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Post date: May 30 2002

Report Outlines Ways To Enhance Assistance To Non-public Schools

Attorney General Spitzer today released a report concluding that there are significant areas in which the state can enhance the education received by students who attend non-public schools, allowing those students to meet the new standards developed by the State Education Department.

"It is vitally important that all students meet the educational standards set by the state," Spitzer said. "This report helps break a long impasse in identifying ways to assist non-public school students who may have trouble meeting those standards."

The new report identifies four specific proposals that would benefit the state's 500,000 non-public students, in the areas of: Academic Intervention Services; Computer Hardware; Teacher Training; and, Special Education. The committee specifically noted that funding for these proposals ought not to detract from the resources flowing to public schools. The Attorney General's office has prepared a 35-page legal analysis that concludes that there is no constitutional impediment to the implementation of the proposals.

The proposals were formulated by the Attorney General's Committee on Non-Public Education, which was convened by the Attorney General in July 2001 and has met regularly since that time. Spitzer expressed his gratitude to the diverse group of academics, educators and advocates who served on the Advisory Committee.

"The members of the committee represent diverse viewpoints and firmly-held opinions, but throughout the year-long process that has culminated with the issuance of this report, the committee members all had a singular determination to put aside differences and focus on devising permissible methods of improving the education received by non-public school children, while increasing their accountability," Spitzer said.

The agreement represents the first time in more than 25 years that representatives of public and private schools have agreed on the need to provide greater assistance to troubled students in the non-public school setting.

Spitzer said that he believed that people who may disagree about the broader questions concerning aid to non-public school children might be able to agree on the viability of some particular programs that serve this goal. "I asked the Committee members to set aside the issues of vouchers and tuition tax credits, and to focus instead on proposals that would directly enhance the education received by students attending non-public schools," he said.

Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers, said: "All children struggling to meet new state standards deserve support, including students in non-public schools that take on the challenges of the new state standards and the high-stakes tests that accompany them. I want to commend the Attorney General for pulling together this panel, and my colleagues from the non-public sector who agreed to put aside for this discussion the issues of tuition tax credits and vouchers so that we could all focus our attention on issues that affect the academic success of all kids."

Richard Briffault, Vice-Dean & Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School, said: "The proposals of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee grow out of an extensive and thoughtful deliberative process, and reflect our attention to a range of educational policy, fiscal, and constitutional values. The members of the Advisory Committee share in the common goal of improving the education received by all children in New York, and believe that these proposals can promote that goal."

Meryl Tisch, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, said: "I would like to commend the Attorney General for taking a serious look at the legal implications of the important issues concerning non-public education addressed by the Committee, while maintaining the necessary commitment to public education."

Professor Joseph P. Viteritti of New York University's Wagner School of Public Policy said: "The Attorney General has initiated an important conversation among a diverse group of people about the need and the possibility of promoting educational excellence for all children regardless of who they are and where they attend school."

The Reverend Floyd Flake said: "These proposals will go a long way toward ensuring that all school children will have the opportunity and ability to meet the educational standards established by the state. Attorney General Spitzer has preformed a vital service by convening the Committee and by providing his analysis of the legality of the Committee's recommendations."

Richard E. Barnes, Executive Director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said: "We are pleased that Attorney General Spitzer has taken the initiative in exploring ways to provide additional resources to children attending non-public schools. This report is an important step toward ensuring that all children are provided equitable educational resources, regardless of where they attend school."

David Zweibel, Vice President of Government Affairs for Agudath Israel, said: "All too often, important public policy debates are side-tracked by assumptions about legal barriers to providing assistance to non-public school children. The Attorney General has preformed a very valuable service by sweeping away some of those assumptions and allowing us to focus on the real-world educational needs of those children."

John Ruskay, Executive Vice President and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said:

"Implementation of these recommendations will help ensure a better educated New York."

The Attorney General's Advisory Committee included the following individuals: Professor Richard Briffault, Vice-Dean & Professor of Legislation, Columbia Law School; Reverend Floyd Flake, Pastor, The Greater Allen Cathedral of New York; Dr. Catherine Hickey, Superintendent of Schools, Archdiocese of New York; Dr. John Ruskay, Executive Vice President & C.E.O, UJA-Federation of New York; Meryl Tisch, Member, New York State Board of Regents; Professor Joseph P. Viteritti, Research Professor of Public Policy & Director, Program on Education and Civil Society, Wagner School of Public Service, New York University; Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers; and David Zwiebel, Esq., Executive Vice President for Government & Public Affairs, Agudath Israel of America.

Advisory Committee Proposals

  1. The committee proposes that the state provide additional funding to school districts to defray the costs that they incur in providing Academic Intervention Services (AIS) and that the school districts provide public school teachers to administer AIS to non-public school students on the premises of those students' schools. As with public school students, eligibility for AIS for non-public school students would be based on performance on state assessment tests or on a school-district-developed or district-adopted procedure for making such determinations.
  2. The committee proposes that the state provide school districts with additional per capita funding to account for the number of children residing within the school district who attend non-public schools and upon request of the non-public school students, either individually or as a group, each school district be required to loan computer hardware to those students for use for instructional purposes.
  3. The committee proposes increasing teacher training among non-public school teachers, by providing reimbursement for training that teachers receive (1) to properly administer, grade, compile and report the results of state-prepared examinations, such as the state assessment tests or the Regents examinations; and (2) to teach their students the subjects for which the state administers assessment tests.
  4. The committee proposes that the Education Law be amended to clarify that, when appropriate, school districts may provide special education services to non-public school students on the premises of their non-public school.


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