YOU CANNOT PUT A PRICE TAG ON A CHILD; THEIR LIFE IS WORTH MORE THAN A NUMBER. BUT WHAT ABOUT THEIR EDUCATION? IS THERE A PRICE TAG FOR MATH, READING, SOCIAL STUDIES, EVEN JUDAISM? YES INDEED!
The price tag for a private Jewish education in Florida runs on average between $10,000-$24,000 per year depending on the age of the child and the school. The once thought crisis of the less fortunate, now affects middle class parents struggling to pay for their children to attend Jewish schools. Tuitions have been growing steadily over the past years with no sign of relief. How can families be expected to pay for schools when they are juggling two curricula, Jewish and secular, leading to doubling of the cost of everything from teachers to books?
The Jewish Leadership Coalition is here to help. The JLC is a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization comprised of various Jewish leaders and organizations that have joined together to advocate for greater public funding for secular education in Jewish day schools. They are non-partisan and work to educate both Democrats and Republicans about the Jewish day school affordability crisis. They neither endorse candidates nor promote any political activities; their focus is to advocate for increased opportunities to allow Jewish families to send their children to the educational institution of their choice. This effort is the largest singular advocacy initiative ever undertaken by the Florida Jewish community.
One of the first steps was a charted mission to Tallahassee. In March 2013, the OU and Agudath Israel co-sponsored the JLC mission to Tallahassee, joining over 30 community, school and rabbinic leaders from 12 schools representing communities from Miami Beach to Boca Raton. “The inaugural mission was to educate legislators in a very personal way about the Jewish day school crisis,” said Elliot S. Schreiber, director of JLC. This diverse group of Jewish leaders spent the day demonstrating to the Florida legislature, in a unified voice, the Jewish community’s support for expanded parental choice in Florida.
Shortly thereafter, the JLC partnered with the Orthodox Union in the struggle to achieve tuition affordability. This partnership consolidates the resources and finances required for this undertaking and expands their efforts on addressing tuition affordability. “The JLC team will work with school leadership to engage community members on this issue. Members of the initiative will work with the Florida legislature to craft and implement effective legislation that will benefit the private school community,” said Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs and outreach for OU Advocacy.
The JLC works with several other tuition programs. Currently, programs such as Step Up for Students, a tax credit scholarship, and the McKay Scholarship for students with disabilities, aid thousands of Jewish day school families and result in millions of dollars in scholarship money for Jewish students. “It is because of programs such as these that some parents do not have to say ‘no’ when it comes to giving their child a Jewish education,” said Stephanie Susi, Associate Director for JLC.
For the upcoming school year of 2013-2014, Step Up for Students will increase the maximum scholarship from $4,335 to $4,880. The increase of $545 per student will take place this fall, the largest single year gain since the scholarship was created. “Due to the FL legislature’s decision to increase the public school budget and subsequent increase in SUFS funding, more Jewish students will be able to attend more Jewish Day Schools,” said Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman.
This price tag for many parents is just another daily battle, because there is no other option. For others struggling to make the decision, now they know that in many cases there is help. The JLC believes in educational opportunity for all Florida children, and it will advance the cause of greater public funding for secular education in Jewish day schools, increased services to Jewish day school children, and subsidies for tuition-paying parents. To continue growing, your support is essential.