inFocus Quarterly, Winter 2015
Originally published in The Jewish Policy Center
According to the AVI CHAI Foundation’s recently released Jewish Day School Census, the number of students enrolled in Jewish day schools across America is growing at an extraordinary rate. In 2003, 205,035 students across the country attended a Jewish day school. Just 10 years later, that number had climbed to 254,749 and is projected to grow to more than 300,000 by 2018. In fact, national Jewish day school enrollment now exceeds public school enrollment in 11 states, including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and South Dakota, and the District of Columbia. But with this explosive growth also comes several challenges: school administrators must accommodate the rising enrollment while facing mounting costs and parents must pay the ever-increasing cost of Jewish day school tuition. In some states, tuition can be as high as $30,000 per child, while in states with a lower cost of living the cost may be “only” $10,000 or $15,000 per child. Jewish education is not a luxury expense but rather a necessity for parents seeking to provide a Jewish foundation for their child.
As tuition prices for Jewish day schools rise, parents are often forced to choose between providing their children with a Jewish education or keeping their families financially stable. This financial crush has many names within the Jewish community: “tuition crisis,” “tuition crunch,” and “pricing out parents” are just a few. Numerous studies and meetings have been held within the Jewish community to talk about how to stabilize the cost of Jewish education. A solution must be found. The increasing population growth coupled with the mounting cost of tuition is not tenable for the future of Jewish education. Moreover, if Jewish day schools are out of reach for more and more parents, they will enroll their children in public schools — most of which likely lack the capacity for such an influx.
Here is where the rise of school choice can have a significant impact within the Jewish community — as a means for increased government funding that can serve as a financial foundation for Jewish education.