The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America applauds final passage of a bipartisan proposal to provide federal aid for schools – including non-public (including parochial) schools – which have taken in students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. After weeks of intensive negotiations and discussions in which the Orthodox Union participated, a modified version of the proposal which passed the Senate last month was included in the final appropriations package passed by the U.S. Senate last night (after House passage earlier this week) before its probable adjournment for the year. (The House is expected to give final passage to the appropriations package later today.)
Under the bill’s provisions, enacting a proposal first put forward by President Bush and championed by Secy. of Education Spellings – forged after weeks of intensive negotiations among the Senators and House leaders and in which the Orthodox Union and other private school advocates intimately participated — all K-12 schools can receive up to $6000 per displaced student. Under this law, federal funds would be disbursed by the states to nonpublic schools via accounts set up for each displaced student the school has taken in. In November, the original Enzi-Kennedy proposal on this matter was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to that body’s Budget Reconciliation legislation over the bitter opposition of the National Education Association and other opponents of public aid, under any circumstances, to private and parochial schools.
Nathan J. Diament, public policy director for the Union, issued the following statement after the Senate’s final passage of the appropriations bill:
The Orthodox Jewish community applauds Congress’ action to deliver federal aid to the thousands of schools that have taken in and are caring for children displaced by Katrina & Rita. We commend Senators Enzi and Kennedy and their colleagues for their leadership in the Senate and ensuring that this much needed relief (ensuring the equitable and religiously sensitive treatment of parochial schools) was contained in the appropriations package. We commend the President and Secretary Spellings for working the issue intensively as well as House Chairman Boehner and the House leadership. The Orthodox Jewish community is very pleased that those who sought to cruelly exclude non-public schools and families from this program saw their discriminatory views repudiated. This program will likely deliver more than $1.5 million in aid to Jewish schools which took in students displaced by Katrina and Rita and millions more to other K-12 schools. We are thankful for this much needed relief being passed.