For more information on our advocacy efforts or to join the initiatives below, please contact any of our staff – Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament, Director of Political Affairs Maury Litwack, NJ Political Director Josh Pruzansky, NY Political Director Michael Cohen, PA Political Director Michelle Twersky, Deputy Director of Political Affairs Jesse Hervitz, Legislative Policy Staffers Gabriel Aaronson and Donna Iken, Senior Staff Social Worker for Yachad Deborah Berman, and Associate Director for Synagogue and Community Engagement Yehuda Friedman.
From the Field – Advocacy Updates
Pennsylvania: OU Attends Fundraiser for Philly Jewish Special Needs Program.
On Wednesday, Michal Twersky, the Orthodox Union’s Pennsylvania Political Director, attended a fundraiser for OROT honoring Meredith and Jonathan Hoffman. Orot is a community-sponsored organization that supports special needs education within the Jewish day schools of greater Philadelphia. OROT is for children whose needs cannot be met by typical learning support programs, and each classroom provides both academic support and social inclusion for special needs students. OROT programs currently operate in Perlman Jewish Day School, Politz Hebrew Academy and Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.The Orthodox Union was proud to attend the event, which raised over $200,000.
Florida: Building Political Advocacy Network. This week, the Orthodox Union continued its network building efforts in Florida. Jesse Hervitz, Deputy Political Director for the Orthodox Union, met with groups in Boca Raton, Hollywood and Aventura to discuss their communities’ roles in our tuition reduction efforts and to train several groups on proper political advocacy.
Miami: Nathan Diament sits on Miami JCRC Panel on Government Aid to Jewish Schools.
Yesterday, Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union, took part in a Miami JCRC panel discussion on the role of government assistance in Jewish Day Schools. The panel also included Marc Stern, American Jewish Committee’s general counsel, and David Barkey, Anti-Defamation League’s Florida director. The event was a direct result of the Orthodox Union’s efforts to educate the Jewish Community at large of the importance of an affordable Jewish education. We commend the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and JCRC for sponsoring the event.
New Jersey: Assemblywoman Angelini Visits Hillel Academy in Deal.
On Wednesday, May 2nd, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini was welcomed by the students and faculty of Hillel Yeshiva. She was greeted by the middle school student reception committee, which is comprised of members of the student government. This committee includes:
Aaron Chaiklin, Rebecca Gartenberg, Isaac Steinberg, Dylan Ades and Morris Ades as well as the captains of the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, Gordon Adelson, Rose Mishaan and Brenda Saka.
Elizabeth Beckerman, Marketing Coordinator for Hillel Academy, said:
“The Assemblywoman was led through Hillel Yeshiva on a tour of all the exciting ‘happenings’ and was impressed by the excellence of our program and all of our students. This day was very exciting for Hillel Yeshiva. It was an honor to host Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.”
Josh Pruzansky, New Jersey Political Director for the Orthodox Union, said:
“We encourage schools to invite their legislators to visit and see for themselves what the schools can offer and the products that they produce.”
Having realized tangible success on a range of day school advocacy issues this past budget cycle we have been redoubling our efforts to continue the formula which has best yielded results – building a broad based advocacy coalition in Albany. This past week we began conducting joint strategy negotiations with individuals such as Thomas Carroll of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, Tim Mulhern of United New Yorkers for Choice in Education, and James Cultrara of the New York State Catholic Conference. These efforts are largely focused on a tax credit strategy that could ultimately deliver direct financial aid to tuition paying parents across the wide spectrum of New York States non-public school families.
We have continued meeting with day schools around the state attempting to ensure the widest range of partners available across the religious spectrum. Most we met with the Solomon Schechter School of Nassau County, the Hanna Sennesh School of Manahattan, Sevach High School in Queens and Sharrei Tzion Ohel Bracha in the Bucharian Community of Queens.
The OU/IPA has also purchased the software necessary to identity the legislative districts where schools, synagogues, and day school parents reside. This has become necessary due to the political redistricting process, which happens every ten years based on new census data, and can significantly change the political landscape. Knowing your legislator is crucial for effective advocacy, and the OU has the tools to help whole schools or individual parents find their legislators.
Washington, DC: Senate Subcommittee Expands Nonprofit Security Funding.
This week, the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a bill that would fund the highly successful nonprofit security grant program at $13 million in FY 2013. This is a significant expansion over the bill from the House subcommittee, which specifies no funding level at all, and the President’s budget, which requests only $5 million for the nonprofit grant program.
Earlier this week, the Orthodox Union sent a letter to the subcommittee requesting that the program be expanded to at least $19 million in the coming year. The bill will now pass to the full Senate Appropriations committee for consideration.
On the Record: Op-Ed on Transportation for NJ Nonpublic Students
Yes, Nonpublic School Students should have Transportation Service, Too!
This op-ed is scheduled to run in the Asbury Park Press. By Josh Pruzansky
Over the past few weeks, numerous Asbury Park Press articles and editorials have criticized New Jersey’s nonpublic school transportation policy.
The view advocated by the Asbury Park Press is that if a parent chooses not to send a child to a Public School the parent should then bear the expense of transporting them to a Non Public School.
I think the editor misunderstands why New Jersey provides transportation for all students – and it has nothing to do with expanding school choice or saving school districts money.
In 1968, the state mandated transportation for all students for health and safety reasons.
Many communities in New Jersey, especially suburban and rural ones, have no sidewalks. To protect small children from traffic accidents, the New Jersey legislature ordered school districts to provide transportation for ALL school-age children living between 2 and 20 miles from their school (2.5 – 20 miles for high school students).
Yet, there is another caveat to transportation funding. Only school districts that bus their public school students (remember there are 600 school districts) must bus their nonpublic school students. So small school districts, where every public school student lives within two miles of school, have no obligation to transport nonpublic school students.
There are other good reasons a school district, especially one like Lakewood, should provide transportation for all students. Lakewood has 18,000 nonpublic school students who travel to and from school each day. Imagine the traffic nightmare if 10,000 or more vehicles transported those students instead of 450 school buses. Imagine the ecological damage from 10,000 extra vehicles on the already congested roads twice each day.
As far as cost is concerned, the price of nonpublic bussing is set by private bus contractors, who provide over of 70% of the nonpublic transportation contracts. Nonpublic bus routes cost more because they transport fewer children over longer distances. That is not the fault of nonpublic schools parents, who already pay taxes and save the state money by sending their children to a nonpublic school.
True, some school districts struggle to afford both public school instruction and nonpublic school transportation. However, there are better solutions to this problem than endangering the health and safety of more than 80,000 children across the state.
If nonpublic school bussing protects even one child from death in a traffic accident, then it is worth every penny.
As the famous saying goes, he who saves one life is as if he has saved the world.
Josh Pruzansky is the New Jersey Director of Political Affairs and Public Policy for the Orthodox Union representing the needs of over 100 Synagogues and Jewish Day Schools in New Jersey.
As part of the Orthodox Union’s commitment to advance, strengthen and lead the Orthodox Jewish community, the OU works through its public policy arm, the IPA (Institute for Public Affairs), to advocate for our community’s needs in the realms of legislation, policy and public debate. The IPA formulates and advances policy initiatives at the federal and state levels that will provide resources for our day schools and their families, security for our institutions, protection for our religious liberties, support for Israel’s security and more. The OU/IPA is working to train and partner with communities and their leaders to become more politically involved and effective.
These email updates serve to inform you about the OU’s progress on these efforts and to provide information and analysis about various political issues and legislation that can affect our schools, synagogues and communities.