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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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An Open Letter to Congressman Pascrell on School Choice and Vouchers

Rabbi Shmuley

There are few choices as personal and important as the educational environment in which our children are immersed for most of their waking hours. Yet in the United States, unless parents want to risk bankruptcy just to afford tuition, they are given no choice.

The DC Voucher program is an important case in point, Bill. President Obama sends his children to Sidwell Friends, the most expensive school in the capital. Yet he did not support African-American parents being able to exercise the same right. In March 2011, President Obama opposed a renewed DC voucher program authored by John Boehner and Joseph Lieberman. “The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students,” a White House statement declared.

Now, Bill, let’s be honest. I mean no disrespect to the president, but this smacks of hypocrisy. Forcing parents to send their children to schools that you would never consider for your own kids? Come on.

The single greatest injustice facing American parents today is, arguably, that they are forced to send their children to schools not of their choosing. The Wall Street Journal reported in October, 2009, that New Jersey’s Supreme Court had “taken control of the $11 billion Property Tax Relief Fund,” funded by our astronomical, highest-in-the-nation property taxes. The Journal reported: “The court sends more than half of the state aid to 31 largely urban ‘special needs’ school districts with the remaining 554 largely suburban towns fighting over the rest.”

Want to know how badly abused our tax dollars are in the state’s education system? The Journal reported that a single community, Asbury Park, gets 30,000 dollars per pupil – enough to send them to the country’s best prep schools – and still “they produce dismal test results.”

Why do we take it? Why aren’t there protests in the streets of New Jersey? Honestly, I have no idea, other than to say that it’s becoming prohibitive to even live here in Jersey, and many are moving out, which explains why you and Steve Rothman had to fight each other for the Democratic primary in the district as New Jersey lost a congressional seat.

And if we want parents to stay and believe in our state, we have to give them one of life’s most important freedoms: the right to choose the schools that will educate their kids.

Will you join me, Bill?

I thank you and eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

 

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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