Jewish Day School Parents Testify Before NJ Senate Committee for More School Aid

Today, two Teach NJS parents presented their testimonies before the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The parents highlighted the inequity in state funding for nonpublic schools. While neighboring New York and Pennsylvania invest heavily in nonpublic schools, New Jersey lags far behind. The parents argued for an increase in the 2018 budget, or approximately $500 per nonpublic school student to pay for essential resources and services, like textbooks, technology, security, and nursing aid.

The parents are:

  • Dr. Jacob Bagley: A resident of Cherry Hill, NJ, Dr. Bagley’s children attended Politz Day School in Camden County.
  • Jared Harary: A resident of Englewood, NJ, Mr. Harary sends his children to Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva Day School in Bergen County.

You can read their full testimony below.

Jared Harary: Chairman Sarlo, members of the Senate Budget Committee, good afternoon, my name is Jared Harari and I am a member of Teach NJS, a coalition which works with the state Legislature on behalf of Jewish day schools and yeshivas throughout New Jersey to advocate for greater nonpublic school funding. We are here today to discuss the significant disproportion in funding between public and nonpublic schools in the state and to respectfully urge funding parity in the Fiscal Year ’18 budget. I am joined here today with Dr. Yaccov Bagley, another member of Teach NJS who will introduce himself and also speak briefly about this important issue. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to testify this afternoon, we promise to be as concise as possible.

Jared Harary: Today there are 170 Jewish day schools throughout New Jersey serving over 41,000 students, making Jewish day schools the second largest provider of nonpublic school education in the state. The annual cost of educating these children is $350 million dollars. As a parent of a child who attends the Ben Porat Yosef School in Bergen County, the cost of education puts significant financial stress on our families and communities. 10% of K-12 students in New Jersey attend a nonpublic school, yet annually the state spends less than 1% of education funding on nonpublic schools. In the Fiscal Year ’18 budget we are requesting nonpublic school funding at a level of $500 per student, which would breakdown as: $150 for nursing aid, $146 for technology aid, $144 for security aid, $60 for textbook aid, all per student numbers. By comparison, neighboring New York and Pennsylvania invest substantially more in nonpublic schools, double or triple that of New Jersey. If our students received equitable state funding with public school students in New Jersey, they would receive twenty-two times the current nonpublic school level of $224 per student in funding. An increase to $500 per student from current funding levels of $224 per nonpublic school student in New Jersey would begin to address parity in funding core educational programs and services.

Jared Harary: As you all have likely read and seen on the news, the Jewish community has been the victims of a recent wave of violent threats made against our community centers. Since January, more than 80 Jewish Community Centers across the country received more than 100 bomb threats, forcing them to put evacuation procedures into effect. In New Jersey threats have been made all across the state from Edison, to Scotch Plains, to Cherry Hill. So far, thankfully, these threats have all been false, but that doesn’t mitigate the danger or the fear. Each time thousands of teachers, parents, and children wondered if this time the threat was real. This spate of bomb threats highlights the unique security risks religious institutions, and specifically, nonpublic schools face every day.

Jared Harary: Chairman Sarlo, Chairman Schaer, and members of this committee, thanks to your support and leadership on this issue, this past fall Governor Christie signed the Secure Schools for All Children Act, providing nonpublic schools with up to $75 per student in aid to be used for security. This was a great first step and we thank you again for championing this issue, but this increase only covers about 22 percent of the average Jewish day school’s security costs. That’s enough to hire one part-time security guard – clearly not enough to meet the security needs of the 150,000 students who attend Jewish, Catholic, private, and other nonpublic schools. Even more troubling, the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget eliminates security funding entirely for nonpublic schools. As a parent, for me, it comes down to two basic principles: one, my child and every child deserves to go to school in a safe environment, and two, nonpublic school students deserve security funding equitable to public school students. We understand the proposed budget is the first step in the process, not the last. We are eager to work with the Governor and Legislature to not only restore security funding in the FY 18 budget, but to increase it and address parity with public schools in this state.

Dr. Jacob Bagley: Chairman Sarlo, members of the committee, my name is Dr. Yaacov Bagley, I live in Cherry Hill and have children who attended The Politz School.  In the wake of these threats, addressing the security funding disparity in New Jersey nonpublic schools is all the more pressing. As Jared said, we are requesting that the Legislature and Governor increase nonpublic school security funding to $144 per student.  This would be a game changer for nonpublic schools, allowing them to properly invest in the equipment and security personnel necessary to keep all students safe.

Dr. Jacob Bagley: Clearly security aid is critical to nonpublic schools, as we have stated, but we should be careful not to overlook equally important textbook, technology, and nursing aid. Unfortunately, The Politz School’s story is not unlike other nonpublic schools across the state that do not have the sufficient number of nurses to care for our children and thousands of others. The school’s director of admissions, Rachel Ovitz, could not be here today, but I would like to tell her story. Two of her four children were born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare and potentially fatal disorder of the endocrine system. Her daughters eventually developed type one diabetes, which requires insulin pumps and round-the-clock medical monitoring. Because the school does not have a full-time nurse on staff, she left her job in Philadelphia and took a significant salary cut in order to take a job at Politz so her children could go to school there and she could be there to care for them as a nurse would. Unfortunately not all Jewish day schools and other nonpublic schools have been blessed with the same generosity.

Dr. Jacob Bagley: Again, to wrap up, we are asking for $500 per student for nonpublic schools in the FY ’18 budget. This would allow schools to hire more nurses to care for Rachel’s children, Jared’s children, and thousands of other students; implement more security measures to keep those students safe, and increase funds for technology and textbooks so nonpublic school students are provided with the same resources as public schools. Please address the significant disproportion in funding between public and nonpublic school students in the state. Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to testify. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.