Testimony of the Orthodox Union
In Support of S.414: Educational Opportunity Act
South Carolina General Assembly | The Senate |Committee on Education
Columbia, SC | March 16, 2011
The Jewish people have long been known as the “People of the Book” and that has been because of our commitment to education. It’s a commitment tested in the darkest times and steeled by a history of persecution. Even in Nazi ghettos and under the watchful gaze of Communist secret police, parents – and communities – risked all to educate their children.
It is likely no surprise then that we at the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, support S.414, the Educational Opportunity Act. We do so partly for parochial concerns. Our congregations and communities in South Carolina and their families who struggle with tuition costs at Jewish day schools could be helped if it is enacted. But we also support S.414 because it’s the right thing to do.
When we say education matters, we don’t mean just for our own children – but for all children. And this legislation is partly modeled on successful programs enacted in several other states – including neighboring Georgia. Experience has proven that, including Georgia, tax credit scholarships have raised millions of dollars for education in states like Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Pending legislation in other states (Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina) mimic these programs and at least one state, Pennsylvania is examining expanding their program by twenty five percent. As well, this legislation allows for a personal tax credit. Several states have enacted personal education deductions or credits, including Illinois, Louisiana and Minnesota.
These twin options do two critical things: they allow communities to partner with schools in ensuring everyone gets a quality education. It also puts parents back in control of educational decision making.
We note that while we would support expanded opportunities for choice and reform, including, for instance, opening up the program to all students entering first and ninth grades as well and to increasing the income limit so that middle class families are also eligible, our support is not contingent on that. We believe this is a vital first step in education reform in South Carolina.
That, we believe is everyone’s goal. For that reason, we request an immediate and favorable report of S.414.
Howie Beigelman, Deputy Director of Public Policy