web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Jewish Schools Advocacy Bringing Hundreds of Millions in Public Funds

Private Jewish day schools and yeshivas get hundreds of millions of dollars through tax credit programs.
Students and staff of the Torah Day School of Atlanta standing on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol following a school choice rally, January 2012.

Students and staff of the Torah Day School of Atlanta standing on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol following a school choice rally, January 2012.
Photo Credit: David Kapenstein

By Uriel Heilman, JTA

Each year, when Frank Halper is faced with the state tax bill for his accounting business in Providence, R.I., he has a choice.

He can write a check for the amount owed by his company or, as part of a state tax credit program, he can send a check to a foundation that provides tuition scholarships to students at Providence’s two Jewish day schools. His tax bill will be credited for 90 percent of the contribution.

For the last five years or so, his firm has opted for the latter.

“We’re in favor of supporting these schools,” Halper said. “We feel Jewish education is the future of the Jewish people.”

Tax credit programs are among the growing number of ways that private Jewish day schools and yeshivas nationwide are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars annually. The money is helping to defray operating costs, provide teacher training, assist students with tuition bills and enhance educational offerings.

A decade ago, few Jewish schools were aggressive about pursuing federal and state funding. But as day school tuition rates have climbed, outpacing inflation and the ability of recession-weary parents to pay, schools have become much more effective not only at accessing government money but in lobbying state government for more.

“The financial crisis of 2008 had a huge effect on tuition and affordability — I think that was really the game changer,” said Darcy Hirsh, director of day school advocacy at UJA-Federation of New York, which in October 2011 became the first federation in the country to create a position for day school advocacy. “Families that were able to afford day school are no longer able, and schools’ financial aid has grown tremendously over the last five years.”

Cincinnati Hebrew Day School students attending a rally for school choice in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, April 10, 2013.

Cincinnati Hebrew Day School students attending a rally for school choice in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, April 10, 2013. Photo: Agudath Israel

The Haredi Agudath Israel of America has long taken the lead in lobbying for government aid for Jewish schools. Two years ago it was joined by the Orthodox Union, which began hiring political directors in a half-dozen states to organize Jewish schools and lobby legislators.

In New York, the state with the largest day school population, Agudath Israel and the OU have been joined in their lobbying efforts by an unusual coalition that includes UJA, the Sephardic Community Federation, the Jewish Education Project and Catholic groups.

While media attention has focused on the alleged abuse of government funding programs by Jewish schools, suspect allocations represent just a trickle of the government funding flowing to Jewish schools.

The methods used by private schools to get government money differ from state to state and range from the complex to the Byzantine.

In Rhode Island, the tuition scholarship tax credit, which is available to families with incomes of less than the federal poverty level, is capped at $1 million statewide and open only to corporate donors. The credit is calculated at 75 percent for a single year and 90 percent if they donate for two, up to a maximum of $100,000 annually. The statewide cap is usually reached annually on July 1, the first day applications may be submitted.

In Florida, a similar program last year was capped at $229 million.

In New York, a lobbying effort two years ago resulted in legislation extending an exemption from a transportation payroll tax of 0.34 percent to private and religious schools — a seemingly small change, but one that saved an estimated $8 million per year.

“Figuring out how to do better at this is going to be one of the big keys to the whole tuition crisis,” said Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, principal of SAR Academy, a large Jewish day school in Riverdale, NY, where tuition and fees can run as high as $30,800 a year. “We’re looking to provide a quality education, Jewish and secular, and I think the solution will have to be to increase revenues. Government funding is going to need to be a major piece.”

Like many Jewish schools, SAR has dedicated staffers whose job is to garner the government funds. They range from reimbursement for administering state exams and taking students’ attendance — state-mandated tasks for which New York Jewish schools received $42 million last year — to funds for security programs, textbooks, busing, health services, computer software, teacher training and small-group tutoring in various subjects.

Jewish schools in New York also have been able to secure some $300 million per year in therapy and counseling services for students with special needs, according to Martin Schloss, director of government relations at the Jewish Education Project. The money goes directly to pay for the services, not to the school’s bottom line: outside professionals come to the school and work with students who have been deemed eligible by the Board of Education.

Advocates and legislators holding a news conference in Albany, N.Y., on June 12, 2013 calling for a program offering reduced utility rates to be extended to parochial schools in the state. Photo: Orthodox Union.

Advocates and legislators holding a news conference in Albany, N.Y., on June 12, 2013 calling for a program offering reduced utility rates to be extended to parochial schools in the state. Photo: Orthodox Union.

“Our schools are aggressive in terms of utilizing opportunities,” said Schloss, whose organization helps 300 day schools in New York secure government money. “We’re not asking for a penny more than we ought to be getting, but not a penny less either.”

Underlying the new advocacy effort is a shift in attitude among some mainstream Jewish organizations. Jewish federations, which once opposed government funding for parochial schools, are now trying to secure government support for them. Both the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the American Jewish Committee are reconsidering their long-held opposition to such funding.

“Overall, the Jewish community has moved much closer to our side on this issue over the last few years,” said Rabbi A.D. Motzen, national director of state relations for Agudath Israel, which has been lobbying for government money for parochial schools since the 1960s.

