Reform Leaders Participate in Religious Action Center Advocacy Day
RAC Advocacy Day participants posed at the Capitol prior to lobbying their legislators. Credit: Mindi Westoff for the Texas Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
By Lori Adelman
On March 25-26, more than 50 Reform Jewish clergy, lay leaders and students from across Texas gathered in Austin for the Texas Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s inaugural Austin Advocacy Day. Jewish leaders came from as far away as Lubbock, as well as the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio areas.
This year's Advocacy Day focused on school finance reform, rooted in the core Jewish belief that the entire community is responsible for educating all children. In fact, Jewish tradition specifically mandates in Proverbs 22:6 that every community set up local schools, recruit and support qualified teachers, and ensure manageable class sizes where each child can be taught “according to his way.”
The group’s ask was clear: the Texas state government must increase the basic allotment—the amount the state pays per student toward public education—so that we can provide every Texan child a quality education, with smaller class sizes, high-quality teachers and updated infrastructure, regardless of their ZIP code.
Before Advocacy Day, RAC-TX sponsored two webinars with advocacy partners to provide a foundation on the issue of school finance reform, breaking down a complex issue into its most essential parts. Monday afternoon and evening, participants were trained on community engagement and problem-solving, as well as how to tell an effective story in advocacy work. During Advocacy Day, participants engaged in Jewish text study, received an update on the issue and strategized about the most effective messages to lobby their specific representatives.
Once at the Capitol, participants were joined by members of National Council of Jewish Women and Pastors for Texas Children for a call to action and moment of prayer. Gathered in the Capitol Extension rotunda, the group sang, prayed and heard from students why school finance reform is not only important, but personal, to them and their friends.
Participants then dispersed throughout the Capitol building for meetings with state representatives and staff. In part due to RAC-TX and education justice partners’ efforts, the Texas House passed HB3, a comprehensive school finance reform bill that will provide critical funding to address inequity in the Texas public school system. The issue will now be taken up by the Senate.
The group is not done yet–RAC-TX members continue to meet and strategize to work toward building the kind of equitable, quality public school system all children deserve, just as our sacred texts command of us. ■
To learn more about RAC-TX visit rac.org/texas.