The telling relationship: lower tuition, higher enrollment

Readers know that GAJE follows day school “affordability” initiatives in other North American communities. One of the initiatives on which we have written from time to time is the Open Door program at San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA). An update of the program appeared last week in Del Mar Times.

Open Door is aimed at attracting more children to the school by “removing cost as a barrier for a world-class private school education.” According to the story in the paper, the program reduces tuition “by at least $10,000 at San Diego Jewish Academy for kindergarten and 9th grade, and maintains that reduction for those students for four years.

“Now more than ever, we are so happy to provide this certainty in uncertain times,” said Zvi Weiss, Head of School at SDJA. “Families who may have felt a private school was out of reach can join SDJA and know what the next four years will look like for them with a high-quality education and meaningful community experiences…”

GAJE followers will immediately recognize the similarity of the Open Door program at SDJA to the revolutionary tuition reduction initiative by CHAT in our own community some three years ago. As a result of the CHAT initiative, enrollment skyrocketed there.

The key conclusion for our purposes from the SDJA experience and more poignantly from the CHAT experience in our own community is that there is a direct inverse correlation between tuition costs and enrollment levels. As tuition is lowered, enrollment rises. It is an indisputably telling relationship.

The story about SDJA in the Del Mar Times is available at: https://www.delmartimes.net/lifestyle/events/story/2020-11-13/san-diego-jewish-academy-continues-tuition-affordability-program-for-2021-2022-academic-year.

•••

In further elaboration to the reference in last week’s update regarding provisions in the most recent Ontario budget pertaining to Jewish day schools, Noah Shack, Vice President, GTA, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) provided the following information:

“The Support for Learners initiative announced in the 2020 Ontario Budget will deliver important financial relief to parents with children enrolled in Jewish day schools. This program builds on the Support for Families grant provided by the provincial government toward the beginning of the pandemic. Combined, these two grants will provide $400 per child or $500 per child with disabilities directly to parents. CIJA advocated for the inclusion of day school families in the initial grant, and lobbied for further payments to address the prolonged challenges facing parents due to COVID-19.

“In addition, CIJA successfully lobbied the federal government to open up the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program to Jewish day schools. This subsidy, which the government has committed to extend through to June 2021, provides significant government relief to Jewish day schools, which public educational institutions cannot access.”

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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The best way to repay Rabbi Sacks is with education

The shock of the news of the passing last week of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks still resonates, still leaves an aching sorrow. His teaching and wisdom will echo through the generations even as his memory will bring countless blessings to those same generations.

It would be morally unthinkable therefore not to republish at least one of Rabbi Sacks’ many stirring statements about education. The following were his remarks in the House of Lords on Friday 7th December 2017, during a debate on the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society.

“My Lords. I am grateful to the most Rev Primate (The Archbishop of Canterbury) for initiating this debate on a subject vital to the future flourishing of our children and grandchildren. My Lords, allow me to speak personally as a Jew. Something about our faith moves me greatly, and goes to the heart of this debate. At the dawn of our people’s history, Moses assembled the Israelites on the brink of the Exodus.

“He didn’t talk about the long walk to freedom. He didn’t speak about the land flowing with milk and honey. Instead, repeatedly, he turned to the far horizon of the future and spoke about the duty of parents to educate their children. He did it again at the end of his life, commanding: “You shall teach these things repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up.”

“Why this obsession with education that has stayed with us from that day to this? Because to defend a country you need an army. But to defend a civilisation you need schools. You need education as the conversation between the generations.

“Whatever the society, the culture or the faith, we need to teach our children, and they theirs, what we aspire to and the ideals we were bequeathed by those who came before us. We need to teach our children the story of which we and they are a part, and we need to trust them to go further than we did, when they come to write their own chapter.

“We make a grave mistake if we think of education only in terms of knowledge and skills – what the American writer David Brooks calls the resume virtues as opposed to the eulogy virtues.
And this is not woolly idealism. It’s hard-headed pragmatism. Never has the world changed so fast, and it’s getting faster each year. We have no idea what patterns of employment will look like in 2, let alone 20 years from now, what skills will be valued, and which done instead by artificially intelligent, preternaturally polite robots.

“We need to give our children an internalised moral Satellite Navigation System so that they can find their way across the undiscovered country called the future. We need to give them the strongest possible sense of collective responsibility for the common good, because we don’t know who will be the winners and losers in the lottery of the global economy and we need to ensure its blessings are shared. There is too much “I” and too little “We” in our culture and we need to teach our children to care for others, especially those not like us.

