Led by Agudath Israel’s Ohio director, Rabbi Yitz Frank, more than 25 community members and school leaders from
across Ohio traveled to the Statehouse for a day of grassroots advocacy. While there are many issues of importance that are being considered during the Ohio budget negotiations, the key priority for this mission was ensuring that money follows a child to the school of their choice. Most importantly, students using a special needs voucher should have equitable access to the funds they need to succeed.
The group’s first meeting took place in the Majority Caucus Room with Speaker Rosenberger’s deputy chief of staff Ben Webb, Community and Family Advancement Committee Chairman Tim Derickson (R-Oxford), Education Chairman Bill Hayes (R-Harrison Township), and Majority Policy Advisor Colleen Grady. Representative Derickson assured the mission participants that the House leadership shares their view on school choice and that the community’s interests are well represented by Rabbi Frank.
The attendees then headed upstairs for a catered lunch and presentations from State Representatives Michael Stinziano (D – Columbus) and David Leland (D- Columbus) as well as State Senator Sandra Williams (D- Cleveland). Agudath Israel’s national director of state relations, Rabbi A. D. Motzen, then joined Rabbi Frank in presenting a gift to Joyce Garver Keller, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities. Ms. Garver Keller, who is retiring next month, has been an important partner of Agudath Israel in Ohio and a tremendous advocate for the Jewish community. Her successor, Howie Beigelman, also got an opportunity to meet the members of the group. The attendees were joined for lunch by Adam Hewit and Jason Warner of School Choice Ohio, another partner in Agudath Israel’s school choice activities.
Following lunch the participants were addressed by the executive director of the Office of Quality School Choice at the Ohio Department of Education, David Hansen as well as State Board of Education Member C. Todd Jones. Each of them outlined their vision of the current state of affairs in terms of school choice in Ohio and where it is headed. On the topic of special needs students, Mr. Jones related that he had worked on that issue when he was the lead Republican negotiator during the 1997 IDEA rewrite.
To wrap up the day, the group met with Senate President Pro Tempore Chris Widener (R- Springfield) and Deputy Policy Director Liz Conolly. Senator Widener offered his thoughts and advice and led an interactive discussion which covered many important issues.
Agudath Israel thanks all the officials that took time to meet with the group and the community members who took off the day to make the long trip to Columbus on behalf of the community and our children. As noted by many of the officials, visits like this are meaningful in their policy deliberations and make an impact.