Orthodox Town of Lakewood Grabs Bigger Computer Subsidy Than Poorest Cities

How Does Jersey Shore Town of 93,000 Outstrip Newark?

gates foundation

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published April 22, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A federally backed program subsidizing Internet access for low-income students has committed more money to schools in the heavily Orthodox Jewish town of Lakewood, N.J. in recent years than to schools in any other municipality in the entire state.

Yet after several years of participating in the E-Rate subsidy program, Lakewood’s schools report having far fewer Internet-capable devices per student than any large New Jersey city, according to a Forward analysis.

Schools in Lakewood, a town of 92,000, have received more dollars per student than those in any other significant city in New Jersey. In 2011, schools in Lakewood received $282 in E-Rate commitments for every student served by the program. Schools in Newark, the largest city in New Jersey and one of the poorest, received just $82 per student that year.

Less than one-tenth of the E-Rate money has gone to Lakewood’s public school system, which has one of the worst high school graduation rates in New Jersey. The rest is granted to the town’s private schools, the vast majority of which serve the ultra-Orthodox community.

As well as Internet connectivity, E-Rate funds can also be used for things like telephone systems and voicemail for administrators, but schools in Lakewood report similar numbers of phones in their classrooms, compared to other schools.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Lakewood have railed against the dangers of the Internet, especially for young people, raising questions about why the town’s Orthodox schools have benefitted so heavily from E-Rate. One Lakewood Orthodox girls school, Bais Rivka Rochel, reported having five Internet-capable devices in a school of 1,025 students, despite receiving $700,000 in E-Rate subsidies.

“I think it’s unfair,” said J. Michael Rush, a former official with the New Jersey Department of Education and a former public school superintendent who lives in Lakewood, of the large amounts of E-Rate money going to Lakewood’s private schools. “It’s inequality, no matter how you look at it.”

The U.S. Congress created the E-Rate program in 1995 to help financially disadvantaged young people get access to the Web in schools and at libraries. Since 1998, E-Rate has distributed $2.25 billion each year, collected from telecommunications firms, to schools and libraries nationwide. The money is used to reimburse the institutions’ Internet and phone bills and their purchase of some phone- and Web-related hardware. Rates of reimbursement are pegged to poverty levels at individual schools. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, a semi-governmental body overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.