NEW YORK (Aug. 18)
Jewish organizations expressed sharply opposing views yesterday at a meeting of the New York City Board of Education on plans for use of federal funds for disadvantaged pupils attending religiously-sponsored day schools in the city during the forthcoming school year.
The Committee of Non-Public School Officials, which said it represented more than 400, 000 Christian and Jewish children attending such schools, warned at the meeting that it would ask for a Congressional investigation of the situation if the Board did not act promptly to implement the federal aid program. The Board was scheduled to act last night on a program prepared by School Superintendent Bernard E. Donovan, but it postponed a final decision until next week.
At issue is the use of funds provided through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, under which some grants were made to pupils of Christian and Jewish day schools last year. The funds are provided for remedial and enrichment programs for both public and non-public school pupils. The law provides that the programs must be implemented “under the control of the public authority,” which in New York City is the Board of Education. Implementation of Title I has been the target of charges by Jewish and non-Jewish civil liberties groups that it violates the church-state separation principle in application to children of religiously-sponsored schools.
Speakers at the meeting yesterday included Msgr. Raymond P. Rigney, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York; the Very Rev. Eugene J. Molloy, chairman of the Committee of Non-Public School Officials; Seymour Graubard, chairman of the New York board of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Dr. David Haber, of the American Jewish Congress; Irving Levine, of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Marvin Schick, chairman of the National Jewish Commission of Law and Public Affairs; Nathan Saperstein and Rabbi Julius Novick, of the Committee for the Defense of Religious Education; Rabbi Morris Sherer, executive vice-president of Agudath Israel of America; and Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky, director of Torah Umesorah, the Society for Hebrew Day Schools.
JEWISH CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS CLAIM AID IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Dr. Haber and Mr. Levine called the proposed benefits to non-public schools unconstitutional and contrary to the intent of Congress. Mr. Graubard said the ADL strongly supported federally-financed programs to help children from poverty areas, but expressed concern about the possibility of a church-state separation breach in use of Title I funds under Dr. Donovan’s proposals. He said some of the proposals call for programs to be conducted in private schools by public school personnel during regular school hours, presenting “serious questions of public policy and constitutional issues.”
However, he added, the ADL supported after-school centers for disadvantaged school children, regardless of school affiliation, provided such programs were conducted on public school facilities. He said the ADL also approved corrective reading, mathematics teaching and guidance services for non-public school pupils, if the services were provided “under public school auspices after regular school hours on public school premises for participants from both public and non-public schools.”
Rabbi Sherer and Dr. Kaminetsky urged the board to change its requirement that the day school pupils go to public schools for any benefits provided after 3 p. m. Rabbi Sherer, in addition, urged the Board “not to permit poor children to become the football of clashing political doctrines.”
RELIGIOUS LEADERS ARGUE SUCH AID IS ‘ELEMENTARY JUSTICE’
Dr. Kaminetsky said he deplored the fact that the Board had decided to reject all proposals for health and food services for non-public schools. He urged the Board to reverse that stand and to consult more regularly with the non-public schools in the formulating and implementing of all such programs. He declared that full application of Title I funds to nonpublic school pupils in poverty areas was a matter of “elementary justice” so that such children should not receive further setbacks by being treated as “second class citizens.”
“Congress has legislated overwhelmingly to provide remedial, welfare and guidance service to non-public school pupils,” he told the Board. “This was clearly the intent of the federal legislation. How can we deprive the disadvantaged child of that urgent help for which the Congress so clearly provided?” He said that poverty and educational deprivation were community-wide problems which “must be met wherever the educationally-deprived child is found in a learning situation.”
He said meeting the remedial, therapeutic and guidance needs of non-public school pupils “is constitutionally sound and in accord with good educational policy and practice.”
Father Molloy said that his committee was not entirely satisfied with the Donovan proposals “but time is running out.” He added that, if the Board was not prepared to approve Dr. Donovan’s proposals “substantially intact,” the committee “will be forced to call upon the Congressional delegation from New York City to take appropriate action to protect the rights of the non-public school children.”