March 2, 2024
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OU Legislative Breakfast Draws Leaders & Tackles Tuition Relief

Though it looked like a post-Shabbos shachrarit exodus with handbags, cell phones and cameras thrown into the mix, the nearly 600 people leaving Keter Torah on October 6 were all there for something else: the second annual N.J. Legislative Breakfast.

The breakfast, hosted by The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, and co-sponsored by JLBC, featured local, state and national legislators, including Governor Chris Christie, who were invited to discuss education and tuition affordability with local residents.

“No matter what faith you observe, the one thing we know for sure in this country is that having a good education opens doors,” Christie said. “There is nothing more important than a quality education for our children and yet, in so many ways, we have failed in that commitment.”

One of the failings concerned tuition affordability for special needs children who attend religious schools. Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle were praised at the event for their sponsorship of bills S-1929 and A-2867,  which aim to fix the affordability issue. “There are some things over which I disagree with our governor, but on this we are united,” Weinberg said. She later said that, though it would take some time, she was confident that the bills would pass.

Governor Christie spoke at length about the 200 failing schools among the 2,596 total public and charter schools in the state. He said that some people find this acceptable, that they think ‘it’s just 200 schools’ and that others believe the problem can be fixed by throwing money at it, but that a solution requires structural change. “They [the students at the 200 schools] have been consigned by the political powers in this state to one path: the walk to a school that is failing,” Christie said, noting that this was something he would never accept.

The governor explained the importance of education; he himself doesn’t believe he would be where he is today if his parents had not chosen to move his family from his Newark home to Livingston for its better schools. Christie also spoke about a mother he met years ago who was waiting to find out which school her son would end up in; she said that the school the system put him into would be the difference between college and jail in her son’s future.

“Once you become governor, you know what you realize? Every one of these children is your child,” Christie said. “It’s time, in fact it is well over time, to bring competition to the educational system.”

The governor’s keynote address was well received as many of his supporters were among the audience.

“I’m a retired teacher and I love Christie,” Arlene Albalah, a Fair Lawn resident attending with her husband, son and daughter-in-law, said. “I’m a rare bird in this world. My fellow compatriots want to lynch me, but he’s my idol. I would vote for him for president and I think more politicians should be like he is.”

Governor Christie was not available before or after his address, but other legislators including Weinberg, Huttle, Congressman Bill Pascrell, the mayors of Teaneck and Jersey City and many others, were available to meet and speak with their constituents about education.

“Today’s large turnout, from all around the state, indicates the broad spectrum of people concerned with this topic. The Governor and several other state legislators in attendance have made some substantial effort to move the associated bills forward and hopefully to fruition,” Teaneck councilmember and Christie supporter Yitz Stern said. “I hope that the large number of elected officials present, from both sides of the political aisle, indicates their concern as well, but that remains to be seen.”

By Aliza Chasan

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