In addition to financial pressures, a few other factors have fueled the day school advocacy effort.

The growing momentum of the so-called school choice movement, which aims to give parents more control over where and how their kids are educated on the government’s dime, has helped create more favorable conditions for private school funding. A landmark Supreme Court decision in 2002 upholding parental rights to use government tuition vouchers at private religious schools helped pave the way for voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states.

But these programs are not available in many of the states with the biggest Jewish day school populations, including New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and Massachusetts. Two notable exceptions are Florida and Pennsylvania.

After the Rhode Island program began in 2006, Providence’s two Jewish day schools were able to get nearly $400,000 of the $1 million pot. As awareness has grown, their share has fallen to about $270,000 — still a respectable sum in a state where Jews account for less than 2 percent of the population.

“By and large, we’ve done fairly well in getting what we can,” said Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, dean of the Providence Hebrew Day School. “With all these things, you have to know what’s coming to you and be on top of that.”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Jewish Schools Advocacy Bringing Hundreds of Millions in Public Funds”

  1. Sam Norte says:

    I do not see ANY diversity in the picture above! Racist Jews!

  2. Yehoshua Jason Bedrick says:

    Great article, though the headline and the fifth paragraph are misleading. In fact, education tax credit programs do NOT rely on "public funds" or "taxpayer dollars." The U.S. Supreme Court has held that money does not become "government" or "public money" until it has "reached the tax collector's hand." (ACSTO v. Winn, 2011)

    This may seem a trivial point, but it is not. In some states, the constitutionality of the program stands or falls based on whether it is "public money" or not. In Arizona, for example, a voucher program was ruled unconstitutional while the scholarship tax credit program was constitutional because the former used government money and the latter did not.

    According to the logic that it is government money, every church and synagogue is funded by "public money" due to charitable donation tax deductions and property tax exemptions. Of course, that would violate the First Amendment's Establishment clause — in reality, these tax credits and deductions are constitutional because they are *not* public money.

  3. Anthony Davis says:

    Yeah, and in the end, the rest of American taxpayers have to pay more to shoulder more of the burden because people like this are taking advantage and don't want to send money to keep our government going. Why don't people like this move elsewhere if they hate America so much? There are countries they can go to where they can practice their white supremacist, we are better than you crap.

  4. Anthony Davis says:

    Yeah, and in the end, the rest of American taxpayers have to pay more to shoulder more of the burden because people like this are taking advantage and don't want to send money to keep our government going. Why don't people like this move elsewhere if they hate America so much? There are countries they can go to where they can practice their white supremacist, we are better than you crap.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ferguson, Missouri: rioting against racism, encouraging murder
The Foul Stench of the Ferguson Fallout
Latest News Stories
Haircut for wigs 1

Over 200 hair salons across Israel took part in the annual nationwide drive to collect hair for the Zichron Menachem Cancer Support in Israel in partnership with Pantene Products Israel.

A cruise ship docked at the port in the Southern Israeli town of Ashdod. June 23, 2014.

In 2014, cruise ship traffic to Israel decreased by almost two-thirds in comparison with the year before.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg had heart surgery on Wednesday, Nov. 26.

“The Israeli government is not interested in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority,” said Arbell, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution who teaches at American University here. “There may be faults in Abbas and the leadership and in what they’re doing, but they’re still the safest bet.”

Shas head Aryeh Deri said this evening on Radio Kol Chai that if Netanyahu met his two non-negotiable conditions, Shas could join the coalition.

The man, a resident of Beit Safafa, tried on three different occasions last week to burn down the section of the hospital building where he worked.

The terrorist’s wife will now have to return to the Palestinian Authority, following the decision by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan.

The IDF says it will change its policies on soldiers who grow beards for religious reasons.

The proposal includes some extreme measures to fight the current wave of terrorism.

The Kinneret rose 3.5 centimeters overnight due to the heavy rainstorm that hit the country.

The father-son team recently gave a check to the family of Druze policeman Zidan Saif for his role in stopping the Har Nof Massacre.

The police fought hard to not have it revealed that Netanel Arami was murdered in a Petach Tikva terror attack, but now a court has lifted the gag order…

The three were walking along the side of the highway when the accident happened.

A device, a gas canister with wires, was left near the Shavei Shomron intersection this morning, designed to look like a bomb.

The ISIS ‘prince’ of Iraq’s Anbar province was killed in a US-led coalition air strike Wednesday.

More Articles from Guest Author
Raphael Elisha Meir Cohen

It has been a very challenging year that has taken a toll on the Cohen family.

Professor Alan Dershowitz

I was touched by his words on the struggle to stand up for Israel.

A Tribute to Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt zt”l

Until you come to see it in person, enjoy Jerusalem’s Botanical Garden virtually via this video!

After four earthquakes shake Israel in one week, experts debate whether the big one is imminent.

The art show represents its theme, the identity of joy in Judaism.

Our human GPS who loves geography, maps and anything mass transit, to actually GO to the places he constantly reads about.

We should remind each other of the value of Israel in our lives every chance we get.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-schools-advocacy-bringing-hundreds-of-millions-in-public-funds/2013/07/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: