Under New York State law, local school districts are required to provide transportation funding for all of their students, including those children who attend non-public schools. Yet as the pandemic raged, all schools were effectively shut down by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order on March 17, 2020. Transportation funding essentially ceased, despite the fact that private schools were still responsible for considerable busing expenses including parking, insurance, and payroll payments.
Furthermore, in October of 2020, when specific neighborhoods were placed in red zones, schools were shut down once more and transportation funding ended again, causing local private schools to struggle in their efforts to pay transportation expenses that have been covered by the state and city for many years. These non-public schools were reeling under the burden of an estimated $17 million in lost funding.
When the New York State Assembly convened last week to hammer out its annual one-house budget for the fiscal year, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein approached the powerful Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, hoping to include the transportation costs in the upcoming state budget.
Assemblywoman Weinstein, a longtime ally of the Jewish community and the original prime sponsor of the legislation including yeshiva busing in the reimbursement program, recognized the significance of the issue and understood that this discontinued funding was causing an unnecessary strain on local yeshivas and private schools. Together they devised a plan that would reimburse our schools for their transportation expenses, even during the months of closure, in the state budget. The legislative proposal put forth by the Assembly members was included in the one-house budget bills proposed by the State Legislature.
"Since the beginning of this pandemic, non-public schools have been under terrific pressure to ensure the continuity of a quality education, and have met that task head-on,” said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein. “They shouldn't further be burdened by costs incurred because of health-related closures or State-mandated shutdowns. I agree with Assemblyman Eichenstein that we owe it to these institutions to reimburse them for these costs, which were unpreventable and entirely out of their hands, especially when all are experiencing different forms of financial burdens."
“Our local yeshivas and private schools are already having trouble staying solvent during these trying times.” said Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, “The added burden of transportation expenses makes a difficult situation even harder. I want to thank Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein for her pivotal role in including this necessary and crucial funding in the upcoming budget. Once again, Chair Weinstein has gone above and beyond for our community’s essential needs. This inclusion provides our non-public schools with a welcome reprieve from the financial crisis they are currently experiencing.”
The state budget is scheduled to be finalized on March 31st. “This retroactive funding represents a significant win for our private schools who are committed to educating our children, often on a shoestring budget” continued Assemblyman Eichenstein, “It will make a tremendous difference not just to the schools in New York City, but also to those on Long Island, in Orange and Rockland counties and all across New York. This is good news for private school parents, children, and educators all across New York State.”