Education & Public Schools Policy Center
Adopted September 15, 2014
Responsibility for providing public education has a 2000-year tradition among Jews. The Talmud teaches, “The world endures only for the breath of school children.” Elementary school learning was regarded as compulsory as early as 75 BCE, and Jews were forbidden to live in a town that did not establish a school. Talmudic sages taught, “Jerusalem was only destroyed because school children were neglected in her.” A thousand years ago the great philosopher Maimonides specified a maximum class size of 25. Teaching was a respected profession: the Talmud states, “One who teaches a child, it is as if one had created that child.” Moreover, the obligation to teach children was universal: “Do not neglect the children of the poor, for from them will go forth the Law.”
JSPAN believes that access to quality public education for all students is a civil right, without which society lacks equity and fairness, its economy hobbled and morality compromised. We support fully funded public education, preschool through undergraduate college, throughout the Commonwealth. Providing all children with a solid knowledge base and the tools for critical thinking is crucial for maintaining a just and prosperous democracy where the rights of minorities are preserved and separation of church and state is vigilantly protected.
JSPAN recognizes that the state must provide sufficient funds to ensure quality public education for all. The quality of a child's education should not depend on the wealth of his or her community. Relying on local property taxes perpetuates the differences between wealthy districts and poorer districts and is unfair to the elderly and those living on fixed income.
• The re-establishment of a funding formula for K-12 that takes into account factors such as local poverty rates, the number of students for whom English is a second language, students with disabilities, students who are homeless or in foster care, and other at-risk populations
• Maintaining the Special Education Formula recently adopted for students with disabilities (unless the broader funding formula for K-12 improves upon it)
• Full funding of K-12 public education, based on an equitable funding formula, so that schools can meet core standards
• Holding accountable schools that are adequately funded for achieving appropriate results
• Universal access, starting with toddlers, to pre¬-K programs, public or private, that are of high quality according to appropriate state or local accreditation standards
• Access to quality, affordable undergraduate college education for all qualified high school graduates
|Join the Education Policy Center|
ANYONE INTERESTED IN ENSURING QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION IS WELCOME TO BE PART OF OUR TEAM OF "EXPERTS." Already a group including JSPAN representatives, a wide array of education professionals, and consumers has developed a new JSPAN Education Policy, which was approved by the JSPAN board in September 2014. Now they are working to educate the Jewish community about the importance of public education and the challenges confronting public schools everywhere--especially in urban areas--and to provide opportunities for advocacy and action, linked with education advocates throughout the region. Our committee so far includes: Bill England, Norma Finkelstein, Erin Frankel, Cecily Harwitt, Jon Herrmann, Adrienne Jacoby, Baruch Kintisch, Barbara Kurshan, Michael Masch, Brett Schaeffer, Elliott Seif, Harris Sokoloff, George Stern, Thomas Taylor, and Deborah Weinstein. To join us, be in touch with JSPAN Executive Director George Stern, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of September 2014, JSPAN has joined the advocacy efforts of PreK for PA, the Educational Law Center, and POWER (an interfaith organizing project). We expect to be prtnering with them and other groups in calling for specific advocacy actions. As a lead-up to the November 2014 gubernatorial and Assembly elections in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, JSPAN calls upon its supporters and followers to pay careful attention to candidates' stands on public education funding (which we believe should be fairly allocated depending on student needs and sufficient to ensure quality education for all students) and on vouchers (which we oppose as detrimental to public school funding and, in many cases, a violation of the separarton of church and state).