Agudath finds things to like and dislike in stimulus bill


Like the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America is disappointed that the final version of the stimulus bill excludes non-public schools from obtaining money for "green" construction projects. But it also praised the increases the bill provides in remedial education services and special education funding. Here’s the group’s release:

A preliminary review of the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package’s implications for nonpublic education yielded comments from Agudath Israel of America’s Washington Office director and counsel, Rabbi Abba Cohen today – just as Congress is set to vote on the unprecedented measure.

While there are many aspects of the bill that will likely have implications for religious communities and institutions – regarding jobs, housing, taxes and other issues – Rabbi Cohen limited his analysis to the measure’s likely impact on religious schools like yeshivos.

The bill, he notes, includes "significant increases in programs that benefit religious schools no less than public schools, like Title 1 remedial education services and the special education IDEA program.

However, Rabbi Cohen said, despite the efforts of nonpublic school advocates including Agudath Israel, private elementary and secondary schools were not included in the "green" program intended to help modernize, renovate and repair school buildings. Post-secondary schools, however, like yeshivos, , Rabbi Cohen believes, will be able to benefit from the modernization, renovation and repair program, reflecting a degree of success for the advocates’ efforts. Language that disqualified "schools of divinity" from the program was struck from the bill.

Another bright spot in the legislation, Rabbi Cohen explains, lies in language it currently contains that prevents states from barring benefits to institutions the states may consider ineligible.  The bill as currently written explicitly prohibits a governor to "consider the type or mission" of a higher education institution for construction funds.

What is more, "Pell Grants" – which are critically important to educational institutions in the Jewish community – are given a significant
boost in the current legislation.

Recommended from JTA