It pains me to read yet an another article on how hard it is for middle class parents (and I mean even “upper-middle class”, meaning often people who are in the top 15% of the income scale nationally) to pay for day school and how their huge financial sacrifice is not honoured the way wealthy people would be if they gave that high a percentage of their income to day schools.
In Living in Fear of a Jewish Education Ami Goldman writes:
We only travel to visit family and don’t have any other vacations. We’ve cancelled our magazine subscriptions one by one. With family help, we managed to buy a house because the mortgage payments are cheaper than rent. I can do most repairs myself, but for the moment we’re living with drafty windows and some broken plumbing because we can’t afford the parts. When we did have a big, unexpected repair that needed to be done immediately, it wiped out our emergency fund. But we keep making our day school payments.
We don’t got to the movies. We don’t go out to dinner. We try to live as simply as we can. But there never seems to be enough. And when our child needed a medical therapy, we put it on hold because we can’t afford it. In a few years when they will need braces, I have no idea how we are going to come up with the money. But we keep making the day school payments.
You can add this to the list I mentioned earlier in Day School Funding if Done According to Jewish Tradition:
- Day School Tuition as Birth Control
- American Jewry’s Financial Birth Control
- Sending My Children to Day School: It Shouldn’t be So Hard
- Jewish School Tuition Crisis: Parents Feeling ‘Priced Out’ of Their Religion
- Continued Angst Over Day School Tuition
In response to these articles and to schools in financial crisis and to schools closing due to lack of students, some day schools are experimenting with a 15 percent of the family’s adjusted gross income (AGI) cap, (which has half of my fairshare proposal, but not the part where everyone pays a certain percentage of their income, even if it is more than tuition, which would make things more sustainable). See How Can Jewish Day Schools Effectively Make Their Schools Affordable for The New Middle Class? and Putting A Cap On Day School Tuitions. The program is more financially sustainable than one might think at first pass, because a lot of families who would not send their kids at all, come when they have that reassurance.
A lot of angst and suffering would be avoided if all day schools followed suit.
It is encouraging to see PEJE finally acknowledge the “bar-bell effect” in a recent article (How Can Jewish Day Schools Effectively Make Their Schools Affordable for The New Middle Class?). The “bar bell effect” refers to students from higher-income and lower-income families disproportionately represented among the student body, with a very few students in the middle income brackets. The authors talk about why this structure is financially unhealthy for a school. The next step would be to talk about why it is socially and spiritually unhealthy for a school.