Issues of Impact to the Community
General Government Relations
Beyond legislation and the items described below, nearly 50% of AIMD’s work focuses on community services for individuals and families across the state. With its large cache of contacts spanning the three tiers of government, AIMD is a calling post for an endless array of services that require government intervention (including healthcare, disabilities/special needs, immigration, etc.)
State funding to benefit Jewish day schools
As one of the state’s most tenured and recognizable private education lobbyists, and as the chair of the state’s nonpublic school coalition (Maryland CAPE), AIMD has been integral to the initiation and/or expansion of state allocations to benefit Maryland’s nonpublic schools. At current, the textbook/technology program, is funded at $6.1 million, a school construction grant program is funded at $3.5 million, and (new in 2018) an additional $3.5 million is allocated for nonpublic school security enhancements. In 2018-2019, Jewish day schools in MD will receive more than $2 million of that total. Beyond the advocacy, AIMD works intimately with each day school serving as liaison to the Maryland State Department of Education (and any other government agency), ensuring each school does its requisite reporting and filing for inclusion purposes, thus guaranteeing timely delivery of the funds.
BOOST Scholarship Program for low income families
Years of advocacy to assist tuition-paying day school families yielded (beginning in 2016) the BOOST Scholarship Program for families whose income is within 185% of the federal poverty level. BOOST scholarship awardees use the funds they receive to pay towards the tuition assessed by their schools. Beyond lobbying for the program’s continuation and funding, AIMD mobilizes the day school community, facilitates program guidelines, and provides individual assistance in order to ensure maximum community participation. In its first two years, the program has provided approximately 1,400 scholarships with a value of more than $2 million in direct tuition benefits to families with children attending Jewish day schools.
529 accounts for day school families
Due to changes made in the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the benefits of 529 college savings accounts can now be utilized for day school tuition as well. AIMD was vital to ensuring MD’s participation in the program via the April 2018 defeat of a bill in the legislature that sought to prevent access to day school families. After doing extensive research and compiling critical data, AIMD presented the community with a full interactive website – www.Tuition529.com – that provided key guidance to many hundreds of Jewish families. The advent of the 529 day school initiative now provides potential tuition assistance to all households, and not only those who are income-eligible for the BOOST program.
Securing Title I Education Services
In its first major breakthrough for the day school community back in 2008-09, AIMD was vital to the process of securing previously untapped federally-funded education services for students in-need of remedial services and attending Baltimore area day schools. Since gaining access to these vital services, this program has become a mainstay and invaluable resource to many hundreds of eligible students who have utilized it, worth millions of dollars since it began.
Special education funding/advocacy for students with disabilities
AIMD has occupied a critical role in working with state officials regarding special education services in the day schools, as well as advocating for more efficient use of funds for individuals with disabilities. Through continued advocacy in addition to data and needs presentations to state education officials, these areas have seen increased funding and significant progress over the years. More robust initiatives are being considered and launched to assist in this great burden to numerous families.
School transportation initiatives
The Baltimore community has benefited from the use of MTA buses and a subsidized student fare for school transportation. While the initiative has been in existence for many years, over the last 10 years, AIMD has successfully expanded the program to include additional schools and offer service to a wider area. At AIMD’s suggestion, since 2015, student bus tickets have replaced the long lines at the “farebox”, thus saving much time and aggravation and benefiting both the community and MTA.
AIMD maintains the relationship on behalf of BY, TA, TI and tweaks the routes/bus stop placements together with MTA. Other efforts are underway to explore additional methods of school transportation with local governmental contacts seeking to use their school buses and drivers for the afternoon dismissal hours.
Shul Security grants
AIMD, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) successfully created a new program in 2017 that provides grants for shuls to purchase/install surveillance camera systems. To date, 7 shul facilities have been outfitted in Baltimore and more opportunities will be available in the future.
Medical examiner protocols and interaction
AIMD has been successful at raising the bar of religious interaction with coroners and medical examiners in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and beyond. Policies that have been instituted in Maryland are the trend-setters for avoiding unnecessary autopsies, expediting the release of bodies detained at medical examiners facilities, and facilitating the performance of halachically-sensitive death examinations in a manner of the highest dignity and respect. To date, AIMD has successfully helped resolve over 40 cases involving Jewish decedents at medical examiners’ offices throughout the region.
Due to its affiliation with National Agudah’s Chayim Aruchim entity, AIMD has been a called-upon resource for families needing support in navigating certain end-of-life situations with their loved ones. Nearly all healthcare facilities are estranged from traditional Jewish values and medical philosophies, leading to much aggravation and anxiety when community members are engaged in these situations.
Religious accommodation regulations and consultation
AIMD has played a vital role in the efforts to expand workplace accommodation laws for religious employees, and for students on college campuses. To date, AIMD has been consulted on dozens of cases with community members facing these problems and has provided guidance/representation to navigate through the process.
Voter registration and education
AIMD has been the community resource for election related activities. This includes running biennial voter registration drives throughout the community and in several schools, as well as providing voting information and community-wide reminders and materials.
Baltimore City Public Works liaising
AIMD was the community’s voice regarding the 2010 law in Baltimore City that revamped its solid-waste collection policies, posing significant hardships on most families. An AIMD presentation in July 2011 to the City Council led to the easing of trash collection restrictions for the areas encompassing the Jewish Community.
Passport and Immigration assistance
AIMD has handled countless passport assistance requests and immigration-related calls, several of which were resolved outright, while others were handled with the assistance of state/local congressional offices.
Virginia – Day school advocacy; Religious protections
In 2012, AIMD was acknowledged by leading legislators as integral to the passage of the $20 million school choice tax credit bill, the EISTC (Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credit) program, which has since provided significant support to Jewish day school students in both Richmond and Norfolk. The availability of this scholarship tax credit program has led to significant growth in the communities and increased enrollments in the schools.
AIMD has successfully advocated on religious freedom issues such as autopsy regulations and protecting the role of decisions rendered by religious courts.
Pennsylvania – Day school advocacy
Already home to the renowned scholarship tax credit, the EITC (Education Improvement Tax Credit), AIMD together with its co-partners on PA-CAPE (Pennsylvania chapter of Council for American Private Education) successfully advocated for a $20 million increase to the program’s annual allocation, to bring it up to $100 million. Additionally, PA-CAPE was vital to the passage of an additional school choice tax credit program, the OSTC (Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit) program, which passed in June 2012 expanding the funding and opportunities for students in the most vulnerable areas of the state.