TORONTO — Addressing the daunting cost of Jewish day school tuition is one of the priorities of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Centre for Jewish Education, Ed Segalowitz, the centre’s executive director told The CJN last week.
“There really isn’t an option,” he said. “There have to be strong day schools.”
On May 28, the centre organized a “tuition summit” for lay and professional leaders of Jewish day schools to hear day school experts from Yeshiva University, the Avi Chai Foundation, and Measuring Success, an American consulting firm, discuss various strategies to address affordability issues.
“School tuition is a big issue, and we know it really hurts families, and people struggle,” Segalowitz said. Tuition at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, for example, was $22,650 for the 2012-2013 year.
Possible solutions that were discussed at the meeting ranged from “trying to contain the costs by looking at different ways of doing business, to ways to expand enrolment, which has an ability to help the school become stronger,” Segalowitz said.
As well, he added that the centre is looking at a program to encourage families to consider day school options.
In the GTA, there are about 8,800 students in day schools funded by the federation, and another 2,000-plus in non-funded schools. The percentage of school-age children attending day schools is about 30 per cent, the same as it’s been for the past five years, Segalowitz said.
Toronto’s federation contributes approximately 10 per cent of operational costs to its affiliated Jewish schools – about double the amount that most federations put in, he pointed out.
The centre has an annual budget of $12 million, $10 million of which is allocated for tuition assistance. The rest is split evenly between programming, and administration and program services, Segalowitz said.
After the centre’s predecessor, the Mercaz, was downsized in 2009, the centre stopped organizing professional development days, instead providing grants to individual schools for professional development.
The centre still runs its annual Rikudiah (dance festival), Zimriah (song festival), creative writing competitions and Bible contest. As well, it does joint marketing with its schools, and supports the young emissary (shinshinim) program in the schools, Segalowitz said.
With respect to day school tuition, he added, “We’re doing a lot, but it’s not enough… We’re hoping we’ll have something in place for the 2014-2015 budget year.”
He said he sees Jewish schools as “a fundamental part of what keeps this community strong… Schools are a big part of our future. We know how important it is that formal Jewish education, day school education particularly, plays in turning out the future leaders of the community.”
Among other areas the centre is focusing on is an initiative aimed at doubling the number of students enrolled in supplementary Jewish education, through its recently introduced “WOW!” program to fund innovative programs. It is also working on a study to see “how community resources can best be utilized to help children with special needs,” Segalowitz said.
The centre recently adopted a policy that schools must become accredited to be affiliated with the centre. The centre itself will not be providing the accreditation. “There will be more details over the coming months.”
Segalowitz predicts that there will be increased crossover between informal education (provided by Jewish summer camps and programs like Birthright, for example) and formal education, a trend which has already become apparent.
He expects the lines will become “even more fuzzy.
“It’s really about having good education,” he stressed.