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Strongest Attack on Public Education in Century Seen by American Jewish Congress Report

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The American Jewish Congress warned today that the nation faces “the strongest attack mounted in this century against the principle of public education” in the efforts to end the ban on state support of sectarian schools in New York, and similar efforts in other states.

The warning was issued by Howard M. Squadron, vice-president of the AJC, in a report to the organization’s national governing council meeting here. He cited a national survey undertaken by the AJC’s Commission on Law and Social Action as evidence that “determined and well-organized efforts are being made in state after state to seek appropriations for parochial schools through statute and constitutional amendment.” He noted at the same time that opponents of such aid are actively fighting these programs in the courts. A total of 16 cases challenging the expenditure of federal and state funds for church-connected schools is now pending, according to the survey.

In addition to the campaign in New York, which succeeded in having repeal of the ban on public support for church-connected schools incorporated into the proposed new state constitution. Mr. Squadron reported that similar proposals have been introduced at constitutional conventions now sitting in Florida and Maryland. In New Hampshire, the legislature adopted a statute (since invalidated by the Supreme Court) allotting a share of the state sweepstakes to finance the operation of parochial and other non-public schools. In Ohio, the legislature passed a bill authorizing the use of public funds to pay for equipment and services at church and non-public schools. In Pennsylvania, a bill before the legislature would give non-public schools a share of the proceeds from the state cigarette tax to pay for instruction in secular subjects.

The Jewish Labor Committee in New York said today it was opposed to the projected New York state constitution and urged its defeat in the November 7 referendum, largely on the issue of the projected repeal in the document of the constitutional ban on state funds to religious schools.

The JLC cited 10 reasons for its stand, all of them involving the Blaine Amendment, which now bars such state aid. The statement said that state aid to religious schools would “spell the eventual destruction of the public school system,” bring “soaring” state taxes, and “catapult organized religion into the political arena, pitting one faith against another, in a bitter, no-holds barred struggle for power, money and the minds, hearts and souls of America’s children.”

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