Critical Issues Facing Our Christian Schools

Submitted by aimee_adams on

On November 6, the citizens of NYS will have an opportunity to contribute to the direction of our state and our nation. Many key offices at the state, as well as local, level are on the ballot for this year's election. It is important that we as Christian school educators and responsible citizens stay informed and participate. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation a Voter's Guide, which will clarify the position of these candidates, is available. Check it out. Stay informed.

Substantially Equivalent
It has been nearly a year since Commissioner MaryEllen Elia informed the attendees at the 2017 conference of Religious and Independent School Educators (RISE) of a renewed effort by the State Education Department to enforce the "substantially equivalent" guidelines for ALL New York non-public schools. Though many schools may not have heard much more on this topic, our sources in Albany tell us that "substantial equivalency is still very much on the table." The State Education Department continues to move forward with this initiative. Therefore, this continues to be a matter that demands our close attention.

As we shared before, it is our understanding that local school officials would be charged with determining whether or not our schools meet the standard of substantially equivalent. Though we are confident in the programs at our Christian schools, the thought that local public school officials would be required to inspect our programs is troubling on many levels. Why is this initiative troubling and what are the concerns for our Christian schools? To know more, read the position of ACSINY leaders on the matter of the substantial equivalency initiative.

NYS 529 Plans
Until now, families in NYS have had little to get excited about in terms of any state assistance with paying their children's K-12 education. But with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, the federal government allowed for the expansion of 529 Plans to extend savings and tax benefits to families who pay for private and religious K-12 education. However, the opportunities for New York families to benefit from this 529 expansion is still a bit unclear.

According to the NYS Comptroller's office, "the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance issued a Preliminary Report on the Jobs Act of 2017, indicating that it appears that K-12 distributions would not be considered qualified distributions under New York statutes and would require the recapture of any New York State tax benefits that accrued on contributions."

What can you do as a leader in a Christian school? Speak with your state Senator and Assemblyman. Ask that they do not penalize New York families but, rather, allow for this tax benefit when they consider the state's annual budget this spring. Better yet, plan to join other Christian school leaders for the ACSINY Legislative Day in Albany on March 12, 2019.

Our schools are filled with students who arrive at our doors via local public school district buses. Since this has been happening for many years, most schools take this service for granted. However, some recent developments indicate that our Christian schools ought to be cautious in our optimism that such services will continue.

One private, religious school recently had a busing request for two elementary students turned down by the local district even though the request was submitted in a timely manner. The district's rationale for the denial is, at best, unclear. There is cause to be concerned for our students and our schools. The leaders of ACSINY are monitoring the situation and will keep you informed of any developments.

Legislative Day 2019
On March 12, Christian school leaders are encouraged to attend the ACSINY Legislative Day in Albany. At that event, school leaders will have opportunities to interface with their state legislators and to speak on behalf of the thousands of Christian school students and families in NYS. Prior to engaging in conversations with legislators, there will be a time of coaching to help make the conversations as easy and efficient as possible.

If we, as leaders, do not speak up on behalf of our schools, who will? For questions about Legislative Day 2019 or to register for the event, contact Dr. Cary Shaw at or at 607-739-3619 extension 222.