WASHINGTON — A meeting at the White House between Obama Administration officials and nonpublic school advocates on April 20 yielded “a warm and, we hope, fruitful discussion,” according to Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, Agudath Israel of America’s national director of government affairs, who represented Jewish schools at the gathering.
On the White House side of the table were Rev. Joshua Dubois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Mr. Roberto Rodriguez, a staff member of President Barack Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, whose focus is on educational issues.
The meeting, which was organized by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) – of which Agudath Israel is a member – focused largely on the private school community’s reaction to the President’s current education agenda, which includes funding for pre-school programs under the “Zero to Five Plan,” the reauthorization of the “No Child Left Behind Act” and the creation of the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” for higher education.
Another issue of discussion was the D.C. Scholarship Program, the first federally funded educational voucher program in the country. Congress has voted to eliminate funding for the program. Rabbi Kalish lauded the program, citing a recently released congressional study elaborating on its benefits for children, families and the local school system. “The D. C. Scholarship Program,” said the Agudath Israel representative, “represents a step in the right direction of true school choice, and, as supporters of parents’ right to choose their children’s educational environments, we feel an obligation to speak up on behalf of the program.”
“Rev. Dubois and Mr. Rodriguez,” reported Rabbi Kalish, “impressed me deeply with their remarks and were clearly receptive to our issues of concern.” He also had warm words for CAPE, with whom Agudath Israel works closely, for its service to the nonpublic school community.”
“Our Washington Office counsel and director, Rabbi Abba Cohen,” Rabbi Kalish added, “will be taking the momentum from this meeting with him as we head into the reauthorization process for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act” – a bill that greatly affects the Title 1 program, among many others, from which yeshivos and Jewish day schools across the United States derive substantial benefit.
(YWN Desk – NYC)