The Orthodox Union is criticizing the final version of the economic stimulus bill for treating non-public schools "unfairly" by excluding them from obtaining funding for "green" school modernization. The group notes that non-public schools "save America’s public schools $48 billion annually" but also want to bring their schools up to green building standards and reduce energy costs. Here’s the OU’s release:
Today, the House and Senate disclosed its final draft of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a multi-billion set of spending and tax cut programs to help jumpstart the economy through investments in critical infrastructure and social welfare programs.
Among its provisions, the legislation would appropriate billions for ‘green’ school modernization and repair projects. This funding is designed to serve the dual purpose of upgrading the nation’s schools into appropriate learning environments that ultimately save money and immediately put people to work.
Yet, while including all public school districts in the proposed program, the legislation deliberately omits non-public schools from equitable and fair participation in the program.
For months the OU-IPA has been working diligently with coalition partners in the Jewish, Catholic and independent school communities, to advocate that non-public schools deserve ‘green’ funding – money to create jobs, reduces costs, and revitalize schools plagued by inefficient and costly infrastructure.
Nonpublic schools save America’s public school systems $48billion annually, but are now suffering in the recession like all schools, and many nonpublic schools have begun to lay off teachers and cut services.
Despite many precedents for the equitable inclusion of nonpublic schools in federal aid to education programs, the stimulus bill’s drafters left Jewish, Catholic and other schools excluded for eligibility to meet green building standards, reduce costs, and aid our environment.
Nathan Diament, Director of public policy for the Orthodox Union stated:
"We are greatly disappointed that in these early days of the new Congress and Obama Administration, a choice has been made to ignore the tradition of including non-public schools in federal education programs on an equitable basis. This decision is at odds with the fine outreach to faith communities Democrats have engaged in of late, and odds with President Obama’s call that the stimulus legislation shouldn’t be shaped by ideological factors, but by "what works." For all these reasons, we are deeply disappointed in the bill’s exclusion of faith- and other nonpublic schools from its program."