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New Polish Educational Bill Will Destroy Jewish Private Schools System

February 24, 1932
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Jewish political representatives and the representatives of the Jewish teachers are up in arms against a new Government bill for the reform of the educational system of the country, which they complain will spell the end of the Jewish private schools system. The bill has already been adopted by the Education Commission, and will probably be passed by the Government majority in the plenary session of the Seym in a few days, thus becoming law.

In drawing up the bill, it is pointed out by the Jewish representatives, the Government asked only the opinions of the Polish teachers organisations, completely ignoring the representatives of the teachers of the minority nationalities.

The Central Committee of the Organisation of Jewish Secondary School Teachers has issued a statement on the position, in which it says:

The law presents some very serious dangers to the Jewish schools system. 95 per cent. of the Jewish youth study at the private Jewish secondary schools (gymnasiums). The bill creates a new class of secondary schools called lyceums, which will be State institutions, and without passing through these it will be impossible for the students to obtain admission to the University. Thus there will be a new obstacle to restrict still further the admission of Jewish students to the universities.

From the point of view of the teachers in the secondary schools, dividing up secondary education into two grades – gymnasiums and lyceums, will have the effect of increasing unemployment among the teachers. There is another danger in the bill, where it deals with the appointment of teachers, both in the secondary schools and in those elementary schools which are private institutions not maintained by the Government.

The bill empowers the officials of the Ministry of Education to exercise discretion in deciding to what extent any teacher is loyal to the State, thus raising the dangerous question of the political fitness of teachers in private schools, which will have to be tested not only by the Ministry of Education, but by the local officials and police. This will give very wide opportunities to the officials to put difficulties in the way of the work of the schools and of the teachers if they do not happen to be altogether to their taste. This provision applies mostly to the schools of the minorities, both the Slav schools in the Eastern frontier districts, and to the Jewish private schools all over the country.

The Government bill is in fact a discriminatory law against the minority schools, the statement says, and makes their further existence subject to the arbitrary action of the officials and the police.

Deputy Sommerstein, on behalf of the Club of Jewish Deputies, speaking on the bill at the meeting of the Education Commission of the Seym, said: We Jews, more than all the other minorities, are interested in the maintenance and development of the private schools system, because we are the only minority which has no public schools with Government rights, and also we cannot get our children admitted into the State schools. The private schools are therefore our only opportunity of educating our children in the Jewish national spirit. This bill is full of a spirit of distrust to the citizen and will undermine the existence of the Jewish schools. The bill violates our right to establish schools freely with Hebrew or Yiddish as the language of instruction, because it makes it necessary to prove to the satisfaction of the authorities that a private school is required. It also demands that the people founding the school, directors and teachers, should produce a certificate of loyalty to the State. The bill does not indicate how the State will issue these certificates of loyalty and for what period they will be valid.

Deputy Sommerstein went on to quote a number of cases to show how the police supervision over the private schools frequently amounts to acts of chicanery against the Jewish schools. He demanded that the bill should be radically changed, because it was in complete contradiction to the Constitution.

The Vice-Minister, M. Pieracki, in his reply to the discussion, referred to Deputy Sommerstein’s speech, and argued that the bill did not diminish the rights of the minorities and that the Government had no intention of restricting the rights of the private schools of the minorities.

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