An article written by Shawn Evenhaim, a successful businessman, philanthropist and Jewish school activist in California, entitled “Tuition Revolution”, appeared last week on the eJewish Philanthropy website (http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/jewish-day-schools-its-time-for-a-tuition-revolution/).
Evenhaim issues a clarion call to the Jews of North America. “We need to revolutionize the way our Jewish Day schools operate. Now is the time to make the changes necessary to ensure that these schools are accessible…”
The tone of the article is urgent. The substance is compelling.
According to Evenhaim, the necessary changes are twofold: reduce tuition and ensure excellence in education. The tuition reduction at the school, of which he is a director, begins in the 2017-18 school year: up to 11 percent for preschool families and some 43 percent for elementary and middle school families. It should be noted that even after these substantial reductions, the fees at his school are in line with current preschool and elementary/middle school tuitions in the GTA. But the significance of the measure for our purposes is in its drastic departure from past practice, not in the final amount of the tuition. For, the tuition will likely be further reduced in years to come.
“This major reduction will make Jewish Education accessible to many in our community and will eliminate the complicated, time-consuming and sometimes uncomfortable process of applying for financial aid,” Evenhaim wrote.” “As we bring down tuition, we will increase enrollment, and lower our cost-per-pupil.” Thus far, the numbers have proven him to be correct for enrollment has already climbed by 200 percent since the initiative was introduced.
“The bottom line is simple: to make Jewish education an attractive option for more families, it must be both excellent and affordable – one cannot be sacrificed for the other.”
A week before Evenhaim’s article, our community experienced a tuition revolution of its own: CHAT reduced its tuition for 2017-18 by one third, from $28,000 to $18,500.
We view this as only the beginning. It is up to our community to ensure that the revolution continues with deeper, across-the-board cuts in tuition throughout the Jewish educational system.
The first step is to have as many families as possible enroll or re-enroll their children in CHAT. The higher the enrollment at CHAT next year, the more persuasive will be the empirical proof that affordability (and excellence) are the key factors for school enrollment. With a demonstrated higher enrollment, the greater the likelihood that funds will increasingly pour into the system to bring down further the tuition charges at the respective schools.
Of course there is no denying that even $18,500 is itself a mammoth figure for most families to pay as are the current tuitions in the elementary and middle schools. Nor is there any denying that for many of the CHAT north students suddenly displaced from their school, the extra daily commute will be a hardship. We urge and we hope the CHAT administration will help the affected families find a way to surmount the hardship.
As a community we must determine that this massive tuition cut in CHAT tuition is but the beginning of the revolution, not its end.
Thus, again, we urge families to enroll their children in CHAT.
Evenhaim wrote: “For too long, we have been talking about the crisis facing Jewish education. We need to face difficult truths and embrace the need for radical change. The time for action is now.”
Two things are certain.
1. We must not point fingers at anyone for imperfect decisions made in good faith that bore a heavy cost. We must, rather, extend a hand to find the more perfect solutions together.
2. And, we must continue the tuition revolution.
The annual Limmud Toronto conference takes place this weekend, March 19, at St. Andrews Club & Conference Centre in downtown Toronto. The program includes a number of key sessions that relate to the subject of Jewish education including:
• Jewish Education: Do We Want it? Can We Afford It? – Jeffrey Stutz
• A Viable Alternative to the Financial Crisis in Jewish Education – Sholom Eisenstat
We encourage you to attend the conference. To register, visit limmud.ca.