Rabbi Says Almost $1 Million Sent by State in Direct Aid to Yeshivas

The state administration in Albany mailed out checks yesterday totaling “close to $1 million in direct” aid to yeshivas, it was reported today to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Rabbi Moses Sherer, executive president of the Agudath Israel. The checks, he noted, were dispatched under the 1970 Mandated Services Act, which provides for $28 million in aid to private schools in 1971 and the same sum in 1972. Pupils from the first through sixth grades will get $27 a year, those in the sixth through 12th grades $45 a year. The funds are earmarked for record-keeping, student-testing and related nonsectarian procedures. Rabbi Sherer said there are 55, 000 pupils at 175 Hebrew dayschools throughout the state. The grants, he told the JTA, are “a first-round victory against these stubborn forces who have attempted to halt even this minimal funding of the secular needs of non-public schools.” He said he hoped the Jewish organizations who oppose such aid “will realize now the dollars and cents they seek to deprive the Jewish educational plant of our state.” Rabbi Sherer “applauded” Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s statement in Albany yesterday that he “very definitely” favored increased state aid to private schools because “there is a greater crisis by far in the private schools than there is in the public schools.”

But the Orthodox leader said he felt Rockefeller was “in error” in continuing to oppose the Speno-Lerner Parent-Aid bill, which would provide tuition grants to parents of private-school children, based on income. That bill, said Rabbi Sherer, “is the only meaningful manner of constitutionally helping the non-public schools” and “actually is an extension of Rockefeller’s widely publicized (state-city) revenue-sharing because it represents parental revenue-sharing.” In his remarks yesterday, the Governor clarified his position on state aid to private schools. On Feb. 8, he said he opposed Speno-Lerner as “the first step to undermine, if not destroy, the public school system of our country, not just the state, ” but reiterated that he favored repeal of the so-calfed Blaine Amendment prohibiting all such aid. He explained yesterday, however, that he opposed only the “form” of Speno-Lerner, and stated that “If Blaine isn’t repealed and this crisis has grown very seriously, the actual cost to the taxpayers of closing private schools and having to expand the public schools would be greater than some additional aid to the private schools.”

Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky, national director of Torah Umesorah, told the JTA today he was “happy” to hear of Rockefeller’s new statement, but added: “I’d like to see what he has in place of Speno-Lerner.” The Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL), however, was not pleased by the development. Executive co-chairman William Haddad declared that “Once again, Gov. Rockefeller has yielded to the pressures of parochial advocates without listening to the other side.” Rockefeller, he charged, has “repeatedly declined” to meet with representatives of PEARL, the umbrella group for opponents of public funding of private schools. “He knows there is no real threat of widespread parochial school closings,” Haddad said, “He knows the public schools of the state are desperately short of nunas he has yielded to the crudest kind of political expediancy,” Haddad contending that the Mandated Services Act had been “whisked through the Legislature with indecent haste,” asserted: “Gov. Rockefeller’s public position of two weeks ago–that state aid to parochial schools would end integration efforts and destroy the public school system–will come back to haunt him, for that statement is the strongest, clearest, most direct argument against his new position.”

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