S.6089, Marcellino / A.7833, Cusick: In Relation to the Calculation of Nonpublic School Aid

Published on June 5th, 2017

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would clarify that the State Education Department may continue to utilize the nearly four decades old “instructional time” standard as the basis for providing reimbursement to nonpublic schools for their participation in the mandated services aid program.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this measure and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

Mandated Services Aid (MSA) was enacted in 1974 as a way for the state to support nonpublic schools which educate nearly 500,000 students across the state. In the late 1970’s, the State Education Department established a series of “parameters” or formulas to simplify the administration of the program and to ensure the program was fair to both taxpayers and the nonpublic schools. One set of parameters called for the use of “instructional time” in determining the “average hourly rate” of the employees involved in complying with the various mandates. SED justified the use of instructional time because it is associated with the compulsory education requirement, has been used continuously over the years as the basis for aid to public schools and it provides consistency and predictability in aid to nonpublic schools.

Instructional time equates to 5 hours of instruction per day for grades K-6, 5.5 hours per day for grades 6-12, as well as 180 days in the school year. Nonpublic schools are required to provide a substantial equivalent amount of the instructional hours and days as are required of public schools. In recent years, in an effort to be more exacting in the administration of the program, SED began scrutinizing the calendars and schedules of select nonpublic schools and required those schools to use additional hours and days in the calculation of their aid – resulting in a reduction of aid. Numerous schools were forced to accept the aid cut in order to receive the desperately needed balance of their reimbursement.

The 2016-17 enacted State Budget included language to permit schools to continue to receive aid based on a 5 / 5.5 hour school day – averting an approximate 20 percent cut in aid to the schools under review. The 2016 language, however, addressed only the “hours of the day” and did not explicitly reference the “days of the year.” While the provisions of the above-referenced legislation were included in both the Assembly and Senate one-house Aid to Localities bills, it was not adopted in the final state budget.

This legislation is necessary to ensure that religious and independent schools do not receive a cut in aid, especially as state support aid to public and charter schools is increasing. The New York State Catholic Conference urges enactment of this measure as soon as possible to ensure that aid applications (which have been held by SED) can be processed and that desperately needed payments can be made to schools.

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