Day School Tuition Is In the News, with the Canadian Jewish News Reporting on Two Recent Initiatives

By: Rabbi Jay Kelman |

Once again, the issue of day school tuition is in the news. The Leo Baeck Day School (North Campus) has announced plans for grants up to $5,000 per child, if the family commits to at least three years there. Most appropriately, they have defined "middle class" for someone with three children at $350,000--fully cognizant of the fact that one must be very rich to afford a day school education.

When one considers that Statistics Canada recently announced that at $201,000, one joins the top 1% of earners, we begin to realize the scope of the challenge we face if we want to be able to provide affordable day school education. So, while a $5,000 grant is nice--and the anonymous donor who is funding this grant for the Leo Baeck Day School has set a wonderful example for others to emulate--considering a Jewish education from pre-school to grade 12 costs in excess of $225,000 a child, it really is a drop in the bucket.

I would like to float another idea, in the hope that someone (or many someones) will take up the challenge to literally shape the future of the Jewish community in a most positive way. Imagine if, as a “reward” for sending a child through grade 8 to a Jewish day school, the community would provide a free high school education! The advantages of such an approach include the fact that the biggest drop off in day school enrollment occurs between grade 8 and 9, high school costs about 60% more than elementary school, and research demonstrates that the impact of four years of Jewish education during the adolescent years is much greater than even the total of the ten pre-high school years.

Funding such an initiative would cost approximately $40 million a year. While that sounds like a lot, it is but a fraction of the monies raised for charity in the Jewish community in this city on a yearly basis. Between Federation support and fundraising initiatives already undertaken by the schools, about $35 million is raised annually. Doubling the amounts raised will take some work, but with effort and some vision, it is definitely doable.

I call on those who--either personally or through charitable foundations--have net assets in excess of $25 million (and there are many more of these than most people realize) to allocate 5% of their capital as a one-time investment in our children. UJA Federation can set a wonderful example in this regard by being the first to announce it is doing so.

Parents would be asked to help by purchasing $750,000 in life insurance--the proceeds of which would fund the Jewish education of the grandchildren of today's students. With a high school education costing $100,000 or so, and life insurance premiums for a couple in their 40s costing approximately $70,000, even a family with only one child in high school would save $30,000. Each additional child would bring a full $100,000 in savings, so that a family with four children would save $330,000. While substantial, this should be only the first step in a plan to eventually give Jewish children (and parents) what children around the world are entitled to--a free education.