Summer is the time for vacation, especially for students who look forward to such activities as camp, sleep, travel, and plain old fun. School is the furthest thing from their minds. But their parents don’t enjoy a similar luxury. They’re the ones who must pay for these activities, and for those who have children in Jewish day schools, it’s the time tuition must be paid.
I write these words just days before Pesach, the holiday that, more than any other, focuses on children. We are mandated to ensure that every child—the wise and the wicked, the simple and the ignoramus—be given an education, each according to his or her needs and abilities. The authors of the Hagaddah understood that it is the asking of questions that is the springboard to learning and commitment.
Between the time of my writing my last article on making Jewish high school free and its appearance in the paper, I was thrilled to see the announcement that Robbins Hebrew Academy (RHA), UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Avi Chai Foundation have joined together to cap tuition at 15 per cent of gross income for parents with three or more children in the school who are earning between $200,000 and $300,000.
The recently released Pew report on American Jewry has generated anguished discussion on the future of American Jewry. Some of its key findings include an intermarriage rate of 58%, a percentage that rises to 71% if the Orthodox are excluded (in 1970, it was 17%); two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue; and one-third had a Christmas tree last year.
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.
Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney recently called on Canadian corporations to start spending the over 500 billion dollars of cash, “dead money” as he called it, sitting on their balance sheets. “Their job is to put money to work, and if they can’t think of what to do with it they should give it back to their shareholders.”
As summer approaches, day school parents will soon be getting notifications regarding tuition fees for next year. Undoubtedly, fees will—as they do each and every year—rise at two to three times the rate of inflation. This is to be expected as cost-cutting measures that may be employed in other industries can have little impact in a service industry such as education. Unless one wants to replace teachers in the classroom with some form of online learning, cost-cutting measures are just hard to come by.
The ever-increasing costs of Jewish education have been the focus of many articles recently, including at least three in the Canadian Jewish News just this past week. The unaffordable cost for many in our community of attaining a Jewish education is not a new phenomenon. The Talmud (Bava Batra 21a) explains that since the obligation to teach one's children is a parental duty, in the early years of our history "whoever did not have a (learned) father did not learn Torah".