Why should Ontario be the only jurisdiction not to act fairly?

Ever since 1996, the Government of Ontario has used the Supreme Court of Canada decision (Adler v. Ontario) as a pillar to prop up its unfair, discriminatory educational funding policy and to hide behind, away from the moral spotlight.

Some 21 years after the Supreme Court’s decision, it is time for the public to attempt to legally dismantle that pillar, to remove the government’s prop and to force it to stand openly in the remediating light of moral clarity.

Some people correctly ask: what has changed in the intervening 21 years that might yield a different result to the legal question posed to the court in 1996?

The answer is: a great deal. The social climate of the country on the issues underpinning the Adler case – and in Ontario too – has shifted since 1996.

We point out the following recent developments. There are undoubtedly many more of which we are unaware.

a. Quebec has overhauled its educational system by unifying its curriculum. Denominational approaches to teaching the curriculum must conform to provincial standards. The reciprocal denominational teaching arrangements of the two founding cultures (Catholic and Protestant) that were enshrined in the 1867 nation-building document, The British North America Act, are being revised and supplanted.

b. The government of Saskatchewan this year invoked the rarely used “Notwithstanding” clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that its province-wide education policies would be inclusive and not necessarily bound to the strict interpretations imposed by the 1867 agreement.

c. An Ontario grassroots coalition – One Public Education Now (OPEN) – has announced that it will legally challenge Ontario’s separate school funding policy.

d. Individuals, expert in the educational field, are starting to speak out against Ontario’s approach to funding education. For example, – as we noted in an update some weeks ago – Charles Pascal, professor at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and a former deputy minister of education who advised former premier Dalton McGuinty on educational matters said separate school funding was “an anachronism.” Despite being enshrined during Confederation, Pascal said it no longer has merit in a multicultural province. A legal challenge, Pascal speculated, will “change the landscape” sufficiently to prod the politicians.

e. Individuals, expert in economic policy, are also starting to speak out against Ontario’s educational funding. As we noted in last week’s update, Ben Eisen, director of the Fraser Institute’s Ontario Prosperity Initiative, advocated that Ontario adopt a more inclusive and not exclusivist funding policy.

“Adopting the B.C. model -[where the province pays a portion of the general studies curriculum of private, independent schools] – would accomplish two important things,” Eisen wrote: “First, it would ease the financial burden on existing independent school families who now pay the full cost of their children’s tuition, plus taxes, to support government schools. Second, it would bring independent education and greater educational choice within the financial reach of more families.”

f. And of course, some two years ago, Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education was formed to bring the subject of affordability back onto the community’s agenda for discussion and debate and to help actually find answers to the affordability problem.

Helping “change the landscape”, as Charles Pascal suggests, to establish once and for all that the continued discrimination by Ontario in its educational funding is utterly unacceptable, is also part of the way GAJE sees making Jewish education affordable.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

Posted in Uncategorized

Ontario is out of step

GAJE noted last month in a weekly update that public disaffection appears to be increasing over Ontario’s unfair educational funding policies. Our observation was in response to a story in The Toronto Star that a grassroots coalition plans to challenge in court Ontario’s discriminatory separate school funding in Ontario.

A commentary last month in The Toronto Sun by Ben Eisen, director of the Fraser Institute’s Ontario Prosperity Initiative, co-authored with Angela Macleod, a Fraser Institute policy analyst, confirms our observation: public disaffection over Ontario’s unfair educational funding policies seems to be increasing.

Under the headline “Don’t axe funding for Catholic schools – start funding other types of independent schools”, Eisen refers to Ontario’s educational funding policy that “provides full funding for Catholic education and nothing for schools with other religious orientations or other types of independent schools” as an “anachronism”. In describing the policy thus, Eisen is being quite generous to the government of Ontario. The truer, more accurate word is “discriminatory.”

Eisen makes the case that by adopting funding models that already exist in other parts of the country, Ontario would actually save money on its annual educational expenditures and likely enhance overall educational performance in the province.

“Adopting the B.C. model would accomplish two important things,” Eisen writes: “First, it would ease the financial burden on existing independent school families who pay the full cost of their children’s tuition, plus taxes, to support government schools. Second, it would bring independent education and greater educational choice within the financial reach of more families.

“What’s more, contrary to claims that this type of policy “robs” the government-run school system of funding, it can actually save taxpayers money. A 2014 study found that the B.C. model would save Ontario between $849 million and nearly $1.9 billion annually as more families opt for partially-funded schools – not the fully-funded public system.”

Ontario is out of step educationally with the rest of the country. Worse. It is out of step morally with a great many Ontarians.

We urge everyone who feels aggrieved by Ontario’s continuing funding discrimination to demand of the provincial government that it finally bring its policies in line with the rest of the country, in line moreover, with fairness and good conscience.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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New ideas to solve an urgent problem

Rabbi Jay Kelman, one of the core GAJE founders and one of the early proponents of applying insurance instruments to help reimagine the funding of Jewish education in our community, has offered a new set of innovative ideas to Jewish day schools as a way of making the education they offer more affordable.

In an article that appeared this week in The CJN, he urges the schools “to think out of the box” by following upon the precedent-setting model last month of a co-ordinated, single-day, fundraising campaign among nine schools. “This joint effort got me thinking of other ways the schools could join together, not only to raise much-needed revenues, but to cut costs, as well,” Kelman wrote.

Kelman suggested that this diverse set of schools centralize other key aspects of their administrative practices such as fundraising and tuition. Such centralization, Kelman states quite categorically would also yield further administrative efficiencies and a reduction in costs in some areas.

In addition to the substantive benefit to the schools and to their respective parent/child constituencies, Kelman forcefully points out that new, collective thinking would yield profoundly positive symbolic results.

“Bringing together our diverse community to ensure that Jewish education becomes both affordable and sustainable sends a powerful message about the unity of the Jewish People. The tuition crisis affects Jews of all persuasions and backgrounds, and we should work together to solve it. No doubt, some will balk at such a unified approach and support only the schools that reflect their ideological bent, and such is their prerogative. But only those who join together under one fundraising umbrella would be eligible for assistance from the community.”

Kelman’s ideas are starkly fresh and cry out for wide, collective embrace by the schools of the community. Cornerstone community organizations such as the Federation and the various synagogues should encourage the schools to do so.

“It is time we come together as a community and start thinking outside the box, to help secure our Jewish future,” Kelman concludes. We agree.

And the time is urgent.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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In gratitude to teachers

The end of the school year compels us to say “thank you” to the men and women into whose care – for the near holy purpose of educating and inculcating information, knowledge and values – we entrust our children. Those men and women are not only teachers. They are administrators, custodial staff and volunteers as well.

But in this missive we focus on teachers.

In an article published on eJewishPhilanthropy entitled “Jewish Life Made Me Feel Visible: The Purpose of Our Work Engaging Jewish Youth”, Mark S. Young offers a concise, potent definition of one of the main aims of teaching Judaism.

(I paraphrase his statement.)

Jewish educators, professionals, and leaders do their jobs well, when they enable youth, and adults to love and embrace Judaism and help create the path to becoming “visible”, i.e., “not only for others to see me for what I authentically have to offer but visibility for me to see myself for what I can offer.”

Young describes how Jewish life made him feel visible.

“How does Jewish life accomplish this? I argue that its primarily through harnessing the values we hold so dear. We are all created in the image of a being bigger then ourselves. We are all creatures in service to a world and not looking at the world as in service to us. We are all commanded to supporting each other’s path to self-sufficiency and perhaps also self-actualization. We don’t always bring up these value statements when we play capture the flag or attempt the zip-line on the ropes course or during a late night song-session or climbing Masada or preparing for b’nai mitzvah or confirmation. It’s all there though, and it’s really special.”

Young’s thoughtful meditation is broader than a plea for formal Jewish education. His jumping off point is the Tony Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. Young uses the musical and its central thematic struggle as the literary device weaving his message about the educator’s role in helping bring children to embrace the unique majesty of Jewish life.

It is not by accident that our Sages decreed that the first Kaddish recited by mourners in the daily Shacharit service is dedicated to our teachers and to their students and to their students in turn. In keeping therefore with our tradition, GAJE conveys its deeply felt appreciation to all of the individuals who help to educate our children.

•••

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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Yasher Ko’ach to our schools and to our community!

Yasher Ko’ach to our schools and to our community! By all accounts, this week’s Raise Toronto–Rise up for Jewish Education 24-hour fundraising campaign for GTA Jewish day schools was a huge success.

The campaign raised over $1,900,000, nearly double its goal of $1,000,000, and each of the nine participating schools exceeded its own fundraising target. There were over 2400 separate donations. This campaign, which was initiated by the schools themselves, shows what they, and our community as a whole, can accomplish by working together.

Now we need to follow up. We must ensure that the donated money will be used responsibly, to reduce tuition and to provide tuition assistance to families.

This is what GAJE is asking you to do:

1. Send a message to the school of your choice. Address your email to the chair of the board and the head of school demanding transparency about how the monies are used, and urging that donations be used to reduce tuition fees and increase tuition assistance. For a list of the school contacts, see https://gaje.ca/school-contacts/.