“We work for all these things in our Jewish schools. We give our children confidence in who they are, so that they can handle change without fear and keep learning through a lifetime. We teach them not just to be proud Jews, but proud to be English, British, defenders of democratic freedom and active citizens helping those in need.

“Schools are about more than what we know and what we can do. They are about who we are and what we must do to help others become what they might be. The world our children will inherit tomorrow is born in the schools we build today.”

•••

Paul Bernstein, CEO, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, wrote a poignant acknowledgment of Rabbi Sack’s dedication to Jewish education. It was published by ejewishPhilanthropy.

These words are from Bernstein’s article:

“What is the greatest honor that we can possibly confer on anyone in the Jewish community? The greatest Jew we ever had was Moses. We called him Moshe Rabbenu, Moses our teacher. For us, teachers are the most important people there are.”

“Rabbi Sacks believed not only in the need for great educators – he spoke passionately about the need to support schools with resources as well. He told me, “The people who build and support Jewish day schools – they are the heroes of the Jewish world, because they are the builders of the Jewish future. … The very success of the Jewish people and surviving and thriving through all circumstances, some good, and some not so good, was due to the fact that we put education as the first of our [communal] priorities… The Mesopotamians built ziggurats. The Egyptians built pyramids. The Greeks built the Parthenon. The Romans built the Colosseum. Jews built schools. That’s why we’re still here, still strong, and still young while all those super powers in their day have been consigned to history.”

•••

The best, most everlasting way we can repay Rabbi Sacks for all the goodness and inspiration he imparted to us is by ensuring the everlasting permanence of Jewish education.

•••

In last week’s update we urged readers to pay close attention to the contents of Ontario’s 2020 budget in relation to remediating the structural unfairness in educational funding for the children attending independent schools.

The province did announce once again pandemic payments to Ontario families of $200 per child aged 12 and under and up to $250 for children who have special needs and are 21 years old or younger. The payments are intended to help parents cover costs like workbooks, school supplies, and technology. Education funding for this year will be $31 billion including COVID-19-related funding.

The question of funding fairness, however, is still unanswered.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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Seeking Budgetary inclusion and fairness

These words were written before the Government of Ontario delivered its Budget for 2020.

It is beyond dispute that planning for and budgeting governmental expenditures during an unsubdued, cruel pandemic is unenviably challenging. And there is no denying that fiscal allowances for the havoc being wrought by Covid-19 requires courageously authorized, disciplined deficit budgeting aimed at saving the lives, livelihoods and dignity of Ontarians. We can only hope that Premier Ford and Finance Minister Rod Phillips produce a plan imbued with wisdom, compassion and principle.

But we emphasize, as we did in last week’s update, even severe fiscal challenges do not justify turning a blind eye to blatant unfairness and injustice. Ontario’s educational funding stands on a pillar of unfairness towards families in independent schools. The unfairness is manifest even in depriving funding from the Ministry of Education for students with special needs in independent schools.

As we also pointed out last week, the Province has thus far refused to disburse to independent schools the funds – about $350 per student – that were allocated to the province by the federal government based upon a head count of all Ontario’s children between ages 4 – 18. Reliable, communal organizations could help the government distribute these funds to the independent schools on behalf of their respective students if the government wished the independent schools to receive the funds intended for their students.

Last year the budget of the Ministry of Education was more than $31 billion. The 130,000 plus students attending independent schools receive no funding from that budget. How is that fair? It is not.

Let us pay close attention to the release of Ontario’s new budget to see if the unfairness is remedied. If it is not, please let your Member of Parliament know that your conscience is outraged. His or hers should be too.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom. GAJE

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Covid-19 shines clear light on Ontario’s unfair educational funding

Time and again, GAJE, has pointed out that apart from the Atlantic provinces, all of the other provinces contribute funds to the operating budgets of independent schools. Ontario, the largest by population and, one can still say, the wealthiest province, is the outlier. Our provincial government does not contribute any funds to the operational costs of independent schools. Ontario’s educational funding policies are anachronistic. Worse, they perpetuate unfairness and injustice that can no longer be justified in the year 2020.

The unforeseen, horrible intrusion into our lives of Covid-19 shines a clear, high-intensity beam onto that ongoing funding injustice.

We understand that the government of Ontario – along with all governments in Canada, indeed throughout the caring, humane and compassionate world – have been forced to take unprecedented health, economic, and social measures to cope with and ultimately vanquish the pandemic. We understand that along with the unrelenting strain on individuals and the unceasing pressure on our society there has been a concomitant strain and pressure on governmental expenditures and budgeting. But the need to allocate funds on an emergency basis does not absolve the government from doing so fairly, justly, equitably. And yet that has been Ontario’s approach.

