Vouchers... Good for our Kids? Good for our Schools?

JSPAN Newsletter - August 12, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: August 12, 2011
This issue of the JSPAN Newsletter was not delivered by certain service providers and is being resent to correct that problem. We apologize sincerely if you have the inconvenience of receiving it twice.
JSPAN Social Justice Award
SAVE THE DATE: November 21, 2011

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network is pleased to announce that its 2011 Social Justice Award will be presented to the law firm Langer Grogan & Diver. Our speaker will be Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service, at the reception on November 21, 2011 at 5:30 p.m at Independence Visitor Center.

Howard Langer and his colleagues, John Grogan, Ned Diver and Irv Ackelsberg, are being honored for their firm’s record of commitment to public interest. The firm has worked closely with Community Legal Services, the ACLU and HIAS in its pro bono efforts. It has funded the Langer Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, which supports graduates in their first year of practice in the public interest, and a Philadelphia Fellow grant at HIAS, supporting new immigrants.


JSPAN Adopts Resolution on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
At its meeting on August 2, 2011, the JSPAN Board adopted the following resolution:

JSPAN, in keeping with the Biblical injunction that we are each others’ keepers, supports the availability of quality, affordable health care for all Americans. We support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as a critical step in achieving such availability. As the “mandate” section of the legislation, requiring all Americans to have health insurance, is essential for the Act to succeed and appears constitutionally valid as a federal power to regulate interstate commerce and assure the well being of the American people, JSPAN should investigate serving as an amicus in support of the defense of the Act in cases currently being heard by federal appellate courts and expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Resolution on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
In December 2010, JSPAN adopted a policy supporting "the reversal of the federal ban on the use of embryonic stem cells in federally financed research. JSPAN supports enactment of legislation altering or repealing the current law (the Dickey-Wicker Amendment) and endorses efforts by the Obama Administration in the current legal battle to uphold the executive overturn of the ban." - Ed.

Obama Wins Stem Cell Lawsuit (Politico)
On July 27, 2011, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s funding of stem cell research. The Obama administration policy allows research on embryos that were harvested long ago through private funding. The lawsuit, asserted that the funding violated a 1996 law prohibiting federal taxpayer money from supporting work that harms an embryo.


[read more]


Vouchers... Good for our Kids? Good for our Schools?
As the Pennsylvania General Assembly takes up the subject of school vouchers in September, JSPAN will hold a discussion of vouchers at 12:00 noon on Thursday, September 8, 2011, at: Duane Morris LLP
30 South 17th Street
Philadelphia Our speakers will be Pennsylvania Senators Anthony Williams and Daylin Leach. Register for details and to attend this event at 215-635-2664. - Ed.


School Voucher Bills Flood GOP-led Statehouses
DORIE TURNER, The Associated Press (Aug. 2, 2011)

ATLANTA - More states than ever before have considered school vouchers this year, driven by resurgent Republicans who see the lagging economy as an opportunity for a fresh push on one of their most contentious education policies.

As of mid-July, at least 30 states had introduced bills that would use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools, most limited to poor or special needs children, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That's compared with nine voucher bills in 2010, just one of which passed, a special needs voucher program in Oklahoma.

And 28 states this year have eyed giving tax breaks to those paying private school tuition bills, which some consider a back-door voucher program. At least six states have passed voucher or tax credit legislation this year. Some of the programs are based on income, some based on disability, while others are available for anyone who wants to take advantage.


[read more]
Education Takes a Beating Nationwide
More layoffs, bigger classes, fewer programs and higher tuition are nothing new to U.S. educators, but analysts say this year stands out.
By Stephen Ceasar and Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times (July 31, 2011)

After a particularly brutal budgeting season this summer, states and school districts across the country have fired thousands of teachers, raised college tuition, relaxed standards, slashed days off the academic calendar and gutted pre-kindergarten and summer school programs. Slashed budgets are nothing new for educators, but experts say this year stands out.

Last year, K-12 budgets were cut $1.8 billion nationwide. According to estimates by the National Assn. of State Budget Officers, cuts to K-12 for the new fiscal year may reach $2.5 billion.

A year ago, higher-education budgets across the nation were trimmed $1.2 billion. The expected cuts this year: $5 billion. "They've long since been cutting deep into the bone," said Michael Leachman of the nonpartisan Center on Budget Policies and Priorities, based in Washington. At least 22 states have scaled back K-12 funding and at least 24 have made cuts in higher education for fiscal year 2012, the center found. To cover such shortfalls, experts say, school officials often reduce, or eliminate, personnel and programs vital to the most vulnerable populations: lower-income and minority students.


[read more]


Schools Turn To Fees After Drop in State Aid
By MORGAN SMITH, Texas Tribune (July 29, 2011)

As strapped public schools try to squeeze every possible dollar out of their budgets, an unpleasant reality awaits parents: They will most likely have to pay for programs and services that schools once provided free.

