Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Candidate for Teaneck Council, Dr. Alexander Rashin Responds

[Note: Dr. Rashin grew up in the former Soviet Union and English is not his first language.  Please excuse any grammatical errors.]  

Dear Yeshivadad,

I don't know whether you put length limits on answers.
I'll try to be brief but will include extra explanations that I feel necessary.
I would appreciate if you publish them in full to avoid a distorted picture.
If you would find necessary to cut something, get back to me to clarify possible misinterpretations.
I'll start with a general statement and then insert my answers to individual questions in your text below. 
 You are right: it is not a municipal election topic especially when school elections are moved to November and the BOE budget is out of taxpayers' control. However, you have a right to know my general views on education. Because you apparently are religious (which is your 1st Amendment right) I'll sometimes invoke religious terms in my answers.
The only justification for any system of education is giving the best possible education to every Teaneck child. The primary judge of what is the best for your child - are you. 
However, as a religious person, you might understand that every given to us bit of true knowledge about the immense Creation carries a message from the Creator. Therefore you need to provide your child with the best currently available factual knowledge about the world we live in and about ourselves. And you should not ban any best knowledge revealed by the Creator about his work.  
Rambam tells in the Guide to the Perplexed that one cannot serve G-d best if he does not know physics.
And physics cannot be understood without mathematics. And now here comes molecular biology etc.
These revelations do not stop, which I can attest to as a working scientist. Kids differ in their ability to master these subjects. Here come computerized objective testing whether they learned their best.
If they did - your primary judgment was correct and keep trusting your primary judgment. If not - consult someone you trust, and try something else.

1.      Courtesy bussing for private schools.  Do you favor keeping it even in times of fiscal austerity?

Answer: it's not "courtesy" - each Teaneck child has the same right to equally adequate services. If in bad times cuts come - they should be equal for all. 

2.       Charter schools – do you think a virtual charter could be based in Teaneck?  (Obviously the cost of it would have to be borne by all the municipalities where the students come from and not just Teaneck)

Answer: I do not see why not. Luckily we do not have a government monopoly on educating (and often brainwashing) children.
Public (and private) schools can compete by providing the same virtual education as an option. 

3.       What about charter schools with Hebrew immersion or other languages?

Answer: Absolutely fine with me - you have a right to choose, many choices - are good, and competition can increase quality and reduce costs.

4.       Do you support vouchers in general?  (Not really a Teaneck issue but as a local politician State & Federal officials may seek your input)

Answer: I do. There is one problem, most Teaneck residents do not realize. Residents, who send their children to private schools significantly reduce property taxes on the entire Teaneck population. If they all would send their children to Teaneck public schools, we would need more school buildings, more teachers, more supplies. That would require large additional taxes. Therefore as it is (acknowledging a very high financial burden on private school parents) we all should be heartily grateful to the private school parents (one member of BOE agreed with this assessment; another objected that more kids in public schools is alike a mass production that would decrease costs. As if kids are mass produced cheap TVs). Universal introduction of vouchers would dramatically change the situation and could be sustainable (not bankrupting taxpayers) only if each voucher is significantly less costly than the full current price of education per student. Still such smaller vouchers might shrink public schools with their exorbitant costs per student (and therefore associated taxes) and partially alleviate the double burden on private school parents. 

5.       There was a bill in the NJ legislature (A238) that would reinstate $7M in non-public school technology aid to NJ school districts that was cut from the state budget in 2010.  Would you support a bill like that?

Answer: I would support it if it will not bankrupt the State or its taxpaying population, and if there is a system of checks that technology is used effectively.
I taught at schools where kids mainly played games on school provided computers or pulled them apart. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my questions.

        Respectfully yours,             Dr. Alex Rashin