Need we state the obvious? Covid-19 is a public health crisis. The health hazards from the virus threaten and menace children in all of Ontario’s schools, not only those in the public schools. Ontario’s emergency educationally-oriented Covid funds should be allocated to protect and better secure all children in all Ontario schools. But they are not.

Adding to the unjustifiability of Ontario’s utter refusal to abate the Covid health stresses for independent schools, is the fact that the Province is also refusing to disburse to the independent schools, funds that were given to the province by the federal government based upon a head count of all Ontario’s children between ages 4 – 18. (Our emphasis)

Edvance Christian Schools Association, an Ontario-based association whose mission is to foster excellence in Christian elementary and secondary schools, has noticed the unfairness of the government’s funding policy. It too cavils at the injustice. In a compelling document entitled, No Child Unprotected, that will underpin a public education effort on this issue, Edvance notes, that federal funding received by province for distribution for all students is about $350 per student and other provinces are distributing their allocated per-child amount to all students regardless of the type of school.

Some 2,165,132 students were enrolled in Ontario in 2018, among whom were 125,000 children in independent schools. Relative to the entire Education budget, being fair to all Ontario children should not be seen as a fiscal burden. Trustworthy, credible, reliable, communal organizations of long standing are available to help the government deliver the appropriate funds to the independent schools on behalf of their respective students.

The pandemic does not discriminate among children or schools. That Ontario does, is a shame.
We urge individuals to join in Edvance’s cri de Coeur. (For more information about No Child Unprotected check the Edvance website, at https://www.edvance.ca.) And we urge individuals to contact their Members of the Provincial Parliament to seek Covid protection funds for children in independent schools too.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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LIFE & LEGACY additional step to educational affordability

The disruption and distress of Covid-19 still punish populations around the world, including ours. But Covid-19 also provided the opportunity for the community’s day schools to demonstrate their excellence and respective capabilities to turn quickly and effectively on disaster’s dime and to innovate meaningful learning.

Many parents noticed.

Enrollment increased this year for the first time in almost two decades. Tuitions, however, are still onerous despite the various emergency efforts of the community to abate the cost of sending children to day school.

UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and The Julia & Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education are developing permanent, long term strategies to make tuitions affordable for the large swath of families wilting under the burdens of high tuition or unable yet to take the first financial step of registering their children in a school.

Thus, it was noteworthy that the Federation two weeks ago announced it was adding yet another arrow to its quiver of ensuring perpetual educational affordability. Specifically, the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto is partnering with the celebrated, Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation to acquire expertise and practical know-how to implement the latter’s LIFE & LEGACY® initiative.

LIFE & LEGACY is a four-year program that provides training, support, and monetary incentives to instruct and motivate Jewish organizations to help establish and grow endowment funds specifically through after-lifetime commitments. Fourteen UJA-affiliated Toronto Jewish day schools are participating in the program. Indeed, they have already started.

Thankfully, happily, community’s stewards and planners constantly acknowledge and affirm the irreplaceability of Jewish schools for Jewish permanence and diversity. In announcing the launch of the LIFE & LEGACY initiative, Ronit Holtzman, Senior VP, Philanthropy & Planned Giving and Endowments at The Jewish Foundation said “ensuring our day schools have the financial security to continue as pillars of our community is critical to the passing on of Jewish values to the next generation.”

Daniel Held, the Koschitzky Centre’s executive director said: “For a hundred years, day schools have shaped the Toronto Jewish community into what it is today—one of the world’s strongest communities characterized by high affiliation, strong engagement and a deep connection to Israel. Our day schools’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic proved their value once again. However, it also reinforced their financial vulnerability. Now is the time to ensure these important institutions are around for another 100 years.” (Our emphasis)

By joining forces through the LIFE & LEGACY initiative, the 14-UJA affiliated schools and the Jewish Foundation of Toronto are trying to ensure the long-term affordability and sustainability of Toronto’s day school community.

GAJE commends the initiative. All arrows in the community’s education affordability funding are welcome.

For more information about LIFE & LEGACY, individuals can contact Chani Greenwald at cgreenwald@ujafed.org.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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A first step in overhauling the system

Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by Paul W. Bennett, the director of Schoolhouse Institute, entitled Canada’s Bureaucratic School System Needs a Top-To-Bottom Overhaul. This mini-essay was adapted from Bennett’s book The State of the System: A Reality Check on Canada’s Schools.

As the title of his op-ed makes plain, Bennett emphatically urged a revamping of the public-school system. The Covid pandemic, he wrote, revealed that “(T)he centralized and over-bureaucratic school system proved to be vulnerable and ill-equipped to respond to the massive pandemic disruption.”

