Tag Archives: Education

Education Isn’t a Given for Everyone

By Noa Maltzman

The week before I started as a Machon Kaplan intern, I was having a conversation with my mom about education and graduation. It began with my mom saying that she thought it was silly that next year she would have to go to my sister Mica’s eighth grade graduation. She thought it was weird that schools even celebrate graduating from eighth grade.  So I pointed out that she went to my fifth grade graduation: “Did you find that silly?”  My mom replied, “Yes! Because Dad and I knew you were going to graduate from fifth grade, just like we know Mica will graduate from eighth grade and from high school, and that both of you will graduate from college.” We ended the conversation there. That my parents assumed I’d make it through high school and college wasn’t much of a surprise to me.

In my first few weeks as an intern at The Peace Alliance, I have already realized that what my mom told me is not a given for everyone: I am fortunate to be a part of a family where we can safely assume that a college degree is affordable and attainable. Of course, I already knew before starting my internship that only about 40% of working aged Americans hold a college degree.  What I didn’t know was that one reason some people don’t make it to college is because sometimes existing law can make it very challenging for students to afford a college education.

I first learned this when I started my internship and was assigned the task of creating a two-page fact sheet on H.R. 2521, the REAL Act of 2015. The Restoring Education and Learning Act of 2015 is a bill to restore Pell Grant eligibility for federal and state incarcerated individuals (Pell Grants are federal grants, up to $5,500, that are given to undergraduate students to help them finance their college educations).

Since 1994, incarcerated individuals have not been eligible for Pell Grants and the number of prison college education programs has drastically decreased because of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  Supporters of the REAL Act point to research that shows inmates with access to college education and degrees are less likely to commit more crimes when they are released and are better able to contribute to their communities.

Since the earliest days of Judaism, learning and teaching have been important values. One of the 613 commandments in the Torah orders us “to learn Torah and teach it” (Deuteronomy 6:7).  We even have a prayer that one is meant to say before learning Torah: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kid’shanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu la’asok b’divrei Torah. We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to engage in the study of Torah.

These examples of how our tradition urges us to go and learn might be specific to learning Torah, but I think we can translate them to modern times, and more broadly interpret them to illustrate the value of education and learning in a society. I believe now that it is our duty as members of the Jewish community to follow those that came before us and urged us to go and learn: Let’s work to make it possible for everyone — even those incarcerated—to have access to education and opportunities to learn.

Noa Maltzman


Noa Maltzman is a rising sophomore at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She is a 2015 Machon Kaplan participant, and interned at the The Peace Alliance.

Combatting Injustices in the Public School System

Although it is summer, as stationary stores and commercials tell us, it’s already time to start thinking about the fall and what the school year brings along with it. As we sharpen pencils and preemptively pack our backpacks, it’s hard not to take a moment to reflect on why we go through this ritual every year. Education is seen as a pathway to the American dream, and is key to lifting Americans out of poverty.

About 20% of our country’s children live in poverty, and this rate is further exacerbated when looking at children of color. 38% of African American children, 36.8% of American Indian and Native Alaskan Children, and 33% of Hispanic children are living in poverty, showing how disproportionately certain communities are impacted. For all children, education is especially crucial to create opportunities, but for many students of color, this promise is not necessarily their reality. A child of color is over twice as likely to be poor as a white child. Millions of students go to schools that are underfunded and that lack important resources. Schools where the majority of students are African American are two times as likely to have teachers who are less experienced than a school with a majority of white teachers, which therefore leads to even more inequalities in the classroom.

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Making DREAMs a reality

By Jenny Swift

When I was a senior in high school, the question I was asked by family and friends more times than I would like was where I would be attending college next year. For students who are undocumented the question might be different: what will you be doing next year? It’s a small difference, but a noticeable one. Tens of thousands of children who have grown up in this county and have attended and graduated from public schools are stuck, without the opportunity to advance, because the documentation required to apply to college, and more importantly, federal aid, is often out of the grasp of students whose parents brought them to this country when they were small children. Future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and the scientist who will cure cancer are all unable to reach their true potential due to immigration laws that keep children down, not raise them up to achieve the American dream. Read more…

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Stop Cuts to Family Planning

The past few weeks have brought mixed news in the realm of sexuality education. At the end of June, we wrote about a House sub-committee vote to eliminate programs proven to reduce teen and unplanned pregnancy, reduce abortion and save tax dollars in Fiscal Year 2016.

Since then, a Senate sub-committee voted to advance similar cuts, proposing a budget that would significantly cut funding for the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and for Title X family planning centers, while increasing funding for abstinence-only until marriage programs by 300 percent. By gutting funding to family planning services for low-income individuals and undermining evidence-based programs like TPPP, these appropriations bills would leave millions of Americans without information and services to keep themselves safe and healthy. Read more…

Protect LGBT Students from Discrimination

Currently, federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination in school based on race, color, national origin, sex and disability. However, no federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or their association with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

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Ruling for Marriage Equality Ensures Epic Pride Month 2015

Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in favor of marriage equality, which establishes marriage equality in all fifty states. As we celebrate this victory for equality and as LGBT Pride month comes to an end, here’s a look back at some of the LGBT milestones that occurred this month:

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Title IX Protest

Realizing the Promise of Title IX

Yesterday, we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of Title IX, a section of the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. Widely known as the statute that governs varsity athletics, Title IX has helped advance women’s rights in collegiate sports, yes—but it has also laid the foundation to protect broader women’s rights to educational equality. The statue provides legal protections for student survivors of rape and sexual assault, a critical step in ensuring a safe and productive educational environment where students can learn and thrive. Read more…

Faith Organizations Urge Lawmakers to Take a Stand on LGBT Discrimination

Currently, federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. However, no federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or their association with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 846/S. 439) would address this issue by explicitly prohibiting public schools from discriminating against any student based on the categories above.

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