This past week was a historic week, not only in terms of the snow that walloped the Northeast causing three days of school closings, but also regarding the tremendous kiddush Hashem that our school made at the State House School Choice Rally. Rabbi A.D. Motzen, a staff member of Agudath Israel of America, was the keynote speaker, and he wowed the audience with his knowledge about school choice issues and his inspiring stories. As a spokesman for the Jewish community, Rabbi Motzen discussed the 11,000 rallies that took place over the past week and the many speaking engagements that he has had throughout the years promoting school choice. Rabbi Motzen was interviewed on the radio and on television, where he spoke eloquently. He was actually shocked at the high level of support in the media for school choice, since it is not unusual to find serious opposition to this issue. We are especially grateful to all of our partners at the Friedman Foundation, which co-sponsored the event, and we also thank Mr. Edward Bastia, who chairs Rhode Island Families for School Choice, and all of the other schools that participated. Rabbi Motzen explained to me that the success of this year’s event over past years was the fact that television, radio, and newspapers covered the program, showing that there is a “buzz” on the topic of school choice. The rabbi noted that most school choice laws don’t pass immediately; rather, it is a process that takes a number of years. School choice, he said, is nothing new to Rhode Island, as we already receive a form of school choice through the SGO law. He explained to the audience, however, that this past year, the SGO was under-funded by 1.5 million dollars and strongly encouraged the legislation to amend the bill so that the cap adjusts based on the applications submitted. This would allow the corporations to benefit from the tax credits for which they applied, and it would enable the schools to receive funding for the applications submitted.
In a follow-up evening meeting, we discussed the new school choice legislation. It is imperative that we recruit our parent bodies to act as ambassadors and that we reach out to our local representatives in a meaningful way. School choice allows all families, including public school families, the opportunity to choose the educational system they want. If a child lives in a low-functioning school district, this law would enable his parents to choose a better school for him. Rabbi Motzen remarked that at a recent rally he saw a mom carrying a sign that read: “My child is not a zip code.” School choice is now in effect in 25 states, so expansion of our school choice law will, bez”H, happen – the question is how long that will take. Rabbi Motzen also remarked that in some states school choice has provided qualifying families with a voucher that offers them free tuition; he thus encouraged all families to take School Choice advocacy seriously.
We are especially thankful to: Mr. Norman Rosenfield and the PHDS Band for a spectacular performance; Hadassah Peromsik and Cheli Schochet for manning the PHDS booth; Mrs. Haas and Mrs. Schachter for creating the display for the booth; NEAT students Tzipporah Kapilevich, Rochel Lapin, Minya Schochet, and Ronit Stukalov for serving as school ambassadors; and the many school parents for attending this important event throughout the afternoon.
Special wishes of congratulations to the Stukalov family on receiving this year’s School Choice Award.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman,