Weekly Update: December 23, 2016 — 23 Kislev 5777

Parents provide positive feedback: Report on focus groups

GAJE recently conducted three focus groups over a short period involving twenty families of parents of school-aged children.

The purpose of the focus groups was to raise and discuss potential funding alternatives for Jewish school tuition and to gauge parents’ willingness to consider these alternatives.

All of the families attending the focus groups want to send their children to day school. Some had children who were about to enter the system. Others had children already in the school system. The parents believed in the day school system, the education that it provided, and the sense of connection to the Jewish community and Israel that day school education engendered. Nevertheless, all of the parents had significant concern about continuing to send their children to day school because of the cost.

At the outset, it was acknowledged that there must be a significant and sustained effort to reduce and control the operational costs of day schools. At the same time it was also acknowledged that even if the costs could be reduced by 20%-30%, cost would still be financially difficult for most parents.

Some alternative funding proposals provided for deferred payments. That would entail parents committing to pay the unpaid balance of tuition fees for their children at a later date rather than paying the full amount while the children attended the school. Other proposals revolved around purchasing insurance payable to the schools to fulfill the payment requirements or arranging for life insurance that would pay the unpaid balance.

The reaction among all three groups was positive. Most of the parents liked the alternative approaches and, if available, would consider using the option most suitable to their respective abilities. The parents were interested to receive more information about one of the scenarios that involved an insurance policy-related component to making tuition payments more affordable.

A recurring theme among the three groups was the conviction, given the wider importance of Jewish education, that it was a community responsibility to keep the fees at a reasonable level, even if that level could not be achieved through cost reductions and efficiency.

Especially heartening was the positive attitude about the day schools expressed by parents whose children were already in the system. One parent in particular, while acknowledging that no school can be perfect in every respect, and lamenting the steep cost of the tuition and fretting for her family’s ability to continue paying the fees essentially made a plea to parents sending their children to non-Jewish private schools. She said they should consider sending their children to Jewish “private” schools. The “bricks and mortar” may not be as impressive as at the non-Jewish schools “but the (overall) education and the possibilities for the students’ future success are second to none.”

The focus groups provided excellent feedback to GAJE’s funding committee’s ideas and suggested further paths to explore for finding payment alternatives for families wishing to send or to maintain their children in day school.

More research is needed to refine and ultimately present alternative tuition payment proposals. GAJE is undertaking that research.

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Shabbat shalom. Chag Urim samayach!

GAJE

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