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Agudath Israel Of Illinois Applauds New School Choice Program Passed By Illinois House Of Representatives

Today, a school funding bill that includes a historic $100 million scholarship tax credit program passed the Illinois House of Representatives. After a drama-filled day in which the bill failed, following weeks of drama and contentious debate, an alternative that did not include the scholarship tax credit was voted on and also failed. Then, the initial bill was recalled for reconsideration and passed.

The bill was a product of months-long negotiations, and the scholarship tax credit program was included as part of a larger compromise involving statewide public education funding reform. The new program will enable thousands of children to attend the, school deemed the best for them by their parents.

Agudath Israel of Illinois (AIOI) has advocated for a school choice program for many years, and is a primary focus of Agudath Israel of America’s legislative efforts nationwide. On AIOI’s annual missions to Springfield, the concept was often discussed with Speaker of the House, Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) who had both expressed support for the program if there would be sufficient revenue, and at this year’s meeting, they reiterated that position. Governor Rauner has long advocated for school choice programs and made it part of his campaign platform in 2014. Today’s action back up those commitments.

More recently, AIOI’s director of government affairs, Rabbi Shlomo Soroka Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, has been intimately involved in advocating for the program, helping craft policy, and discussing the various details with leading negotiators in the legislature, General Assembly leadership, the Governor, other lobbyists and fellow coalition members. He has spent many long days and nights in the state’s capitol and countless hours advocating, negotiating, and helping craft policy that would be of maximum benefit. This accomplishment culminates over a decade of work to bring school choice to the children of Illinois.

With such a significant beneficial program on the line, a group of dedicated lay leaders and Rabbi Yitzchok Ehrman, CEO of Agudath Israel of Illinois, made a special trip to Springfield this morning to join Rabbi Soroka and meet with key legislators to secure key votes.

“This is a huge victory for our community and for all the children in the State of Illinois,” said Rabbi Soroka. “It’s also historic in terms of the scope and magnitude of the program.”
Agudath Israel of Illinois has been working on this initiative together with a large coalition that includes the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

AIOI applauds the support of Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and the vital assistance of Representative Lou Lang, Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R- Burr Ridge), Senate leadership, and Governor Rauner for pushing for this issue in attempting to deliver on his campaign pledge.

The bill is expect to pass the Senate in short order, and subsequently be signed by Governor Rauner. Agudath Israel will be in touch with further updates and guidance to make this ground breaking program a success for our community.

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