Jews, Protestants Oppose Pennsylvania Parochial School ‘authority’

Thirty leaders of Jewish and Protestant religious and community relations organizations throughout Pennsylvania sent a letter today to all members of the State House of Representatives, expressing their opposition to proposed legislation which would establish a State Non-Public School Authority.

The draft measure, introduced in the State General Assembly last month, would provide for an “authority” empowered to buy “secular educational services” for non-public schools. The protest was prepared by Jules Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, and the Rev. Frederick J. Wagner, of Harrisburg, executive secretary of the division of social services of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

Declaring that the proposed measure “would circumvent the Pennsylvania and Federal constitutional prohibitions against appropriating public funds for sectarian educational institutions,” the letter affirmed the conviction of the signers that “the public school system needs all the tax support the Commonwealth can provide” and that syphoning off of public monies for sectarian educational institutions would be a disservice “to the primary educational obligation of the Commonwealth.”

The letter noted that the signers support the right of religious groups to maintain church-related school systems, but said it must not be done at public expense. “If public tax funds.” the protesters stated, “were to be made available to church-related schools, it will encourage a proliferation of sectarian schools systems, further diminishing the ability of the Commonwealth effectively to provide for the education of its citizens under public auspices and control. Enactment of such a measure might well lead to the destruction of the public school system. By making sectarian education less costly, this bill would cause many more parents to send their children to such schools, thus endangering public education.”

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