NEW YORK (Apr. 7)
The American Jewish Congress today expressed “grave concern” about President Nixon’s proposal to increase federal government financing of nonpublic schools, warning that such a move would “further violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and undermine our public school system.” In a statement on the President’s proposal to broaden federal aid through $3 billion in special educational revenue-sharing funds, Joseph B. Robison, general counsel of the AJCongress and director of its Commission on Law and Social Action, declared: “Government financing of sectarian schools, under whatever guise, advances their primary purpose of fostering a specific religion. We believe it is unconstitutional for government funds to be used in that manner.” President Nixon’s proposal, outlined yesterday in a message to Congress calls for combining the $2.8 billion now spent on programs to aid elementary and secondary schools with $200 million in new funds. One of the provisions in his educational revenue-sharing program calls for wider authority to assist students in nonpublic schools.
President Nixon’s proposal noted, in part, that “all forms of educational services would be available” to students of nonpublic schools which, he stated, “bear a significant share of the cost and effort” of education Americans Criticizing this proposal Robison observed: “To the extent that the Federal government has money available for education it should be used to strengthen the public schools which are seriously underfinanced. In particular, the public schools in our cities are failing to meet the educational needs of children of disadvantaged families. The needs of these children cannot be dealt with by financing nonpublic schools.” Noting that 90 percent of the nonpublic schools in the U.S. are religious schools, the AJCongress spokesman said that obliterating the distinction between public and private schools “would be bad for government, bad for religion and had for education.” The AJCongress is actively engaged in court battles around the country to prevent the use of public funds for nonpublic schools.