Posted on July 21, 2010 In Press Releases

Pleased by bipartisan support from Executive & Legislature; Urges Swift Action on Commission Recommendations

The Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America) urges swift action on the recommendations of a commission that studied New Jersey’s nonpublic schools and outlines key areas where aid to nonpublic schools or to families under neutral criteria are both fully constitutional and good public policy. The report was delivered to Governor Chris Christie in June by the Governor’s Study Commission on New Jersey’s NonPublic Schools and after reviewing the findings, the Governor released the report to the public yesterday. Both the Governor and Education Commissioner Bret Schundler released favorable statements on the report.

Established by former Governor Jon Corzine, and chaired by Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-36) and Dr. George Corwell, Director of Education for the NJ Catholic Conference, the commission was bipartisan and multi-ethnic, representing a broad spectrum of local education, faith and communal leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities as well as the state’s education, law and treasury departments. Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of OUKosher and a synagogue rabbi Englewood, NJ was among the community leaders on the commission; Howie Beigelman, the OU’s Deputy Director of Public Policy, served as a staff member to the commission.

Among the key findings of the commission are that New Jersey’s nonpublic schools educate 160,000 students – 11 percent of the K-12 total – across the state and employ 20,000 people for an annual savings in operational and capital costs of approximately $4 billion. As well, since 2004, the state’s nonpublic school population has declined by 29,810 students, increasing the cost of educating those students for New Jersey’s taxpayers by at least $430 million.

The commission’s key recommendations include increasing and streamlining textbook, technology, special education and health related aid, as well as enacting education related tax credits and deductions, such as the NJ Opportunity Scholarship Act now before the Legislature (on which the OU has offered testimony in support – Testimony_in_Support_of_S-1872_OSA_(5-13-10)-2.doc) or similar programs in other states. Emphasizing the link between education and workforce development, it also recommends a pilot program in providing math instruction in nonpublic schools.

Rabbi Steven Burg, OU Managing Director stated:

For too long, families in New Jersey’s nonpublic schools – including Jewish day schools and yeshivas – have been treated as stepchildren. This report offers clear, affordable and common sense recommendations to change that and to ensure that every student in New Jersey gets the education they deserve. There can no longer be any question as to whether such aid is constitutional or if it is good policy. It is both, as evidenced by the Attorney General’s imprimatur on this report and on the experiences in other states with such policies. We call upon the Governor and the Legislature to act now and to implement these recommendations.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OUKosher and a commission member stated:

We thank Assemblyman Schaer and Dr. Corwell for their hard work as co-chairs of this vital study. It was a privilege to serve and to represent not only the Orthodox Jewish community, but schoolchildren and families across New Jersey. As New Jersey faces mounting budget deficits, these recommendations are both fiscally prudent as well as morally right. Now is the time to take action.

For a link to the full report, please visit the OU/IPA resources page.