Agudath Israel of America and Chabad of Texas worked hand-in-hand to rally for school choice in the state, with community members lobbying their elected officials and a rally by the state capital.
By Anash.org reporter
After a bill for universal school choice was introduced in the Texas Senate, Agudath Israel of America and Chabad of Texas worked hand-in-hand to show support for the bill.
Senate Bill 8, recently introduced in the Texas Senate, includes a proposal for an increasingly popular form of school choice known as an Education Savings Account (ESA) program.
If passed, the state would provide parents with an account and annually deposit $8,000 per student opting out of the public school system. An ESA can be spent on a wide range of educational expenses including private school tuition. Eligibility would include all students transferring from public schools or entering pre-k and kindergarten.
The ESA program could be a literal lifesaver for many frum families, many of whom are struggling with the high expense of tuition for multiple children.
As soon as the bill was introduced, frum communities across Texas began rallying behind it and working to make it a reality. The Chabad community in Houston and other communities urged members to write to their elected officials asking them to support the bill.
On Tuesday, Agudath Israel of America brought parents and community leaders from Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio to a rally at the Texas State Capitol. The rally, which was co-sponsored by Agudath Israel, was organized to show support for universal school choice, an issue that is currently being considered in the Texas Legislature.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott spoke at the rally, voicing his support for Senate Bill 8. “We’re going to show the Legislature exactly why it is so important that we empower parents to choose the education that is best for their child,” said Governor Abbott to the cheering crowd.
Inside the Senate Chambers, numerous frum parents testified in front of the Senate Committee on Education, which was discussing the bill. Among them was Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff, director of Chabad at Texas Medical Center. Rabbi Lazaroff waited until nearly midnight to testify before the committee and throw his support behind the bill.
“There are so many Jewish parents who want to send their children to a school that matches their values but are unable to because of financial burdens,” Rabbi Lazaroff told the committee.
Agudath Israel representatives and community members, including Chabad shliach Rabbi Enan Francis also had an opportunity to engage with lawmakers in the Capitol before and after the rally. The group held productive meetings with Senator Brandon Creighton, and with Representatives Dewayne Burns, Dustin Burrows, Briscoe Cain, Nicole Collier, James Frank, Sam Harless, Brooks Landgraf, Matt Shaheen, and Ed Thompson. In every meeting, the delegation highlighted the growing Orthodox community in Texas and how important this issue is for them and their families.
“Over the last few years, momentum for universal school choice has been steadily building across the country, and we are grateful to Governor Abbott and the legislative sponsors for working to bring ESAs to Texas. Every Texan should have the ability to send their child to the school or educational program that best fits their unique needs,” said Rabbi Ari Weisenfeld, associate director of state relations for Agudath Israel. “Everywhere I go, Texas families are excited about the possibility of bringing universal school choice to the Lone Star State, and that was clearly evident by the fact that so many of our parents, rabbis, and community leaders traveled to Austin to make their voices heard.”