The recently concluded legislative session in Illinois ended on a high note for the Chicago Jewish community, with transportation for Jewish day school students once again included in the final budget thanks to the concerted efforts of Agudath Israel of Illinois.

A grant for busing to Jewish day schools was first included in the state budget over ten years ago in a push that was spearheaded by Rabbi Yehiel Kalish during his tenure at Agudath Israel. Since that time, substantial efforts have been extended in Springfield on an annual basis to ensure that this vital service, which is critical for students’ safety and security, is maintained annually. Despite the ever-present concern that the school transportation grant could be terminated at any time, support from Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and his budget negotiators, Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), Republican leadership and Governor Bruce Rauner, helped ensure that it was included as a line item in this year’s bipartisan budget.

“It is important to remember that there is no guarantee that a grant received in a previous year will be incorporated into the upcoming budget,” said Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, Agudath Israel of Illinois’ director of government affairs. “We are truly appreciative of our elected officials who understand the critical nature of this program and have fought to ensure its inclusion in the state’s spending plan, despite the necessity to make certain cuts to balance the budget.”