Bennett chronicled some of the ways in which public schools failed their populations of students, families and teachers. He referred to the distance learning in the Toronto District School Board and elsewhere as “mostly an educational disaster. When it was over, at least one-quarter of all students went missing and were unaccounted for in Canadian public education.”

“Sizeable numbers of students and parents”, Bennett observed “are opting out of in-person schools and choosing online learning or gravitating to alternative school options, including home education “learning pods.”

He lamented the overall state of the country’s schools. They “have lost their way and become largely unresponsive to the public they still claim to serve… Today’s pandemic education crisis has alerted us to the need for systemic change. Saving the system may require reinventing it from the schools up. For all that to happen, the walls must come down, and those closest to students must be given more responsibility for learning and the quality of public education.”

Very noticeably, Bennett did not point to the overwhelmingly positive response by independent schools to the massive Covid disruption. This may have simply been an oversight. However, what is widely known and has been commented upon by objective “outside” observers, was that the independent schools in the Jewish community, for example, quickly, substantively and successfully pivoted to provide meaningful educational experiences to their student, family and teacher populations.

If the public-school system is to be reformed, as Bennett wishes, such reform should include the public funding of at least part of the general studies curriculum of Ontario’s independent schools. (Indeed, the six next largest provinces of Canada already do so.)

This should be the natural first step. It would broaden the scope of Ontario’s public school system and make it truly more accessible to all Ontarians by making it, as Bennett advocates, more responsive to the public they serve. And of course, it would help remedy the decades-old injustice and unfairness on which the funding of Ontario’s public-school system is based.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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Online learning possibility for teens

In the past we have informed readers of the existence of ADRABA, an online Jewish learning experience for teens using cutting edge technology and best practices in education. Last week ADRABA announced that its Autumn program begins on October 19 by offering three online courses to teens across Ontario.

In keeping with GAJE’s mission to encourage and facilitate as many children as possible in having Jewish education, we bring the news from ADRABA to the attention of our readers.

The brainchild of three Jewish educators and curriculum, ADRABA is based on the belief that learning is “best enhanced when tech is judiciously – not perpetually.” ADRABA and its experience in online education pre-date the unwelcome arrival of Covid-19.

The online courses offered this fall are:

  • Comparative Religion / Jewish History explores the birth and evolution of the three monotheistic religions.
  • Chosen Food cooks up a healthy portion of Jewish history and culture through the flavours of our diverse cuisines.
  • Philosophy prepares learners to join a millennia-old conversation about the biggest questions that face us as humans.

Each course meets twice a week – Mondays and Wednesdays – for one hour for synchronous online learning via ZOOM and is designed to create opportunities for learners to increase their Jewish literacy and engagement with our tradition and values. Through the use of technology, ADRABA aims to personalize learning goals to meet learner needs.

ADRABA is a recognized private school by the Ontario Ministry of Education and awaits inspection to secure its accreditation. We are also a CRA registered not-for-profit institution.

The fee for each course is $613. Tax-receipts will be provided.

For more information, visit the website at adraba.ca or send a note to info@adraba.ca.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom. Chag Samayach.

GAJE

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Pandemic points to turning point

Two weeks ago, we directed attention to the “remarkable achievement”, that despite — and in some way, on account of — the Covid pandemic, enrollment in our day schools had actually increased for the first time in 17 years.

Adam Minsky, the President & CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, reflected upon this increase in enrolment in a short essay published this week by eJewish Philanthropy.

“Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly realized that (the financial hardship of middle class families sending their children to day school) would only accelerate this year due to the financial crisis. Here in Canada, nearly half of all households were impacted by job loss or reduced working hours – and the Jewish community was no exception. Without a rapid intervention, many would end up being permanently disconnected from day school and other key Jewish experiences.

“…The pandemic forced us to temporarily shift our focus from a long-term, systemic challenge in day school affordability to a short-term, situational crisis. While an endowment was right in the first instance, an emergency infusion of tuition assistance funds was now needed. Without rapid tuition relief, many who would leave day school due to the economic crisis would be unlikely to re-enrol in the future, even when restored to financial stability…

“This year, more than 350 students who previously paid full tuition are receiving emergency tuition assistance or interest-free loans, offered through a simplified application for families hit financially by the pandemic. Additionally, hundreds of students who previously received tuition assistance have qualified for an even greater subsidy this year, again due to the financial fallout of COVID-19.

“As a result, an entire cohort of students who were at risk of leaving the day school system have been able to remain enrolled. Retaining these students is not only invaluable in strengthening their individual Jewish journeys. It also helps ensure the stability and continued vibrancy of our day schools.

