Our SI newspaper gave a lot of coverage to the meeting and that coverage has continued throughout the week. The editorial today was about the Catholic parents' meeting, and the editorial came out 100% behind the parents. Comments in the paper and on the paper's website were pouring in all week. Not so incidentally many of those commenting were parents of children in the Catholic school system. Unlike when Jewish parents have floated the idea of mass registration in the public schools among themselves only, the Catholic parents took the idea public. Local elected officials were at that meeting and are introducing legislation to try and get things put back the way they were before the Governor took the scissors to the budget.
But there were also comments from parents whose children are presently in public school, and those parents believed that the state needed to pay or promise to pay the reimbursements to the private schools. As one parent said: "The state is being penny wise and dollar foolish. Our local schools are filled to capacity. Where would we put even a few dozen more students? And what if that was hundreds more or thousands more? Is the state really willing to put all of our kids at educational risk for the few dollars that private schools have coming to them?" As another parent commented: "The private schools save the state over seven billion dollars a year. Why is the governor putting us all in the position of having to suddenly pay out that kind of money if those private school students register in the public system?"
The newspaper reported that there are some 500,000 plus students in private schools in New York. (Note: the state Board of Ed reports that there are 440,000 for this school year out of a total of 3,123,000 students in K through 12, representing 14.1% of the student population**. This conflicts with a statement by the State Attorney General's Office that there are 500,000 plus students. Nice to know that the right hand and left hand of government aren't agreeing.) By far the largest number of students are those in the Catholic school system. Yes, there are parents in that system who are talking about registering their children in public school to force the issue if legislation to restore the cut funding does not happen. But these parents are being backed up by their school administrators. That's right; the administrators are talking about mass public school registration.
Obviously the various dioceses would not like to see their students disappear for good. But if I am reading the comments correctly, and I believe I am, they believe that a mass registration in the public school system would illustrate why the state should not be fooling around with the mandated reimbursements better than anything else available (again, this to be the case if promised legislation does not pass the legislature).
Here in SI there are over 10,000 students in the Catholic school system. If even 1/10 of those students suddenly registered in public school they would overwhelm our already crowded schools, and such registration is a distinct possibility. If 2/10 registered the system would find itself unable to function at all. Now imagine if all these students registered in public school.
The official representing the diocese was asking that all parents with children in private schools join them in first, pushing that the legislation being introduced be passed and second, should such legislation not be passed, in considering a mass registration in the public schools.
It's clear from what I have been reading that the Catholic diocese is NOT considering closing down its school system and that is public knowledge. They are not attempting to fool the state into thinking that all those Catholic students are going to be permanent additions to the public schools. They are "merely" considering making a valid point and illustrating to the state why this is one area where the state will save no money by cutting down on payments. A Lutheran school in the community has already said that it would join with the Catholic school system if such a registration becomes "necessary." One of the largest private schools in our area has also said that it would consider joining such a mass registration protest because it would be a good lesson to its students on civic responsibility and how the democratic process works.
So I'm asking, what will be/should be the response on the part of those with children in yeshivas if the Catholic school parents stage a mass public school registration? Will we let them carry the ball or will at least some of us join in? Okay, some people don't want to be the first ones to do something like this. But what if someone else is organizing and giving the "party"? Will yeshiva parents attend?
Note: Trudy, on the last posting, asked how much money the reduction in reimbursement actually is. The reimbursements run in the $60-100+ range per student, depending on the grade of the students. Let's use a maximum $100 figure and the State's 440,000 private school students figure from above. That would mean that the state has to reimburse the private schools yearly to the tune of $44 million dollars. A 17% reduction would mean a savings to the state of $7.5 million dollars. No, it's not chump change. But look at this next figure to put it into perspective. It costs the state in the $50-100 range PER CHILD to get them processed and registered in a public school. If "only" 10,000 new students were registered in the public school system it would cost the state one million dollars to register them and then an additional $15-16K per year to educate them--a total cost of $151 million dollars. Those 10,000 students represent only about 2.5% of the total private school students and is more than possible. (And this is not calculating how much money it would cost in administrative fees to re-process the students should they decide to return to their private schools.) How many students would it take to wipe out the 17% savings the state is trying for now? 500 students. Yes, only 500 more students registering in the public school system would wipe out any gain to the state. And I would be very surprised if those students aren't going to be registering. Yeshiva parents are not the only ones feeling the pinch of tuition.
**I teach my students to approach statistics cautiously. The State Board of Ed has been showing a decline in school registrations from the 2000-2001 school year through the year 2008-2009. They are showing this decline for both public schools and private schools. Private schools went from 495,738 to 440,000. What we do know is that two demographic groups consistently have large family sizes: frum Jews and religious Catholics. These two groups have been steadily adding to the numbers of students enrolled in private schools. We also know that the majority of immigrants of Latino background are Catholic and will opt for Catholic school education when possible. Looking at the State's figures it would seem that general private school attendance may be shrinking. I don't think you can make that claim for the religious schools.