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Association for Jewish Education Criticizes Bill on Aid to Schools

The American Association for Jewish Education, the national service agency for Jewish education in the United States, today attacked the “Morse Perkins Bill” as “antagonistic to the best interests of this country.”

In a letter to members of the Senate Committee who are now considering the bill, the Association pointed out, that while it welcomes the effort on the part of the Federal Government to aid public education, it views “with profound concern, those provisions of the Bill which, under the guise of alleviating deprivation, would extend financial aid to private and parochial schools.”

The Association said that it was “equally troubled by the encouragement and sanction which these bills would offer to ‘dual enrollment’ or ‘shared time.’ Precisely, because these proposals are less obvious violations of the separation of Church and State,” the AAJE stated, “they may appear to be plausible ameliorations of the problems which private and parochial schools face. To the best of our knowledge, there is no example of their meaningful workability in any school district where they have been attempted.”

The Association went on to point out that if acceptance of dual enrollment is made a prerequisite to qualification for public aid, “private groups, religious and others, will have an official and sanctioning role in determining what shall be taught in the public school. Surely, such a system not merely invites, but requires the decisive intrusion of religious groups into the curriculum of public education.”

Stressing the administrative difficulties which shared time involves, the Association charged that “There is no national study which reveals how the shared time program works in those communities in which it has been adopted. Far from creating a sense of community, shared time,” the AAJE said, “creates a sense of religious division, because, blocs of children from parochial schools are sent for instruction in the public schools as independent units. It is shocking,” the letter went on, “to think that the Congress of the United States would legislate so rashly in an area of education, without experience, guidelines or proposals to direct their recommendations.”

OFFERS ALTERNATIVE PROGRAM; PARENTS TO PAY FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

The AAJE recommended that the Congress explore an alternative plan under which public education would be available to all in public facilities during the morning hours of the day. “When this required common curriculum is completed at 1:00 or 2:00 o’clock, parents of all students shall have the following options at their own expense: 1. To enroll their children in religious schools of parochial or other character; 2. To enroll their children in any private school; 3. To have their children attend special classes in public school facilities for the gifted, the exceptional, for remedial purposes, etc.”

Under this proposal, the AAJE pointed out, which can developed in detail, the parochial school would be relieved of the cost of all subjects other than actual religious education; Parents who do not desire religious education for their children would have an equal opportunity to give those children any special training which they prefer; The public school and public school authorities would not be involved in sharing time with religious authorities; Religious authorities would not be involved in determining the content of the public school curriculum; All children would attend all classes as individuals and not as religious blocs.

The views of the American Association for Jewish Education were adopted at a meeting of its executive committee, and have been distributed to central agencies for Jewish education in 13 cities of the United States.

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