In response to an invitation extended by Agudath Israel of Illinois’ director of government affairs, Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis visited the largest Jewish elementary day school in the Midwest on Wednesday. Secretary Purvis, a strong proponent of school choice, began her visit at the Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov (JDBY) girls building.
The tour began with the Keshet division for children with special needs as Secretary Purvis’ professional background was in early childhood special education. She then observed a few classrooms, interacted with students, teachers, therapists, administrators and lay leaders, while absorbing the school’s unique approach to religious and academic education.
After a roundtable discussion with JDBY’s administration and lay leadership, she was then was driven to Yeshiva Tiferes Tvi’s stunning new boys campus. There, she met, among others, the school’s presidium, principals, and executive director. Secretary Purvis expressed a keen understanding of how the dynamics of the Orthodox community make a proposed scholarship tax credit program a beneficial investment for the state and an essential component of education reform. The discussion focused on how schools which provide high quality education while imbuing its students with a community’s core traditional values should be sustained and parents should have the ability to choose to send their children to such institutions.
The group then took Secretary Purvis on a comprehensive tour of the state-of-the-art facilities, classrooms, and the main study hall. She asked insightful questions and was clearly impressed by the answers. In reviewing the statistics of where the school’s alumni are today, she expressed how those outcomes were true hallmarks of success. Looking at the school’s financial structure impressed her, but further demonstrated the need for a legislative solution to aid financially struggling parents afford such an education. Secretary Purvis pledged to continue pushing for the passage of a school choice bill and welcomed the input of Rabbi Soroka.
After visiting the schools, JDBY-YTT school president, Mr. Moshe Davis, took Mrs. Purvis on a tour of the Orthodox community. When at the culmination of the visit, Rabbi Soroka thanked her for taking the time to visit, Mrs. Purvis graciously responded, “No, it is I who must thank you for the opportunity to learn about such a wonderful educational system and beautiful community.”