The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has partnered with local day schools, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, and another federation to lobby for increased state funding for non-religious services to Jewish day schools.
The local federation is part of the Teach NJS initiative with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
The schools and two federations are covering two-thirds of its cost while the OU is covering the remaining one-third.
The initiative was launched in Bergen County in late May to push for state funding of such services as technology, textbooks, nursing, and security. It scored its first success with the passage about a month ago of the Secure Schools for All Children Act, providing $5 million in funding to nonpublic schools for security services and equipment.
“Jewish education is really critical toward building a stronger Jewish community and future,” said Heart of NJ federation CEO Keith Krivitzky. “We’ve been supportive of our day schools for a really long time and it’s clear the time is now to push day school affordability and sustainability.
“For some reason, parochial schools do not get the funding all other schools get, so federation, in partnership with other federations and organizations, saw an opportunity where all students can be supported for a core basket of services, and we can leverage our resources by making a grant.”
Krivitzky said the federation’s $25,000 allocation was a “win-win” because “our dollars can leverage more dollars and have a multiplier effect” to benefit day school students.
Schools involved in the partnership include: Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, Edison; Yeshivat Netivot Montessori, East Brunswick; Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore, Ocean; Hillel Yeshiva schools in Deal and Ocean; Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville; and Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County, Marlboro.
The security legislation was part of the state’s 2016 budget and marks the first new funding line available to New Jersey’s nonpublic schools in more than 20 years, said the OU Advocacy Center’s NJ regional director, Josh Pruzansky.
The $5 million funding is also an increase of 22 percent from the original budget proposed by Gov. Chris Christie.
“We can never take any available funding for our nonpublic schools for granted, as was demonstrated through the significantly lower allocations for nonpublic schools in the original budget proposed by Gov. Christie,” said Pruzansky, a Highland Park resident.
The initiative mobilized residents to write thousands of letters and e-mails to the legislature and governor and brought others to Trenton to lobby. Helping the partnership in its advocacy efforts were Chabad Lubavitch of New Jersey, Agudath Israel, NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, and the NJ Catholic Conference.
“At the end of the day, the health care and security of every student should be treated the same,” said Pruzansky. “We’re a long way from public school students [in terms of funding], and all we’re looking for is equality.”
Teach NJS partners are gearing up to begin advocating in September for more aid in the next budget, he said.
RPRY board president Leslie Ostrin said her school was “excited to be a part of this.”
“It’s built on models that have proven successful in other states,” she said. “We’ve already seen success and look forward to even more. Josh has done a great job kick-starting this initiative and driving it forward.”
Schechter head of school Yoti Yarhi said, “By advancing the issues facing Jewish day schools, OU Advocacy/Teach NJS will ensure that we are equipped to provide the best possible education for our children.”