The Orthodox Union today announced recipients of “Day School Affordability” challenge grants for seven projects nationwide, with the objective of developing “innovative and replicable solutions to address day school affordability.”
The grants, part of a $150,000 OU initiative to confront the affordability issue, were announced on the concluding day (Monday) of a two-day “Summit on the Affordability of Jewish Education” arranged by the OU to stimulate discussion and planning on dealing with this critical issue in Orthodox life.
The summit, held in suburban Woodcliff Lake, NJ, and arranged by the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs | Jewish Political Affairs, brought together an invited group of 150 lay and professional day school leaders, communal rabbis, foundation, Jewish federation and other community leaders who are affiliated with more than 80 institutions primarily across the spectrum of Orthodoxy.
As a reflection of the national impact of the issue, applications for the grants were received from across the country, from communities large and small. The recipients of the grants come from Brooklyn, NY; Denver, CO; North Miami Beach and Hollywood, FL; Bergenfield, NJ; Pittsburgh and Scranton, PA.
"In reviewing the challenge grant submissions from across the country, we were heartened to see the depth of commitment and breadth of creativity being applied to the issue of educational affordability,” stated Yehuda Neuberger, Chair of the OU’s Tuition Affordability Task Force, which is coordinating the organization’s response to the affordability challenge. “Although we were open to a large grant to a single cause, we came to the conclusion, based on the current submissions, that our impact can best be felt in a variety of smaller initiatives. At the end of the day, day school affordability will be best addressed by multiple parallel efforts that create a variety of revenue growth and expense reduction opportunities. We believe that our selections are reflective of that reality. We hope that these grants will result in communal learning and in the replication of successful strategies on a national level."
Rabbi Judah Isaacs, Director of the OU Community Engagement Department, which administers the grant program, said: “All of the projects will be evaluated and a detailed case study of their experience will be distributed to the broader day school community.” He emphasized that a key component in the decision-making process was the ease of replicating the project in a wide variety of communities.
In addition to the grants, the Orthodox Union has made a commitment to support the Jewish Education for Generations (JEFG) campaign in Bergen County, NJ with a one-time gift. According to Rabbi Isaacs, “This award is in recognition of the pioneering effort made by JEFG to galvanize community support for all of the day schools in Bergen County. JEFG uses its NNJKids campaign to provide additional funding to community day schools through contributions from individuals who are both day school and non-day school parents.”
“JEFG ensured that Bergen County was the pilot community for the Yeshiva University Comparative Financial Benchmarking Program which is now active in six communities throughout North America. The OU Institute for Public Affairs is an active partner in the Benchmarking program, providing communities with advocacy and legislative support for increased local and state government funding.”
The seven winning grants and their communities are:
1. Project Education Tuition Affordability Campaign, Project Education Council, Brooklyn, NY -- The OU will fund program development and marketing for the campaign to change the culture of giving within the Sephardic community in Brooklyn, resulting in more dollars staying within the community for Jewish education. According to its grant application, Project Education is a “new non-profit corporation in the Sephardic community with a mission of finding solutions that will alleviate tuition education costs” in a “community that has more than 10,000 children enrolled in more than a dozen yeshivot in New York and New Jersey.”
2. Yeshiva He’Atid 21st Century Judaic Studies Curricula Project, Bergenfield, NJ -- Yeshiva He’Atid is anticipated to open in the fall of 2012. The school‘s goal is to create a new model that incorporates 21st century educational methods to increase the quality of education while also reducing tuition costs. The OU grant will be targeted toward the creation of a blended learning Judaic curriculum for K-2nd grade, which we believe can be used by other day schools throughout North America.
3. Corporate Citizenship, Denver Academy of Torah, Denver, CO -- The OU’s funds will be used to match a foundation grant for website development and graphic design of the Corporate Citizenship program which would allow businesses to give five percent to the Denver Academy of Torah (DAT) from business generated through the program. Unlike traditional scrip programs, this initiative uses other business, like mortgage bankers and real estate agents. According to the application, DAT “has secured relationships with 11 businesses thus far,” which include two supermarkets, two realtors, a jeweler, an accountant, a mortgage broker and an investment advisor, as well as an online clothing store, meat store and tricycle store.”
4. Hillel Without Borders, The Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, North Miami Beach, FL -- The OU will fund afterschool and adult education activities at the school. The goal of these programs is to bring community members into the school with the goal of eventually increasing community involvement with the school. According to the grant application, “Hillel Without Borders is a multi-phased initiative aimed at reenergizing the Jewish Education Support Circle of our community…by opening Hillel’s borders to the greater Jewish community of Miami Dade, allowing us to share and maximize the utilization of our valued resources (human, intellectual, physical and financial),” thus strengthening the local Jewish community.
5. Edollars, Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA -- The OU will provide funding for enhancement of the Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh’s current “timebanx” program, which allows parents to volunteer at the school and receive monetized credits, in lieu of tuition for their volunteer commitment. The OU grant will be targeted to mutually agreeable enhancements to the system that can assist other schools interested in implementing the program. In its application, the Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh notes that “schools can save up to $250,000 in expenses per year in payroll areas such as the IT department, substitute teachers, lunch monitors, landscaping, building maintenance, administrative assistants, etc.” The program “has the direct dollar value of $50-$100 per hour. Parents earning that amount are receiving its exact value in exchange for tuition costs.”
6. The National Jewish Cooperative Day School Project, The Jewish Cooperative School, Hollywood, FL -- The OU grant will fund production of an online “Jewish Cooperative Day School Handbook,” that will assist parents across the country to form and manage their own Jewish cooperative day school or for day schools which seek to increase parent participation within their schools. “A Cooperative Day School is one in which parents are required to bear the burdens of a school’s costs collectively and directly,” the grant application explains. “There is no more efficient way to reduce Day School tuition costs while maintaining high educational standards than to empower motivated parents.” This handbook will describe the experience of this school in creating and maintaining a cooperative structure.
7. The Online Resource Room, Scranton Hebrew Day School, Scranton, PA -- The OU will provide funding for eight students in four day schools for six months to allow demonstration that providing distance learning for special needs youngsters can be successful and cost saving. The program began as a pilot project last year at the Scranton Hebrew Day School in which its resource room director “learned with six students across the country online in their homes as well as in school. In each live session,” the teacher “was able to replicate the quality and interactive techniques of my regular resource room… The Online Resource Room will literally reach out to every geographic area of the country irrespective of the size or location of the student’s community.” The OU’s Rabbi Isaacs, the grant program’s administrator, added, “We want to monitor the children to see if distance learning results in cost savings for the schools while meeting the needs of its students.”
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