“…No less important, we will redouble our efforts to provide a long-term solution to day school affordability, so that the progress we have made this year marks a turning point, not a one-time initiative.”

The significance of the community’s emergency initiative and of Minsky’s explanation cannot be overstated. It is practical, dramatic evidence of the actual full-bodied embrace of the priorities that were always the supportive backbone ensuring the strength and permanent viability of our unique, diverse, Jewishly literate, caring community.

As Minsky points out, the response to the experience also shows us a path to help sustain the Jewish future.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom. Chag Succot Samayach.

GAJE

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Experts observe

As planning for the start of the school year yielded to performing, many educators offered their reflections and insights about the lessons learned over the past six months of pandemic-related “revolution”.

Seven acknowledged experts in the fields of Early Childhood Education, Part-Time Jewish Education, Day Schools, Jewish Camp, Teen Engagement and Education, and College Engagement and Education, published a synopsis article last week on the eJewishPhilanthropy website entitled “What’s Going on in Jewish Education? Answers from Leaders in the Field.”
The article is worthy of our attention due to the collective expertise it gathers in one place.

We shall reproduce but a few of the authors’ conclusions. All of the educational fields discussed in the article are vital in and of themselves as well as for how they fit together to form an integrated, inter-dependent communal system matching families and children to appropriate learning format, where the diversity of approaches adds strength and where all parts understand that the sum is the surety for the individual.

From the three overarching themes identified by the authors, we note:
The last six months have affirmed that Jewish learning can play an important, even vital, role in people’s lives. Demand for Torah study and other educational offerings shows that people want these opportunities especially at difficult times in life. Some look to Jewish learning for deeply personal reasons. Others look at these learning experiences as ways to create or strengthen a support network of peers. Whatever the reason, Jewish education is part of many people’s lives right now.”

From observations about day school education:
Perhaps the most poignant lesson to emerge is the fundamental understanding of the role teachers play in creating a vibrant community. We all know that our educators do much more than teach a subject – they build connections with our children to Judaism, to learning, and to their community. Faculty, true front-line heroes, have become role models of resilience, flexibility, and hope.”

From observations about college students:
Young Jews are clamoring for meaning, friendship, and community. They will hungrily participate in the study of Torah if invited through a warm, giving relationship. Even as our classroom shifts, from the quad to the Zoom room, the demand for Jewish learning endures.”

There is much in these observations for us to consider and take to heart and on which to continue building the infrastructure – education – that is the best guarantor, in perpetuity, of the future of the Jewish people. It falls to us to help ensure that all families can afford to find their place in that infrastructure.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom. Gmar chatimah tovah.

GAJE

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Well done

The self-reflection and the purposeful soul-searching that are the individual, private gateways to Rosh Hashanah compel us to dedicate this last missive of 5780 to the diverse, caring, giving Jewish community of the GTA. We do so in keeping with the always-important value of hakarat hatov, i.e., acknowledging the good that others do for us.

Covid-19 has indiscriminately and relentlessly swung a scythe of harm, sorrow and anxiety throughout the world. After absorbing its initial shock, our community assessed, planned, resolved and responded. Not perfectly of course, but successfully, with constantly refining adjustments, driven by the belief that we cannot retreat from finding the answer.

We will direct our comments to matters of education – the core of our mission – though praise should be cast in a far wider net.

It is a remarkable achievement for the community that for the first time in 17 years, enrollment in our day schools increased. Enrollment is 2.5% higher today than this time one year ago. There are two reasons for the increase:

  • More parents noticed the excellence of the day schools. As the pandemic debilitated public school, the day schools quickly pivoted, innovated, adapted and guided their students through the Covid-caused disruptions. The remarkable performance of the schools was even noticed by the general media. Some parents decided to move their children from the public to Jewish day school.
  • The decisions of the Federation and the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education to focus on the immediate needs of families whose sources of income were impaired if not ravaged by Covid. The Federation/Centre introduced two new financial programs – emergency scholarships and interest free loans – that attempted to abate somewhat the widespread financial hardship on young families especially and make tuitions more affordable.

The increase in enrollment is a tribute to parents, schools and the Federation/Centre leadership. We would be horribly remiss were we not to acknowledge their collective fine effort. We urge more families to consider enrolling their children in the school system next year and in years to come. This system sparkles with excellence, devotion to its children and as Covid-19 proved, the ability to respond quickly to unforeseen dire pressures.

Well done.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom. Shana tovah techatevu vetechatemu.

GAJE

Posted in Uncategorized
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Parents Tell Their Stories

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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