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Pearl Hails Recommendation to End State Aid to Non-public Schools

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The Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL) today hailed the recommendation by the Fleischmann Commission for an end to state aid to parochial schools as “a welcome recognition that public schools have the only legitimate claim on the public purse.” In a statement, PEARL–a coalition of 31 civic, religious, education, civil rights, parent and labor groups–said it hoped Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller and the legislature would “heed the call of the Commission, based on two years of in-depth study, for an end to violations of the state and US Constitutions created by state aid to religious schools.”

The Fleischmann Commission, headed by Manly Fleischmann, a Buffalo lawyer, also called for “special grants” to public school systems in anticipation of an influx of pupils from private schools forced to close its doors if the legislature accepts the Committee’s recommendation. Five of the 18 Commission members, led by State Senator Thomas Laverne, a Rochester Republican, issued a statement of dissent and called for “continuing financial aid to non-public education.”

Florence Flast, vice-chairman of PEARL–which sued successfully in Federal Court to bar $33 million in state funds for “secular educational services” in parochial schools and has another suit pending against $28 million for record-keeping expenses–said the recommendation of the Fleischmann Commission showed “as awareness not only of law but of economic realities.”

Mrs. Flast declared: “An overwhelming majority of the members of the State Commission on the Quality, Cost and Financing of Elementary and Secondary Education have agreed that the argument by parochiaid supporters that the state will save money by funneling public funds to religious schools is meaningless. The Commission has correctly, we believe, pointed out that rising costs and declining enrollment in parochial schools overall will lead to annual demands for greater and greater state subsidies.”

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