Consider the Keller Independent School District just north of Fort Worth, where students who ride the bus will now pay $185 each per semester. Rather than scrap busing altogether after voters rejected a property tax increase in June to make up for lost state revenue, the district opted to institute fares.

The $4 billion cut in education financing at the state level for 2012-13 means these extra charges will become increasingly common.

“We’re going to see districts charging fees for things that they have always been able to but just haven’t chosen to in the past,” said David Thompson, a former general counsel for the Texas Education Agency who now represents school districts.

Across the country, such fees also threaten to draw lawsuits — affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union in California filed in September against what it called the state’s “pay to learn” public schools — about what it means to provide a “free” public education under state constitutions.


[read more]


Judge Blocks Kansas Law Aimed at Planned Parenthood
Editor’s Note: JSPAN policy states: The perilous state of a woman's right to choose is clear. It must be protected.
  • We will fight for the appointment and election of judges who recognize women's rights.
  • We will link with national and local choice organizations to multiply our voices
  • We will urge our representatives to oppose legislation that seeks to circumscribe a woman's right to choose and to create legislation to ensure the right to choose.
- Ed.

Reuters (Aug 1, 2011)

A judge has blocked a Kansas law that would stop federal family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood, officials confirmed on Monday. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the reproductive health organization, which had sued seeking to block implementation of the amendment cutting its funding.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri had said the law stops federal money for cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control for low-income patients‘. Kansas plans to appeal the decision.

"It appears that the Court declared a duly-enacted Kansas statute unconstitutional without engaging in the fact-finding one would expect before reaching such a conclusion," said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, in a statement.

The Kansas law is one of a number of state anti-abortion measures which have passed this year, enabled by Republican legislative majorities and governors.


[read more]


New U.S. Rules Require Insurance Coverage for Contraception
By N.C. Aizenman, (Washington Post, August 1, 2011)

Marking a new milestone in long-running efforts to make health insurance more equitable for women, the Obama administration announced Monday that tens of millions of women will soon be able to get birth control, breast pumps, HIV tests and five other categories of preventive services without co-pays or other out-of-pocket insurance charges.

The rules issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius amount to one of the most wide-reaching and potentially popular provisions of the health-care law adopted last year.

While most employer-sponsored health plans cover a broad array of preventive services for women — the result of years of activism and new laws — many require members to share the cost by applying co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. Plans purchased by individuals are also far less likely to offer such comprehensive coverage. The mandate applies to private insurance and will take effect beginning Aug. 1, 2012, as plans renew.


[read more]


JSPAN Congratulates Administration on Reducing Co-Pays"

Editor’s Note: On August 8, JSPAN President Brian Gralnick sent the following letter to Secretary Sebelius:

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

On behalf of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (“JSPAN”), we applaud and thank you for your recent decision to accept the Institute of Medicine recommendations that health insurance plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without a co-pay.

As a progressive, faith-based, non-profit organization that supports reproductive freedom for women, JSPAN commends your decision to make women’s health a priority and a near-universal reality for women to access birth control methods.

As you know, access to contraceptives with no co-pay has a multitude of benefits for communities across the country. Our nation will have healthier women and healthier babies because women will have the ability to plan and space out their pregnancies. Women will not be forced to choose between essential expenses and contraceptives due to a co-pay they cannot afford. Lastly, women can prevent unintended pregnancies ultimately reducing the number of abortions.

This is very relevant. As we have recently seen in a number of states, a woman’s ability to attain a safe and legal abortion is under ferocious attack. This coordinated attack makes it even more important to ensure that contraceptives and family planning services are available to all women in the United States and those serving our country overseas.

Again, on JSPAN’s behalf, we acknowledge with gratitude your decision to follow science-based recommendations and making women's health a priority.


Council to Hold More Hearings on Redistricting
Redistricting Hearings

PHILADELPHIA, PA - City Council President Anna C. Verna today announced that, in addition to a redistricting hearing scheduled for August 16, there will be two additional hearings for the purpose of receiving public testimony concerning Councilmanic redistricting. The additional hearings are being scheduled in response to a request recently submitted by the NAACP Philadelphia Branch. The NAACP has a longstanding interest in redistricting nationwide.

The August 16 hearing will be held in City Council’s chambers, Room 400 City Hall, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The additional hearings will be held at locations outside of Center City Philadelphia, at times and locations to be announced shortly. Taken together, these three hearings are consistent with Council’s recently adopted resolution calling for hearings to provide an opportunity for public engagement and input with respect to redistricting.


[read more]


FixPhillyDistricts.com Public Redistricting Competition Released to Critical Acclaim from Philly's News Media
Editor’s Note: JSPAN Board Member, Ruth Damsker will be participating in the Azavea process and will keep the Board informed of ongoing activities and progress on the project and related efforts.

With just over a month left in Philadelphia City Council's decennial redistricting process, this week Azavea [creator of the computer software for drawing voting district maps being used by the City] announced a public redistricting competition to be conducted at FixPhillyDistricts.com, where any Philadelphia resident or group will be able to use Azavea's DistrictBuilder software to draw their own councilmanic districts. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, philly.com, WHYY's NewsWorks.org, Channel 6abc, TechnicallyPhilly.com, and techPresident.com weighed in on the redistricting issue extensively and covered the innovative role the FixPhillyDistricts.com website and contest will play in the process.

