WASHINGTON (JTA) — Agudath Israel of America is criticizing the economic stimulus legislation for not treating religious schools equitably.
In a statement, the Orthodox group’s Washington director and counsel, Rabbi Abba Cohen, said a provision in the bill that would modernize schools and make them more energy efficient excludes non-public schools. Such an exclusion "makes no sense," he said.
Noting that religious schools have benefited from such programs in the past, he said “the goal of these programs is to help address our nation’s economic crisis with an eye to enhancing the health and safety of students, the technological proficiency of their educational environments and access for the disabled at schools.”
The Orthodox Union has similarly criticized the legislation, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, for not allowing the participation of religious schools.
Agudath Israel is troubled as well that the proposal for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund intended to help elementary and secondary schools provide services, such as funding for the disabled, fails to clearly state that nonpublic schools would be eligible. The federal government is required to provide the services to nonpublic schools.
The group said it hoped the legislation would be amended in the U.S. Senate or in a conference committee before its final passage, expected before Presidents Day.