Yes, our yeshivos, Bais Yaakovs and Jewish day schools have been devastated by the effects of the novel coronavirus and, even with our most valiant efforts, our children’s education has taken a terrible hit. It is a blow experienced by many private and religious schools, with the possibility of hundreds of these schools closing their doors.
Equally devastating is the effect the economic downturn is having on our families. Loss of jobs. Loss of income. Families facing extreme hardship as they struggle to provide even the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing and shelter. And, of course, the further hardship of not being able to afford the basics of Jewish life, such as tuition payments and charitable contributions to our schools.
But there is good news!
As early as next week, in the next COVID-19 relief package, Congress will be considering two Trump Administration-supported measures that could go far in alleviating this plight:
1. Providing direct emergency aid to parents to cover education-related expenses, which would include tuition. This could be accomplished through a federal appropriation to the governors of all 50 states, who would then distribute scholarship grants to families choosing private schools; and
2. Providing an emergency federal education tax credit – the Education Freedom Scholarship – for corporate and individual contributions to scholarship granting organizations. These scholarships could be used for a wide array of educational expenses, including private school tuition, special needs services, and tutoring.
It is essential that we contact our Senators and Representatives to support these vital initiatives to help our schools and families. Time is of the essence. They will be considered next week and the expectation is that the legislation will move quickly.
But I will be honest. This will not be easy. Some proposals are being circulated on Capitol Hill that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for education in the next round, but completely cut out private schools and private school families!
All we are asking for is to be treated fairly and equitably in this time of crisis and emergency.
Please contact your Senators and Representatives today!
Rabbi Abba Cohen
Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director
Agudath Israel of America