OU Participates in Philadelphia Rally in Support of School Choice Bill
From left: David Frankel, OU Chief Operating Officer, with Rabbi Yonah Gross of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Wynnewood
Rabbi Avraham Shmidman, Rabbi of Lower Merion Synagogue
Yesterday, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (“Orthodox Union”) -- the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization -- participated in a rally outside city hall in Philadelphia in support of proposed school choice legislation.
The initiative will create a voucher program and expands Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The current EITC program provides millions of dollars each year in scholarships for low and middle-income Jewish families, among many others. Together, the newly-created voucher program and the newly-expanded EITC program will considerably ease the challenge of day school affordability facing the Pennsylvania Jewish community.
During the first year of the program, “opportunity scholarships” will only be available to low-income families from failing school districts. During the second year and every year thereafter, opportunity scholarships will be available to all low-income families, regardless of where they live in Pennsylvania.
The bill will also increase funding for the EITC program from the current $75 million per year to $100 million per year, then to $125 million per year, and by five percent each year thereafter. Likewise, the income limits for EITC eligibility will increase to $75,000, plus $15,000 per dependent -- or $120,000 for a family of four.
The opportunity scholarship program will greatly complement the highly successful EITC program. The average household income of an EITC scholarship recipient in 2010 was $29,000. Many of those families could now receive vouchers instead of EITC scholarships, which would free up EITC scholarship dollars to be awarded to other families in need.
Michelle Twersky, the OU’s Pennsylvania Political Director stated: “The rally was a big success. It brought people together on the important issue of school choice. Too many of our children cannot afford Jewish day schools. By introducing opportunity scholarships and expanding the current educational tax credit program, more of our children will be able to attend Jewish day schools.”
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