Paterson restores attendance program for religious, independent schools - Catholic Courier

Paterson restores attendance program for religious, independent schools

Letters and e-mails from 10,000 Catholic New Yorkers apparently persuaded Gov. David Paterson to reverse his earlier decision to eliminate the Comprehensive Attendance Program for religious and independent schools, according to Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference.

The governor’s 2009-10 executive budget, proposed Dec. 16, 2008, eliminated the program and $55 million in related state reimbursement for religious and independent schools — yet maintained the program and related funding for public schools. It also reduced the state’s Mandated Services Reimbursement program in religious and private schools by 44 percent, or $62 million dollars, according to the Catholic Advocacy Network, the statewide advocacy network of the state Catholic conference.

In a set of 30-day amendments to the proposed executive budget, Paterson on Jan. 16 agreed to maintain the Comprehensive Attendance Policy mandate in both public and nonpublic schools, said James Cultrara, director of education for the Catholic conference.

“We thank Gov. Paterson for recognizing the critical importance of the CAP program, which is intended to ensure that children are safe and in school receiving their education,” Cultrara said in a statement released Jan. 26. “In restoring the program, Gov. Paterson has recognized the state’s obligation to provide for the needs of all school children, regardless of where they attend school.”

However, Paterson’s amended budget does not restore funds for the program, Cultrara said. The conference is encouraging Catholics to continue sending letters and e-mails urging Paterson and his administration to fully fund the program and ensure that the state upholds its obligation to reimburse schools for 100 percent of the state-mandated expenses by eliminating the cuts to the Mandated Services Reimbursement program.

“We applaud the administration for their expressed willingness to negotiate a restoration of funds to the program,” Cultrara said.

Click here to go to a draft letter that can be edited online and e-mailed directly to Paterson and other elected officials. The letter also may be accessed by following the link for the Catholic Advocacy Network on the conference’s Web site,

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