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Egan, Klein call for return of school funds

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Edward Cardinal Egan, Senator Jeff Klein, and other elected officials and religious leaders from around the state met at Our Lady of Assumption School on Friday, March 13. The group, backed by parents and students, called on state leaders to reinstate the Mandated Services Reimbursement program funding for private schools.

The Mandated Services Reimbursement program, founded in 1974, provides funding allowing private and parochial schools to carry out mandated New York State functions – like state tests and reporting basic student data.

Klein’s senate colleagues, concerned parents, and religious leaders from the Jewish, Lutheran, and Greek Orthodox communities also called for restoration of funding for MSR.

“We have a duty to fulfill our commitment to religious and independent schools in the same way we have for more than three decades. These schools provide a vibrant and quality education for thousands of our students and the loss of these monies would have a devastating effect on their ability to continue to do so,” Klein said.

The 2008-09 enacted state budget and Governor David Paterson 2009-10 proposed budget limit the state’s liability for the program to 92%, putting more than $18 million dollars at stake for thousands of school budgets over the next two years. In general, MSR monies comprise about 15% of the average private school’s budget. Some schools may be as high as 20%.

“We are delighted that Cardinal Egan came to OLA school to meet with Senator Klein and call for the restoration of funding for MSR program,” said Monsignor Donald Dwyer, pastor of OLA parish and Catholic east Bronx Vicar. “OLA school is supposed to receive $77,000 in state funds, and it would have a devastating impact not to receive those funds.”

Dwyer said that with 20,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools around the Bronx, the city’s public education system relies on having those schools remain open.

“It is fiscally and socially imprudent if the state reneges on our funding,” Dwyer said. “The public school system could never absorb those students.”

Parents of children at the OLA school were equally passionate about the issue.

“It is a fairness issue for us parents because we are paying taxes for public schools, and we opt out of that system,” said parent Nelson Sanchez. “Some of the money that we pay in taxes should be reimbursed to our children.”

According to Klein, the state already owes private and parochial schools around the state about $75 million in back payments for the MSR program. Cardinal Egan said that the state’s lawmakers should not overlook the effectiveness of private schools.

“Ninety-eight percent of our inner-city high school students graduate in four years time, and 95% of those go onto college,” Egan said.

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