A decision in Trenton made day-school parents happy last week.
Last week was when New Jersey’s new budget took effect — a late June rollercoaster wherein the governor’s original proposed budget is modified by the legislature before finally facing potential line item vetoes. For the Jewish organizational lobbyists who spend the year working the halls of Trenton, not until June 26, when Governor Chris Christie signed the $34 billion budget, did they know if their past year’s work had paid off.
Well, now they know. And they are pleased.
“It was a successful budget season,” said Joshua Pruzansky, who heads the Orthodox Union’s New Jersey political arm.
Topping the successes for him was a new stream of revenue for private schools, including Jewish day schools: a $25 per student security grant.
That’s the first new line item benefiting day schools in many years, he said. And while Governor Christie had originally proposed drastic cuts to funding for nursing services and technology for non-public schools, in the end funds for private school nurses emerged unscathed. Technology funding was $6 less per student than last year. Still, with the security funds, schools will see a noticeable net increase.
Mr. Pruzansky attributes part of the success to the new Teach NJS coalition, which launched in late May and brought together the OU, Jewish federations, and day schools throughout the state.
“A month into the project, we had over 5,000 letters sent to legislators,” he said. “The governor got almost 2,000. The community definitely responded very nicely to the action alerts we sent out. It absolutely makes an impact when a legislator opens his mailbox and gets a thousand letters.
He’s working with schools and synagogues to gear up their efforts in the fall. One priority will be to bring legislators to the schools, “to introduce them to our community.” Another will be to motivate the community to vote in this year’s elections in November. “It’s an off-year election,” he said. “Nobody expects a high turnout. It’s an opportunity to show our voice by getting out and voting with our true numbers.”
In Trenton, the push for the day school aid was helped by the fact that all four of the state’s Jewish organizational lobbyists were pulling for it. Yes, four. In addition to the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, Agudath Israel, and Mr. Pruzansky himself, Chabad now has a state director, Rabbi Avi Richler of the Chabad of Gloucester County, who represents the state’s 52 Chabad houses in Trenton.
“The four of us in Trenton worked as a united front,” Mr. Pruzansky said. “When the legislators see a united Jewish community, it makes a strong impression on them.”
Meanwhile, the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations was successful in its efforts to obtain a $400,000 grant for Holocaust survivors. That grant is being distributed through the New Jersey Jewish Family Service Agencies.