Resolving The Day School Crisis: It Takes A Mishpocha

August 18, 2009

Source: The Jewish Week

Responding to families drowning in day school tuition bills, UJA-Federation of New York has proposed a bold plan to raise $300 million in endowments to expand scholarships. The author suggests that in order to succeed, the funding model for day schools must be substantially restructured. Day schools must adopt the funding strategies of US' most successful secular private independent schools and faith-based schools.


By and large, Jewish day schools are far behind their private independent school counterparts in adapting this model. With some notable exceptions, the vast majority of Jewish day schools have not developed long-term, strategic fundraising and fiscal management.


Day schools must adopt the private school leadership and fundraising model. This will take coordinated leadership among the federation and major philanthropic organizations, vision, commitment, and major investment in leadership training, professional staff and other aspects of a fundraising infrastructure. With the help of federation, day schools must adapt to simultaneously tackling annual and endowment fundraising — thereby expanding scholarships today and securing tomorrow.


The author declares that changing the model of day school funding is going to take the "whole mishpocha". This means everyone, including the alumni, parents, grandparents and other family members of current or past students; current and former board members who could leave a bequest for the school in their will; high-net worth families who can give significant annual and endowment gifts; and rabbis who can promote support for day school education from the pulpit and in the broader community.


Hirsh concludes:

"Permanently resolving day school affordability is going to take a massive investment of time, money and human resources at every level. But it can and must be done. The cost of leaving this unresolved is far greater to the Jewish community than what it will mean for each of us to dig in and do our part."

Updated: Aug. 25, 2009