2. Send the same message to Adam Minsky, President and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto (aminsky@ujafed.org). Tell UJA that reducing tuition fees and increasing tuition assistance are the top priorities for our community.

3. Send a copy of your messages to us at GAJE (info@gaje.ca).

Together we must ensure that the legacy of this campaign is another step along the path of making Jewish day school affordable for all families.

Shabbat shalom,

GAJE

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Grassroots Supports Raise Toronto: Rise Up for Jewish Day Schools

Rise up Toronto–Rise up for Jewish Education is the unprecedented combined fundraising effort of 14 Toronto day schools on June 20, 2017. Each school is conducting a telethon to contact donors.

Raise Toronto

For just 24 hours, from 12 PM June 20th to 12 PM June 21st, every donation will be QUADRUPLED by generous donors.

quadrupled

GAJE urges you to donate to the school of your choice on June 20th. When the telethon contacts you, please designate your donation for tuition reduction and tuition assistance to families.

GAJE endorses donating to our schools as a vital part of our goal to help make Jewish day school education affordable for all.

Whichever school you support, please do the following:

1. Write to the school and tell the board and the head of school that reducing tuition fees and increasing tuition assistance are the top priorities for the school. For a list of school contacts, see here.

2. Send the same message to Adam Minsky, President and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto (aminsky@ujafed.org). Tell UJA that reducing tuition fees and increasing tuition assistance are the top priorities for our community.

3. Send a copy of your message to us at GAJE (info@gaje.ca).

The Rise up Toronto campaign is a great opportunity to support our schools and make Jewish education affordable. The dramatic tuition reductions at CHAT and the B’nai Akiva schools show the way forward. Wonderful as they are, they must be expanded to all the schools and many more families.

This is your chance to make an impact on affordability, support your school of choice and deliver a message that reducing tuition fees and increasing tuition assistance are top priorities.

Visit charidy.com/RAISETORONTO on June 20th to rise up! Spread the word!

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Concerns for Jewish continuity in North America

The Jewish People Policy Institute, the forward-looking think tank focused on the Jewish future based in Jerusalem, has released two action-oriented papers dealing with concerns for Jewish continuity in North America. eJewish Philanthropy introduced the articles on its website.

Family, Engagement, and Jewish Continuity among American Jews, was prepared at JPPI by Profs. Sylvia Barack Fishman and Steven M. Cohen. The authors surmise that considerable disturbing evidence points to deeply challenging trends in America’s Jewish families – late marriage, intermarriage, reduced child-bearing and non-Jewish child-rearing. Nevertheless, prominent Jewish thought leaders are sharply divided over the state of the Jewish family and its implications for the Jewish future.

Fishman and Cohen contribute to this policy-related discourse by demonstrating that Jewish social networks (spouse and close friends), Jewish education, Jewish family formation, and Jewish inter-generational continuity mutually reinforce one another. They postulate that Jewish personal relationships nurture more Jewish engagement; and the more Jewishly engaged develop and sustain more Jewish personal relationships. Hence, fewer Jewish relationships mean less engagement and fewer Jews; and less engagement and fewer Jews mean fewer personal relationships among Jews in families or among friends.

The second paper – Learning Jewishness, Jewish Education, and Jewish Identity – was prepared under the lead of Prof. Barack Fishman and Dr. Shlomo Fischer, a JPPI Senior Fellow in cooperation with the Institute’s experts in the field. The paper summarizes the latest quantitative and qualitative research on Jewish identity formation for each point of intervention along the Jewish life cycle: early childhood, elementary and middle school, adolescence, college years, and emerging adulthood. The research findings in the paper are analyzed in light of the theoretical perspectives of social networks and social capital.

Both articles are a trove of insights and more importantly, typical of the JPPI, they also offer policy suggestions for the steps that ought to be taken if we are to achieve our objectives for our children and the future of the Jewish people.

Jewish education is the linchpin throughout the key lifecycle stages of our children’s lives in ensuring Jewish continuity. Its role is ever more crucial, the authors of the studies conclude, given the expanding importance of the complex, reinforcing construct of our children’s social network.

There can be no doubt that we – as a community – must move heaven and earth to enable as many children as possible to receive a Jewish education. For the sake of the children, of course, but equally for the sake of the community that we must ensure will remain thriving, diverse, creative and Jewish for all time to come.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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We would like to share personal stories about how the affordability issue has affected families in our community. We will post these stories anonymously on our Facebook page and on our website.

We will not include any personal information such as names, schools, other institutions, or any other identifying information. We reserve the right to edit all submissions.

To share your story, either send us a message on our Facebook page or email us @ info @ gaje.ca.

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