Last month, Dan Held, UJA’s Chief Program Officer, published an article for Prizmah, the North America-wide network for Jewish day schools that supports schools with services such as resources, research, programming, school services and peer-to-peer connections.
In the article, entitled Experiments in Affordability Programs: Major Findings, Held shares with the wide Prizmah constituency, a succinct statement of conclusions about growing Jewish education, especially among non-Orthodox families, through affordability initiatives. His conclusions, of course, are based upon the innovative interventionist measures undertaken in the past half decade by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Held proceeds from the now empirically proven principle that “affordability and enrollment are intrinsically linked.” He offers a tightly written, instructive, important primer on the various inter-related factors to be considered when devising either a system-wide or school specific policy on affordability tailored to the unique characteristics of the community. As equally important as the substantive advice Held imparts in the article, is its upwardly arcing encouragement that affordability is achievable and through affordability, of course, higher enrollment in the day schools.
“Coming out of the pandemic,” Held writes, “enrollment has grown in many schools, philanthropy is flowing, and perceived value is high. Given that affordability initiatives have a greater impact on enrollment when launched from a place of strength rather than a place of challenge, now is the moment to move the needle.” (Our emphasis)
As Held notes elsewhere in his essay, the “needle” of enrollment in the GTA has indeed moved in the right direction in the past few years as a result of the community’s creative affordability initiatives. Philanthropists have generously responded. Policy planners have implemented new, bold programs. Everyone applauds this current success. But everyone also agrees we cannot be complacent about it. Current success is no guarantor of future success. Like all durable, sound, reliable infrastructure, permanent long-term affordability of day school tuition requires ongoing maintenance.
With unceasing, alarming rises in the overall cost of living, let alone the cost of “Jewish” living, we therefore cannot ignore the “large elephant in the room of day school affordability” that should be factored into ensuring the long-term maintenance of the infrastructure of day school.
Contrary to all reliable evidence about how best to advance the provincial educational system, and unlike the policies of the next five most populous provinces in the country, Ontario gives nothing toward the cost of running independent schools. Worse. Ontario’s educational funding supports and prefers one religion to the exclusion of the others.
We understand and appreciate the unabating financial and other pressures on the government in budgeting for the efficient, forward-looking, responsible, fair running of the province. But we shall not acquiesce in or remain silent about Ontario’s perplexing disdain for doing the right educational thing. Conscience compels action.
Dan Held’s article can be found at:
If you wish to contribute to GAJE’s lawsuit for fairness in educational funding, please click here.
For further information, please contact Israel Mida at: firstname.lastname@example.orgCharitable receipts for donations for income tax purposes will be issued by Mizrachi Canada. Your donations will be used for the sole purpose of underwriting the costs of the lawsuit.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
December 9, 2022