OU Welcomes Initial Senate Passage Of Federal aid to All Schools

Posted on November 3, 2005 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America welcomes the U.S. Senate’s 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. On a voice vote the Senate adopted the proposal sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wy) and Ted Kennedy (D-Ma) along with Senators Alexander, Dodd, Lott and Landrieu.

Under the proposal – forged after weeks of intensive negotiations among the Senators and in which the Orthodox Union and other private school advocates participated — all K-12 schools can receive up to $6000 per displaced student. Under this bill, federal funds would be disbursed by the states to nonpublic schools via accounts set up for each displaced student the school has taken in. The Senate proposal also contains a number of provisions designed to ensure federal funds do not directly support religious activities.

Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) offered a second degree amendment to the Enzi-Kennedy proposal which would have addressed several outstanding concerns the Union and other private school representatives have with the bipartisan bill, but Senator Ensign’s proposal failed on a procedural vote. The Enzi-Kennedy proposal 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 this morning’s votes:

The Orthodox Jewish community welcomes this morning’s action by the Senate moving us a step closer to having federal aid delivered to the hundreds of schools that have taken in and are caring for children displaced by Katrina. We commend Senators Enzi, Kennedy, Ensign, Alexander, Dodd and Landrieu for their leadership.

The Orthodox Jewish community is very pleased that we are no longer discussing whether non-public and parochial schools will be included in a federal education aid program, but how they will be included – by what means and on what terms. While we still have reservations about several of the provisions adopted by the Senate this morning, we appreciate how much progress we’ve made. As the representative of the stakeholders on the ground – the schools who have opened their doors to these displaced children – we remain focused upon securing final passage of legislation, not scoring political points at the price of pragmatic assistance. We look forward to working with these Senators and all those of good will to move this initiative ahead.”