As an educator and a parent, I was horrified to read of the community’s newest response to the tuition crisis: a school without “bells and whistles,” likened by Rabbi Saul Zucker to a no-frills car (April 3). Reasonable class sizes, access to technology, and competent teachers are not luxury items, but rather educational necessities. Our community has unfortunately been infected with the kind of crass materialism that would lead us to make such a faulty analogy between excellence in education and an unnecessarily luxurious car. We haven’t gotten together in Bergen County to strengthen and support our community schools, financially or otherwise. We didn’t use our resources wisely during prosperous times, committing more money to JCCs, synagogue renovations, lavish personal spending, and other things that might be considered “bells and whistles.” Now, people are distracting themselves with public school immersion programs and a proposal that is nothing more than a new educational caste system that is bound to fail more families educationally than it might help economically. With such drastic cutbacks proposed for this “jalopy” school, it is ludicrous for Rabbi Zucker to claim that the “core program will be a quality education.” Rather, such education would be of such poor quality, it would push even more families away from Jewish education. It is disappointing that the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County are even wasting time discussing this at all.
The economic downturn presents challenges to Jewish education, but simplistic solutions such as this proposal are not going to solve them. How is it possible, in the same community, that less fortunate children will be forced to suffer in overcrowded classrooms without technology while wealthier children will flourish in well-funded classrooms, all because we couldn’t come up with a better idea for funding our schools? Is this an example of Jewish values? All children in our community should have access to excellence in education, regardless of their economic status. This must be our community’s top priority.