The packed ballroom in the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe, on Sunday, April 15, filled with hundreds of attentive community supporters and dozens of New Jersey state, county and municipal elected officials eager to demonstrate their interest in the cause was one clear measure of the success of the Teach NJS Annual Legislative Breakfast.
Another clear indication that Teach NJS has created momentum for the cause of securing equitable New Jersey state funding for non-public schools was seen in the passion of the Teach NJS leaders, the successes they celebrated and the impressive coalition they brought together.
Teach NJS chairman Sam Moed of Englewood welcomed everyone to the event and briefly discussed the importance of the organization’s work. Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, discussed the essential role of activism, lobbying and staying involved in advancing Teach NJS’s agenda.
He stated, “Thank you to our elected officials for giving us a country where we can focus on our religious studies and our religious education. We have the great privilege to live in this country where we have the freedom to speak with our leaders, tell them our needs, and have a genuine dialogue. This is no small thing and we are grateful.”
Teach NJS Director Josh Caplan spoke next and identified all the New Jersey State legislators in attendance, thanking them for their attention to the concerns of Teach NJS’s constituency.
Caplan also took note of the different religious groups who have come together to work with Teach NJS, greatly amplifying the perceived need for equity in funding and the diversity of groups committed to this cause. He recognized and thanked the representatives of Muslim and Catholic communities who came out to attend the breakfast.
Guest Speaker Dr. Lamont Repollet, former superintendent of the Asbury Park Public Schools and Governor Murphy’s nominee to serve as Commissioner of Education of the New Jersey State Department of Education, offered a hearty salute to Teach NJS. He commended the organization on its work to secure greater support for STEM studies in K-12 schools and school security.
The program concluded with presentations by Chaim Book, president of the Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, and Leslie Ostrin, president of the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison. Book noted the successes of Teach NYS in securing the current funding level of $40 million a year in state aid for security, nursing, technology and textbooks in non-public schools. He announced their goal to pursue increased support to raise the funding level to $82 million in FY2019. He also presented, on behalf of Teach NJS, an award to New Jersey State Assemblyman Gary Schaer (36th District) for his leadership in championing the initial legislation to start support for non-public schools’ security needs and for his ongoing support of Teach NJS’s work.
Ostrin noted the successes of the Teach Advocacy Network, the national network of which Teach NJS is a part, in New York (a new STEM reimbursement program for $15 million passed this year), Pennsylvania ($254 million in state aid this year) and in Florida ($2 million in state aid for security at non-public schools recently passed—a 300 percent increase over previous years’ support). She urged all those in attendance to vote in every election, to make requests to legislators that they vote on specific bills identified by Teach NJS, to help to support Teach NJS in their shuls and schools and to speak with their local legislators about the need to increase security funding.
Attendees left the breakfast knowing that Teach NJS has become a growing movement in New Jersey that has mobilized people in different communities, attracted the attention and support of many state officials and won impressive victories. At the same time, there is much more work to be done.
Nathan Lindenbaum of Teaneck, one of the founders of Teach NJS, attended the breakfast and remarked: “This was a very successful event, in that it demonstrated—to our own community, to our coalition partners and to our elected officials—that the goals of Teach NJS command broad support. But we can’t rest on our laurels. If we want to truly achieve funding equity for nonpublic schools, we need increased involvement. This is not just an issue for parents of religious school students but for anyone concerned about the security of our youth and the resources available to them. To advance this cause, we also need the activism of empty-nesters, grandparents, millennials and others. To win this race, we must broaden the base!”
Attendees were from Jewish communities and day schools across the state including Lakewood, Cherry Hill, Deal/Ocean Township, Edison/Highland Park, East Brunswick, Marlboro/Manalapan, West Orange/Livingston, Passaic/Clifton, Englewood, Teaneck, Bergenfield and Fair Lawn.
The following New Jersey state senators and assembly members attended the breakfast: Senator Dawn Addiego (District 8), Senator Gerald Cardinale (District 39), Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (District 11), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (District 37), Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (District 38), Assemblyman John McKeon (District 27), Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (District 31), Assemblyman Ryan Peters (District 8), Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (District 29; Chair, Assembly Budget Committee), Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (District 40), Assemblyman Gary Schaer (District 36), Senator Samuel Thompson (District 12), and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle (District 37). Also attending were 20+ municipal and county officials including Mayor of Jersey City Steven Fulop, Mayor of Teaneck Mohammed Hameeduddin, Mayor of Englewood Frank Huttle III, and Mayor of Bergenfield Norman Schmelz.
For more information on Teach NJS, please see: https://teachadvocacy.org/newjersey/.
By Harry Glazer