A pre-written message found on the Catholic conference’s website may be edited and sent via email to Hochul’s office.

State-funded STEM program benefits Catholic schools

While the lack of support for the Nonpublic School Aid program in Hochul’s 2023-24 budget was disappointing, her proposal did include some components that were beneficial to Catholic schools, Cultrara noted. The governor had recommended earmarking $70 million for science, technology, engineering and math programs at nonpublic schools, and the state Legislature ended up adding another $3 million in funding, he said.

“About half of that appropriation is received by Catholic schools,” Cultrara said. “It’s actually a first in the nation, where the funds go directly to schools to reimburse them for a portion of the salaries for science, technology, engineering and math teachers. It’s a great benefit to our schools.”

Tags: Catholic Schools, NY Catholics
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