“The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to.” Marian Wright Edelman
So many factors play into parents’ decision about whether a day school is affordable. For some, the first step is committing to making their children’s Jewish education a top priority, while for others, it may be a matter of becoming aware of the school and opening their minds to learning about it. Some parents may visit the school, fall in love with it, and consider if and how they can afford it; others might be reluctant to cross the threshold entirely and deal with the financial issues. Our schools all have families who can easily afford tuition, families who simply cannot, and everything in between. Just as each person’s Jewish journey is unique, so too is each family’s road to a school and its reckoning with matters of affordability.
Articles in this issue weigh the theme from various perspectives. Some focus on the psychological aspects, such as the thought processes of reluctant parents and ways of lowering the burden of applying for assistance. Others present a range of approaches that individual schools and community agencies (federations and foundations) have taken. One prominent subject is the range of tuition models that are being test-driven throughout the field. A few authors focus on new initiatives for teachers and Jewish community professionals, each with a different emphasis or program component.
Another part of the issue explores this theme from the perspective of teachers and what is commonly referred to as the “teacher pipeline crisis.” The starting question is, Is the profession of a Jewish educator affordable today? Do their salaries enable teachers to live in the neighborhoods where they teach—to afford a house and one or two cars, to raise children and save for retirement? And how pressing are these financial issues in deterring young people from entering the profession? The articles here do not address all of these matters but raise them and encourage others to delve into the research desperately needed in this area.
In the first section, authors describe initiatives from the vantage point of the field overall or within a particular community. Adler & Perla present Prizmah’s vision and work on tuition modeling, as well as our ambitions for expansion. Held offers lessons learned from years of working on school implementation of affordability models in Toronto. Rivkin describes a Seattle-based community foundation’s process of developing and rolling out a new, ambitious middle-income program. Kahn surveys federation-run and individual school initiatives in New York. In Greater MetroWest, New Jersey, Hindin advances the impact of small-scale affordability programs, and Mitzner updates the field on the range of government funding opportunities, which can lower tuition for families and across the school.
Articles in the second section explore matters of affordability from the perspective of school leaders. Siegel unpacks the psychological thought processes and nuances that she witnesses as an admissions professional. Lauchheimer, a board chair, shares a new system created to lessen the tensions and resentment that the invasive nature of tuition applications can breed. LeVine, a head of school, provides a road map for schools seeking to create a tuition plan. Rothblum offers the rationale, accomplishments and challenges of a new program for Jewish communal professionals. Lee-Zucker & Chandally’s essay on the lessons of biomimicry examines the notion of affordability in an entirely new light.
In this issue’s school spread, authors answer the question, “In what lies your school’s greater value?” The last section delves into the question of the affordability of the teaching profession and efforts schools are taking to support teachers. Lauer gives a cri de coeur from her perspective running a leading training program for Judaics educators. Brown sifts the language that teachers use to speak of their profession with students. Epstein describes an in-service program that aims to help teachers acquire training and credentials to advance their positions and salaries. The next two articles portray approaches to teacher tuition support: Shulkind & Breskal, a school with a full rebate for all employees; Abrams, a foundation-funded grant for communal professionals. Halzel’s school has created an endowment to help raise teacher salaries. And Grauer regards the growing deficit not just in income but in communal kavod.
Returning to the initial quotation from Marian Wright Edelman, the great advocate on behalf of children’s rights and education, this issue asks what we can afford to do, and what we can’t afford not to do, in making Jewish schooling accessible and affordable for every Jewish family that wants it.
This issue heralds a new stage of HaYidion. Decades ago, the publication started as a newsletter (as the Hebrew name suggests). With the growth of staffing, HaYidion became a magazine with a professional look and feel. A few years back, we chose to enter the digital age and cut back on printing, while still focusing on a designed publication with an online reader. With this issue, HaYidion has abandoned the faux-paper look for an enhanced website, with greater options for photos, multimedia and visual pizzazz. Readers still have the option of printing each article or the issue as a whole—look for the printer icon at the top of each page. You’ll also find the author’s name linked to a page with the author’s picture, identification and writings on our website. Reactions or suggestions? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.