Reform Jewish Movement Commends House Votes as Recommitment to Public Education
Defeat of Voucher Programs, Funding for Gender Equity Major Victories
Saperstein: "Today's votes give us hope for the future of Congressional cooperation to put education first and politics second, to insist that our schools not suffer for the partisan bickering that has paralyzed other areas of our government..."
Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, October 21 — In response to House of Representatives votes on a series of amendments to the "Straight A's Bill" (H.R. 2) today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
We commend Congress for the strong bipartisan messages they have clearly conveyed today. Their votes unequivocally reaffirm our nation's commitment to the Jeffersonian ideal of universal public education. In their consideration of three amendments to H.R. 2, they have demonstrated a renewed commitment to the empowerment of all public school students, rather than the prioritization of the few over the welfare of the many.
Congress today sounded a clarion call that vouchers are not good national policy. With two bipartisan votes, the House rejected two separate plans that would have established a private-school voucher program as part of the reauthorization of Title I federal school funding. This is a clear message that while attacking public education may have some political appeal, our nation's leaders understand that the end result of such a policy would be to help only a handful of students while ignoring proven methods that would strengthen the public schools for all children. That our legislators have rejected such policy on the national level is a reaffirmation of the equal opportunity on which this country was founded and toward which we have always striven.
Recognizing that our educational system is stratified not only by class, but also by gender, the House also reauthorized legislation that will improve education for girls and boys by reducing gender bias in technology, providing funds for drop-out prevention, and mandating valuable gender equity training for teachers. In the past, similar programs have improved the lives of girls in school and provided them with the tools they need to become the productive women who will help lead our society into the next century.
We applaud the House of Representatives for recognizing our nation's public education system as the most important and powerful institution in building America's future. Public schools educate 90% of our children, integrating and instilling a sense of pride and history. Our future depends on the investment — of resources, of attention, and of money — we place in public schools. Today's votes give us hope for the future of Congressional cooperation to put education first and politics second, to insist that our schools not suffer for the partisan bickering that has paralyzed other areas of our government, to clearly and convincingly reassert that public education — the foundation of the American Dream — is alive and that we will all work hard to make it, and through it, our children, our society, our future, thrive.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.