Testimony of Orthodox Union
in support of HB 932
Maryland General Assembly | House of Delegates
Ways & Means Committee
Annapolis, MD |March 16, 2011
The Jewish community is one whose tradition is steeped in valuing children and their education. As Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth has written, “Our citadels are schools, our passion, education, and our greatest heroes, teachers.” To educate all children as best as we are able is a prime Jewish value; therefore, the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, representing hundreds of synagogues, rabbis and thousands of members nationwide, including 21 congregations here in Maryland, respectfully submits this testimony in support of HB 932 (and its companion bill, SB 315), the BOAST education tax credit.
We proudly support BOAST, which is modeled on successful tax credit programs enacted in other states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, among others. In addition, currently pending legislation in Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, New Jersey and New York as well as both North and South Carolina are similar to BOAST.
What is unique about BOAST is that in these uncertain financial times, it does several important things. First and foremost, BOAST takes no money from the state education budget while bringing in millions in new funds for education.
In an era of diminishing resources BOAST opens a new source of funding for education. In addition, instead of other approaches that would pit one segment of schools or one geographic locale against others, BOAST would help schools and students statewide in public and nonpublic schools. BOAST doesn’t have everyone competing for smaller pieces of a shrinking pie; rather it expands the pie and the resources and opportunities available to children throughout Maryland.
NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s youth movement and NCSY’s affiliated Jewish Student Union both serve thousands of public school students. We support faith based schools and believe they should receive their fair share of constitutionally permissible aid. Programs like BOAST meet that legal threshold, as the courts (including the US Supreme Court) repeatedly have ruled. But we want – and need – to see public schools succeed. Not only for the good of our neighbors’ children, but also for our own.
BOAST does just that. Further, nonpublic schools, whether faith based or secular educate some 131,000 across Maryland, saving the taxpayers $1.5 billion annually. If their schools close, the cost of educating them and of building and maintaining the needed classroom space falls to an already cash strapped state.
BOAST also creates a partnership between the business community and local schools. We’d like to think businesses give charity because it’s the right thing to do. But especially in these financial times, affording businesses the opportunity to afford altruism is wise. The Jewish tradition teaches that if one does good deeds for a reward eventually they come to do the good deed for its own sake.
The Talmud credits Joshua ben Gamla with saving “Torah learning” from extinction because he ensured the education of those children whose parents were unable to teach them. Passing BOAST will help ensure each and every child in Maryland, no matter their family, no matter their background, can receive the very best education. That will be a credit to this committee, this chamber and this General Assembly.
The Orthodox Union and its thousands of families in Maryland respectfully request an immediate and favorable report of HB 932.
Deputy Director of Public Policy