Jun 1, 1999
The RCA favors educational choice programs. We believe that the Jewish community has
traditionally been committed to principles that should lead it to support school choice initiatives. Those principles include: (1) a desire to stem the tide of assimilation and promote Jewish continuity and through providing a Jewish education for all Jewish children; (2) a commitment to fight discrimination based upon religion; and (3) a commitment to social justice reflected in a desire to minimize the role of personal wealth in one's ability to secure the basic needs and services that secure a dignified and productive life.
The best tools we have to imbue our children with Jewish knowledge and Jewish pride confront the daily prospect of failing to serve their current students, let alone recruit new ones. We believe that the crisis of continuity demands that we seek support for Jewish education from all legitimate quarters and that government support would play an important role in shoring up our educational institutions.
The Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution does not require that religious
individuals be discriminated against. The Supreme Court has recognized this bedrock principle time and again, even in the course of declaring various government programs or activities in violation of the Establishment Clause. Over 15 years ago, the Court declared that "public assistance made available generally without regard to the sectarian-nonsectarian or public-nonpublic nature of the institution [ultimately receiving the funds does] not offend the Establishment Clause." We do not support nor suggest that government should promote religion or religious institutions. We do contend that should the government wish to provide greater financial support for education by providing parents on the basis of religion-neutral criteria (i.e.: family income, geographic residency, age of children in school) it must be provided equally to religion and non-religious families who fulfill those criteria. A society that is truly "neutral" toward religion is one that treats citizens whose actions are guided by faith equally to those whoare guided by other value or belief systems. The success of any educational system is measured by whether it indeed enables its students to succeed in life. Currently, too many children-particularly minority children of our nation's inner cities-are trapped in dysfunctional schools that are failing to educate them.
It must be acknowledged that inflation-adjusted spending on education in the U.S. increased by 50% between 1974 and 1991; despite these dramatic increases in funding, test scores did not improve by any significant measure according to national data. We join in expressing our commitment to a vibrant educational system that serves our children and our society. The RCA believes that we must realize that it is the entire educational system-constituted of components that are public, private and parochial-that serve this critical societal mission.
We therefore resolve:
That the RCA shall continue its efforts to promote educational choice and support initiatives-
Whether in the form of vouchers. tax free savings accounts, tuition tax credits or those yet to be introduced-through legislation, litigation and public advocacy.