May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Banner Year for Teach NJ and Jewish Day Schools

New Jersey Jewish day schools will see an increase in funding for transportation, technology, security and more this coming school year.

Thanks to organizations like Teach NJ, a grassroots organization that advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools, legislative champions have secured record level support for nonpublic schools, including yeshivas and day schools. The upcoming 2023-2024 $153 million allocation for nonpublic schools in the state budget, which passed at the end of June, represents a $13 million increase from last year.

This increase includes a vital 14% jump in funding for school busing, representing a $7 million bump from last year. For families, this means that the bus routes for thousands of students will be saved, giving them the relief in knowing that their daily school transportation is secure.

Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, head of school for JKHA/RKYHS in Livingston, understands the importance of this funding. “We are so grateful for Teach NJ’s focused and effective advocacy,” he said. “This increased budget will ensure that a significant percentage of JKHA/RKYHS students will continue to benefit from school bus transportation to and from JKHA/RKYHS.”

Another win for the New Jersey day schools is inclusion in this year’s universal school lunch bill. While a previous draft of this bill did not initially include children in day schools (or any nonpublic school), leadership in Trenton — at the behest of Teach NJ and others — added them in, ensuring that any expansions of the bill would now include nonpublic schools. The expanded program will include students 250% above the federal poverty line. The state will look to expand eligibility year over year. Now, yeshiva and day school students will be included in these expansions as well as future ones. The bill passed in the Assembly and is still waiting for a Senate vote.

Additionally, in the classroom, a 17% increase in technology funding will allow for more smart boards and learning software, with another 17% increase going toward a security grant program from which schools, synagogues and other nonprofits can benefit. Nursing will benefit from another 9% in funding, while an additional 3.5% will help children needing extra support in math, reading or speech therapy.

“The success that Teach NJ has had this year in increasing funding for our schools allows us to expand our offerings and provide a better educational program for our parents,” said Rabbi Daniel Alter, head of school at Moriah in Englewood, New Jersey. “Yeshiva day school students will be kept safe, kept healthy, and be given enhanced services due to this funding.”

A part of this success is the result of a year-long campaign to increase voter turnout in the state’s Jewish communities. Across the state, Teach NJ partnered with schools and shuls for its Get Out the Vote campaign — registering eligible voters, requesting mail-in ballots, and encouraging people to vote. In Bergen County, the Jewish community voted three times the average county turnout, while Union and Middlesex counties saw more than double the average turnout for the county.

“As we look to establish much more ambitious funding toward our children’s education, voting is an important piece of that strategy,” said Katie Katz, executive director of Teach NJ. “People comment all the time on Florida’s game-changing universal scholarship program. It is no coincidence that the Florida Jewish community votes at an 80% clip.”

Looking ahead, with the November elections on the horizon, Teach NJ and the New Jersey Jewish schools will be expanding its day school voting initiative program to ensure that every individual in the community is registered and voting in every election. These elections will hold a lot of weight as the candidates on the ballot will be determining future funding for day schools across New Jersey.

As Katz urged, “When we vote, our voices are heard, and that’s how real change gets made.”

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