Press Release

Jewish parents & schools stand up for their children with disabilities in court Ninth Circuit to decide if California can deny Jewish families & schools special education funding

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON – A group of Jewish families and schools were in federal appeals court today fighting a California law that excludes religious schools from special education funding to help children with disabilities. In Loffman v. California Department of Education, Orthodox Jewish parents are fighting for the ability to send their children with disabilities to schools that will best serve their children’s needs. California politicians, however, block special education funding from being used at religious private schools—even though it is available to families whose children attend hundreds of other private schools. Becket and Teach Coalition, an initiative of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools, are helping these parents and schools stop California from denying crucial services to Jewish children with disabilities.  

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law intended to ensure that children with disabilities receive an education that meets their unique needs. IDEA provides federal funding to states, including California, for special education programs in public schools. But public schools cannot always meet the needs of students with disabilities, so federal and state law allows that funding to be used at private schools that can provide this critical support. In California, however, politicians have excluded religious schools from this program, leaving religious parents with no opportunity to find a school that best meets their child’s unique needs.

“California is denying parents like us the chance to provide our son with a safe, supportive learning environment simply because of our Jewish faith,” said Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Jewish parents of a child with disabilities in Los Angeles. “We pray that the court will end the punishment of religious families and the religious schools that wish to serve children with disabilities.” 

Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Fedora Nick and Morris Taxon, and Sarah and Ariel Perets are Orthodox Jewish parents of children with disabilities for whom California’s public schools are not providing an adequate education. These families want the same opportunity as other families whose children with disabilities can’t be served by public schools: placement in a private school that best meets their child’s needs. Shalhevet High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy are Jewish primary and secondary schools that offer an excellent education but are barred from providing families with state-funded special education services under California law. Becket and Teach Coalition are working together to ensure equal access to special education funding regardless of one’s religion—a result that, according to a recent poll, most Californians support. 

“Sacramento is slamming the door on children with disabilities just because they come from religious families,” said Laura Wolk Slavis, counsel at Becket. “That’s unacceptable. We are asking the Ninth Circuit to ensure that Jewish kids with disabilities can access the resources they need and deserve — just like everyone else.” 

A decision is expected in the coming months. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.