Saturday, February 10, 2007

Should we all move to Utah?

The Utah legislature has just approved the broadest private school tuition voucher program in the United States:,1249,660194371,00.html

The program offers vouchers of from $500 to $3000 depending on income, with higher income parents receiving less. The governor is expected to sign the bill.

If the law passes the expected court test, should Jews all flock to Salt Lake City to start yeshivot? We might want to hold off until the court test, though: Utah's Blaine Amendment appears pretty stringent: And public support for the bill is definitely lukewarm if the recent poll showing 50% opposition is to be believed. And the anti-tax crazies haven't weighed in yet -- this law will represent a substantial commitment of resources from the state's general fund.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which part of the amendment would disallow vouchers?

11:01 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

"Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization."

It is hard to get around that if the school is to be an orthodox Jewish school.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the hypothetical appropriation be going directly to students, only indirectly going to religious organizations?

3:38 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

Well, that is what the voucher proponents will argue, but most state courts and the US congress have not agreed. It would probably be different if it were truly no-strings attached, but the parents don't get the voucher UNLESS they enroll their child in a private school. Homeschooling doesn't count, and public school parents don't get anything either.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about someone organize that all frum jews in New York City register the children for public school for the 07-08 school year. I think we would have vouchers or some similar concession in New York very quickly. Maybe we can team up with the Catholics on this issue.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

New York's Blaine Amendment is as strict as any. There was an attempt to repeal it about 40 years ago; does anyone remember why it failed?

Realistically, I think that to be successful, any effort towards obtaining public funding for private religious schools will require three things:

(1) Alliances with public employee unions. The Catholic schools in New York are all unionized, it will probably be necessary to allow Jewish schools to be as well. (Nothing in halachah would prohibit this.)

(2) Alliances with the Catholic and Protestant school parents. They greatly outnumber us. They aren't as streched as we are, though; Catholic school tuition is a small fraction of the tuition at Jewish schools.

(3) Doing something about the already excessive property taxes in the suburbs. In most states, opposition to tax increases is mostly from anti-tax crazies who would be quite happy if public schools had to raise all their money using bake sales. But in the suburbs of New York City, property taxes are already astronomical and the public just can't afford to support private schools in addition to the public schools. The problems are so great that I suspect that the only way out is to reorganize schools on a county level, as is done in Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Even if every Jewish parent in New York City pulled his/her kids out of their yeshiva tomorrow and registered them for public school, it would likely increase public school enrollment by under 10% -- and even that is assuming that half of all kids in Jewish day schools are in New York City, which is probably an overestimate. That would make class sizes larger, but would not strain the system as much as you would imagine.

1:08 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Thanks for pointing out recent news. I still need to post our conversation but am behind.

7:19 PM  
Blogger justin dustin said...

Hi there! If you wish ti visit Utah, I'm sure you'll love to stay and enjoy all the events. If you have any events: small events or big events you can list your event for free! Salt Lake City events is the right place.

9:28 PM  

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