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August 13, 1993 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-08-13

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parents and teachers, the issue
of using vouchers for private
school tuition has reignited a
church-state debate dormant in
the state since 1972.
In 1972, religious right
groups launched "Parochiate,"
a failed ballot initiative that
would have amended the state
constitution to include state
funds for private schools.
Mr. Engler did not specify
how Michigan would raise mon-
ey to finance public education
after the current financing sys-
tem is abolished. He said no de-
tails have been worked out, but
he is optimistic a new funding
system will be in place by
In recent weeks, a group of
• school-choice advocates called
TEACH (Toward Educational
Accountability and Choice)
started efforts for a petition
drive similar to the 1972 efforts.
If voters approve the group's
plan, which they are working to
put on next year's ballot, par-
ents would receive a cash cer-
tificate, or voucher, from the
state that could be used to send
children to any school in
Church-state watchdogs
claim any such measure would
be ruled unconstitutional by a
federal court because it violates
the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution.
"I think the church-and-state
issue is one of gradual erosion,"
said Richard Lobenthal,
Michigan Region director for
the Anti-Defamation League.
"Without careful monitoring,
the issue of state-funded vouch-
ers certainly poses a risk.
"So far, Jews and other mi-
norities have been the benefi-
ciaries of the Constitution's
establishment clause. If there
is going to be a religion man-
dated in public schools, people
must remember it is not going
to be Judaism.
"The balancing of different
religious philosophies works
best when the state stays out,"
Mr. Lobenthal said.
But Jewish day-school offi-
cials ranging from the Orthodox
Bais Yaakov to the Conserva-
tive Hillel Day School are in a
quandary. Many of these
schools are financially strapped
for cash, and though they sup-
port separation of church and
state, they believe a voucher
system in which government
monies are given to individuals
to choose schools is the only af-
fordable option available to
Some in the Jewish commu-
nity argue that they are being
unduly burdened because par-
ents with children in Jewish
day schools pay to support pub-
lic education, plus additional
dollars each year for their own
children's education. Vouchers,

they say, could help alleviate
some of the increasing costs of
private education.
The Agudath Israel of
America, an Orthodox Jewish (
advocacy group, does not believe )
vouchers for private schools vi-
olates the First Amendment.
Like other Jewish voucher -)
advocates, Agudah officials say
the government would need to -)
give money directly to a reli-
gious entity before a violation /
of religious freedom would oc-


"If such a system took place, -\
Akiva and all of the day schools _/
would benefit," said Barry -)
Eisenberg, Akiva Hebrew Day
School executive director.
State Sen. Lana Pollack dis-
"I am nervous," said Ms.:\
Pollack, D-Ann Arbor."This
kind of system will destroy pub-
lic schools. It will be a financial
drain and the schools struggling
to fund themselves would find
themselves even poorer."

Local Jewish day-
school leaders
support the
voucher idea.

If voucher advocates getc---
enough signatures to secure a
ballot initiative, Southfield
school board member Steve
Kaplan said he may launch a
petition drive in U.S. District
Court seeking to block it.
"It is a waste of time and_/ I
money if an election is held on -)
an issue which clearly is un- -/
Mr. Kaplan
Linda Bruin, legal counsel
for the Michigan Association of
School Boards, warns that any-
thing is possible.
"Under the Michigan
Constitution, using vouchers for
private school is illegal," Ms.
Bruin said. "If anyone is inno-
vative enough, though, it's pos-
sible to do anything."
Some Jewish members of
public school boards also oppose
the use of vouchers for private \
school education.
"I don't see the possibility of
vouchers being used for private
schools. It would really surprise
me," said Mark Katz, a mem-
ber of the Berkley Schools board
and a legislative chair for the (
Oakland County School Board
Association. "What you might
see is something where each
student would have 'X' amount
of dollars to be used within the ,
P ublic school system.
Birmingham Schools board
member Judith Lowitz Adler is
adamantly opposed to vouchers
for private schools:
"I think public education has
to be public education."

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