Jewish schools to join campaign for public funds for private education They support Catholics for inclusion in Md. budget

November 26, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Representatives from Jewish schools in Baltimore and Baltimore County agreed yesterday to join Maryland's Catholic schools in their campaign seeking public money for private education.

"We do foresee an effort being launched to get the Jewish families behind this," said Jay Bernstein, an organizer of an informal meeting of school officials and parents at the Talmudical Academy.

After hearing from Mary Ellen Russell, associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church in the state, the group went into closed session to discuss the most effective ways to throw Jewish-family support behind the campaign.

Bernstein said the group is "leaning toward a petition drive" in the next few weeks that would ask Gov. Parris N. Glendening to put money in his next budget for nonsectarian services. Petitions would be distributed to families and Jewish school supporters.

The Maryland Federation of Catholic School Families, organized by the Catholic conference, is in the midst of a letter-writing campaign, asking the governor for money for textbooks, transportation and technology.

The Jewish support would bolster that campaign, which has delivered nearly 5,000 letters to the governor from families of the 60,000 children in Catholic schools throughout the state.

The nine Baltimore-area Jewish schools have 4,200 students from at least 1,500 families, Bernstein said. About 2,500 students are in Washington-area Jewish schools, which are being contacted to lend support.

"Hopefully, [Glendening] will see that this is not just a Catholic issue. This affects all families of nonpublic school students," said Larry Cohen, who has children at the Talmudical Academy and (( Bais Yaakov School in Owings Mills.

Bernstein and Cohen, who have recently founded a group -- Advocates for Leadership in Educational Funding -- to make area Jewish schools affordable and financially secure, contacted Russell about joining the campaign.

The Jewish schools are the first group to join the Catholic federation in its efforts, though Russell said individual schools have contacted her in support of the aid.

In the governor's office, spokeswoman Torrie Leonard said the federation's campaign has produced "a huge amount of letters."

Among them is a two-page missive from the three leaders of the Catholic dioceses that have schools in Maryland -- Cardinal William H. Keeler of the archdiocese of Baltimore, Cardinal James A. Hickey of the archdiocese of Washington and Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del.

To date, there has been no response to their letter -- or to any other letters -- from either the governor's office or the Maryland State Department of Education.

Leonard said the governor had not decided whether the response would be delivered to individuals or to a group of supporters.

The campaign seeks support that is common in many states, including Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

According to data compiled by Bernstein and Cohen, Pennsylvania last year provided $16.5 million for textbooks, $34 million for transportation and $5 million for nursing services for students in its nonpublic schools.

The federation will not say how much it wants the governor to commit or where the money might come from. But Russell is emphatic that the money not be taken from funding for public schools.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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