This week, the Orthodox Union co-sponsored the inaugural Florida Jewish Leadership Coalition for School Choice (JLCSC) mission to Tallahassee. The JLCSC was founded by leadership from the North Miami Beach community and is closely affiliated with the Florida Federation for Children (FFC), Florida’s most influential parental choice organization.
In conjunction with the JLCSC, the mission was co-sponsored and led by the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel and was comprised of over 30 community, school and rabbinic leaders from 12 schools representing communities from Miami Beach to Boca to Boca Raton. This diverse group of Jewish leadership spent the day demonstrating to the Florida legislature, in a unified voice, the Jewish community’s support for expanded parental choice in Florida.
Currently, programs like Step Up for Students (tax credit scholarship) and the McKay Scholarship for students with disabilities aid thousands of Jewish day school families and result in millions of dollars in scholarship money for Jewish students. However, due to its rigid income eligibility requirements, the Step Up program still excludes a majority of Jewish families still struggling to afford their day school tuition.
Likewise, regulations in the McKay Scholarship seriously hinder Jewish communal participation in the program. The current law limits scholarships only to those children currently enrolled in public school for at least one year.
As a result, a Jewish day school student diagnosed with a qualifying disability is forced to transfer to a public school and remain there for a full year before becoming eligible for a McKay Scholarship. The JCSC and the Orthodox Union seek to expand the income guidelines for StepUp and remove the burdensome public school transfer requirement from the McKay Scholarship.
John Kirtley, director of the Florida Federation for Children and one of the most influential national school choice advocates, spent the entire day with the mission educating them on the school choice movement, voicing his support for the mission’s agenda, and joining them in lobbying House and Senate leadership for the coalition’s proposed school choice expansion.
After the mission, Maury Litwack, State Political Director for the Orthodox Union and Mission participant stated:
“It was an honor to help lead this groundbreaking mission to Tallahassee. It marked the largest and most diverse group of Jewish communal leaders ever to ascend on the state capitol on behalf of Jewish education. This growing coalition has the full support of the Orthodox Union as we fight for expanded Jewish communal participation in these crucial school choice programs in Florida.”