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Friday, October 24, 2014

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Investing in our children

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Once again, the issue of day school tuition is in the news. Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto has announced plans for grants of up to $5,000 per child who commit to at least three years at Leo Baeck. Most appropriately, they have defined a middle class income for parents with three children at $350,000, which recognizes the fact that one must be very rich to afford a Jewish day school education.

When one considers that Statistics Canada recently announced that at $201,000, one joins the top one per cent 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 the $5,000 is nice – and the anonymous donor who is funding this grant for Leo Baeck has set a wonderful example for others to emulate – considering that a Jewish education from preschool to Grade 12 costs more than $225,000 a child (in Toronto – it may be lower elsewhere), it’s really a drop in the bucket. 

I’d like to float another idea in the hope that others will take up the challenge to literally shape the future, in a most positive way, of the Jewish community. Imagine that as a “reward” for sending a child through Grade 8 to a Jewish day school, the community would give that child a free high school education. The advantages of such an approach include the facts that the biggest drop in day school enrolment occurs between grades 8 and 9, high school costs about 60 per cent more than elementary school, and research shows that the impact of four years of Jewish education during the adolescent years is much greater than even the 10 pre-high school years.

Funding such an initiative would cost approximately $40 million a year in Toronto. That sounds like a lot, but it’s a fraction of the money raised for charity in the Jewish community in the city every year. Between federation support and fundraising initiatives already being undertaken by the schools, about $35 million is being raised annually. Doubling the amount raised would take some work, but with effort and some vision, it’s 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 people than most of us realize) to allocate five per cent of their capital as a one-time investment in our children.

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, with even only one child in high school, a family would save $30,000. Each additional child would bring about a full $100,000 in savings, so that a family with four children would save $330,000. While substantial, this should be the first step in a plan to eventually give Jewish children (and parents) what children around the world are entitled to: a free education.

Send comments to rabbijay@torahinmotion.org.

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