The Orthodox Union recognizes that day school affordability is an issue of prime concern for the Orthodox community. The OU, through its Institute for Public Affairs, is pursuing legislative initiatives both locally and nationally to ease the tuition burden for families through advocacy for various means of government support for day schools, and the families who utilize them. The Orthodox Union is also actively exploring a community wide campaign to foster the reallocation of Tzedakah funds, to ensure that the needs of our local communities and its schools are a top priority.
The OU acknowledges that there are many factors which contribute to this challenge. One key element is that the responsibility of funding our children’s education is placed primarily upon parents and grandparents of day school students, with relatively little support from the community at large. We need to shift the paradigm, and look for creative approaches that involve the entire community. The Orthodox Union also believes we must support efforts that challenge the status quo and develop innovative approaches to address the affordability challenge through experimentation with different models of education, including online learning.
To catalyze new community thinking, the Orthodox Union will be offering challenge funding to communities and individual groups that create innovative approaches to address the school affordability issue for current day school parents.
II. Challenge Grants
The Orthodox Union will begin accepting applications in September, 2011 for the Challenge Grants; the final deadline for submission is October 28, 2011. Each grant is for up to three (3) years to allow for successful implementation. Grants will be awarded ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 during the grant period. The OU is encouraging communities or groups to obtain matching funds from local Federations, local foundations, and local philanthropists.
The OU will consider funding initiatives that have broad communal support and represent an innovative approach to addressing day school affordability. Collaboration among community members, including synagogue and day school leadership is encouraged. Grants will be awarded to the most promising ideas that can be implemented and likely replicated in other communities. Cognizant of the need to think “out of the box,” the OU will consider innovative educational models, which have broad communal support, including the establishment of distance-learning schools among other creative initiatives.
An independent evaluator will monitor the impact the project will have on addressing affordability, and will provide research for its replication in other communities.
III. Application Process
Grant seekers must complete the application form and submit it to the OU by October 28th, 2011. The application should highlight the innovative idea, and include letters of support from communal leadership. Applicants should explain their concept and its projected impact on addressing the day school affordability issue. Applicants should clearly outline how the OU funding will be used for this project. Funding is unlikely to be awarded for the purpose of paying staff salaries or consultant fees without a matching contribution from another funding source. Applications should include a plan for obtaining matching funding from other sources to maintain the effort after OU funding has ended.
All grant applications will be reviewed by a special panel comprised of lay and professionals leaders. The panel will evaluate each proposal on the following criteria:
• Potential for yielding greater day school affordability
• Replicable in other communities or national in scope
• Broad communal support
• Detailed budget with a projection of future funding
Applicants who receive a grant from the OU will be required to provide four updates a year on the project’s progress, and agree to provide information for an independent evaluation
For more details about the OU Challenge Grants, requirements, application process and application form, please visit: OU Day School Affordability Grants