On Monday, February 25th, the Orthodox Union and the Texas OU Community Advocacy Network — a network of Texas Jewish community leaders committed to advocacy on behalf of Jewish education — held a day of advocacy in Austin to promote a proposed tax credit scholarship program. The program, which already exists in 11 other states, could offer thousands of scholarships for Texas students to attend private school.
The Mission brought leaders from the Houston, Dallas, and Austin Jewish communities to meet with high-ranking members of the Texas State House and Senate, including Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, Speaker of the House Joe Straus and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick. The group also met with their local state representatives, including Senators John Carona (R-Dallas), Ken Paxton (R-Dallas), Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Representatives Stefani Carter (R-Dallas), Jim Murphy (R-Dallas), Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) and Sarah Davis (R-Houston).
Shira Yosher, OU CAN member and proud parent from the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, remarked to the mission:
“The OU Community Advocacy Network (OU CAN) mission to Austin was an excellent opportunity for Jewish school choice advocates from around Texas to join together, learn from each other, and promote this important initiative with legislators from across the political spectrum.”
Ms. Yosher and the other mission participants advocateed on behalf of a newly proposed tax credit scholarship program, which – if passed – will offer Texas businesses a tax credit for donations made to nonprofit scholarship granting organization. This proposal will offer thousands of Texas students the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend a nonpublic school.
Additionally, the group met with Senator Dan Patrick and Lt. Governor Dewhurst–the proposal’s two most vocal proponents—to lend the community’s support for their efforts and to hear more details on the specifics and progress of the legislation. The aspects of the bill of most relevance to the Jewish communities include student eligibility requirements, the structure of the scholarship funds, and ensuring religious practices of their school are not infringed upon as a result of accepting scholarship students.
This mission was the result of a year-long Orthodox Union led effort to bring leaders of Texas Jewish day school community together in their support of government created programs that could aid the accessibility and affordability of day school education.
Following the mission, Jesse Hervitz, Associate Political Director for the Orthodox Union remarked:
“The mission provided our Texas Community Advocacy Network members with the incredible opportunity, to spend a day in Austin engaging and fostering relationships with their elected officials to address the issue of tuition affordability in our communities. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of Jewish leaders united behind a single cause, especially one as important as educational affordability and parental school choice. We look forward to continuing our work with legislators, coalition partners, and members of the Texas Jewish community to address this serious issue.”