NewsWorks' Chris Satullo detailed the $1,000 prize money on offer, courtesy of WHYY, and other competition specifics in his Centre Square blog posting, "Your chance to fix Philly's screwy election map".


[read more]



Two Parties Pray to the Same G-d, but Different Economists
By Michael Gerson (Washington Post, August 4, 2011)

With varied motivations, human beings tend to invoke the name of God in foxholes, in the throes of passion and in budget debates.

During the recent debt-limit showdown, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) credited “divine inspiration” for his opposition to House Speaker John Boehner’s initial proposal. Democratic activist Donna Brazile tweeted, “Last time I checked, God is above this partisan stuff. But I believe (as a woman of faith) Jesus would be fair and support shared sacrifice.” It was not immediately clear whether the Son of God endorses corporate loophole closings or prefers tax-rate increases.

On the testimony of some of his followers, God is both to the right of Boehner and to the left of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (who didn’t include revenue in his approach). Both parties read the same Bible and pray to the same God — but apparently listen to different economists.

This use of religion in politics is a source of cynicism. It should raise alarms when the views of the Almighty conveniently match our most urgent political needs. A faith that conforms exactly to the contours of a political ideology has lost its independence. Churches become clubs of the politically like-minded. Political dialogue suffers, since opponents are viewed as heretics. And when religion becomes too closely identified with a detailed political platform, both are quickly outdated. Despite William Jennings Bryan’s best efforts, who now recalls God’s view of bimetallism?


[read more]


BOOK REVIEW: 'Catch-22' Still Saner Than Ever
Fifty Years Later, Joseph Heller's Classic Novel Is Masterpiece of Jewish Fiction
By Berel Lang. The Forward (August 12, 2011)

Joseph Heller is invariably omitted from lists of American Jewish writers, but he should be included, and high up. “Catch-22” — which has just celebrated its 50th birthday — is notable among American novels in the second half of the 20th century for having been read with almost no acknowledgment of its Jewish identity. Heller himself is responsible for disguising the association, but there can be no doubt about the novel’s Jewish roots and branches, and Heller’s own earlier notes on the book confirm this.

The book’s hero, or, more precisely, anti-hero, the Air Force bombardier Yossarian, is introduced as “Assyrian” (surely the only “American-Assyrian” character in modern fiction), a paper-thin disguise. Yossarian’s pilpul, delivered from an American Air Force base in World War II Italy, and his attacks on the idols of the marketplace wherever and however they stand are no less exemplary of the combination of Jewish passion and irony than that of Sholom Aleichem; his puncturing of everyday cant extends as far as Kant and is as familiar as the neighborhood schlemiel. As Kafka could not stop laughing when he read the opening pages of “The Trial” to his Prague friends, Heller laughs his way through the anxieties and frustrations of the ‘catch’ in “Catch-22.”


[read more]



Your Opinion Counts
The editors of the JSPAN newsletter welcome reader's comments regarding the content and format of the newsletter. We want to know what you like and dislike. Are we providing a perspective and service that you find informative and worth reading? Do you have comments on specific articles or items? Let us know what you think! Send all comments to newsletter@jspan.org



Support JSPAN

Remember that JSPAN welcomes your donations to help us continue our important and effective work in Tikkun Olam. You may send gifts via PayPal on www.jspan.org. or to JSPAN, 1735 Market Street, Suite #A417, Philadelphia, PA 19103




Want to Join?
To become a voting JSPAN member, please go to www.JSPAN.org. On the right side of your screen you will be able to start a secure transaction and become a voting member.


Make all checks payable to:
1735 Market Street, Suite #A417
Philadelphia, PA 19103


JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Lynn Zeitlin
First Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Mark Newman
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair

Jeffrey Pasek
Chair of the Board of Directors

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David Boonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Kenneth Fox
Sarita Gocial
Paula Green
David Gutin
Raechel Hammer
Rabbi Elliot Holin
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Joanna Klein
Nathan Kleinman
Lazar Kleit
Marlena Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jay Meadway
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
Deborah Weinstein
Alex Urevick Ackelsberg
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Ruthanne Madway
Executive Director

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Mark Newman
Deborah Weinstein

Ira Goldberg




The newsletter contains articles and links to articles that we think will be of interest to JSPAN members. They are included for informational purposes, but unless otherwise stated, they do not necessarily reflect official JSPAN policy.

As an organization for change, JSPAN strives to advance progressive social policies on the critical issues of our time. Help spread the news about us by forwarding this email and the link to our website http://www.jspan.org to your family, friends, and colleagues who might have an interest in joining JSPAN or serving on any of JSPAN's projects. If you haven't joined JSPAN, please join now!


Click to view this email in a browser

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
1735 Market Street, Suite #A417
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!