Federal funding for Jewish day schools: The best of all possible worlds?

by Maskil on August 27, 2008

According to the JTA Breaking News item “Orthodox schools get federal funding” from 08/26/2008:

Several Orthodox Jewish day schools in Houston will receive $70,000 in federal funding.

The fervently Orthodox umbrella group [Agudath Israel of America], in partnership with other faith groups in Houston, successfully lobbied the school board for an expansion of federal support.

The funds are part of a total of $610,000 in federal dollars allocated to private educational institutions. They can be used for supplies, textbooks and staffing expenses for remedial programs, the statement said.

I trust that Jewish day schools affiliated to the Conservative and Reform/Reconstructionist movements, as well as schools not affiliated with any of the movements will take note of this development. The Jewish day school concept is under threat on a number of fronts, with budget issues probably the most pressing. If Federal assistance can be obtained for struggling schools (without compromising on the separation between church and state), then every effort should be made to do so.

The leaders of those movements should also see this as a possible threat. In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox schools – with help of massive subsidies from the overburdened Israeli taxpayer – are succeeding in attracting traditional and secular students, because they are able to offer a more stable educational experience then even state religious schools. Those students would then tend to gravitate towards the ultra-Orthodox sector, further artificially skewing the demographic balance in Israel. It is not inconceivable that a well-funded ultra-Orthodox day schools network in the US could achieve the same objective.

Like the Jesuits, the Haredim have long realised the importance of control over the educational process.

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