Day schools deserve stable funding

Jewish day schools, like other Jewish institutions, are scrambling for money.

High tuitions — from $5,000 to $9,000 per year — make enrolling children particularly burdensome for anyone but the rich.

So should Jewish charities, particularly federations, make day schools a top priority?

On the surface, the answer may appear to be a simple "yes." Day schools seem to be a panacea to assimilation. And if they were more widespread and affordable, a much larger percentage of Jewish parents would enroll their children.

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation already spends $1,000 per pupil for the six day schools it helps fund. That's about twice the national average.

Yet federation annual campaigns across the country certainly aren't growing exponentially. So the question is: What else would they cut?

First, we don't want to pit day schools against other valuable forms of Jewish education: Hebrew and Sunday schools, Jewish Community Centers, summer camps and Israel trips.

Some have suggested that federations hold back more money from Israel to help with day school scholarships. That's a tough call.

The JCF did divert $400,000 from Israel this year. Some of that went to youth education.

But Israel funding across the country is already at its lowest percentage ever.

What hasn't been tried enough yet is turning to endowments and foundations, the fastest growing sources of funding among charities.

Schools should also be setting up their own endowments. They may be small at first. But satisfied graduates tend to give back.

The one method to shun is taxpayer-supported vouchers for private schools.

Public schools are already struggling, and parents who choose to send their children to day schools must acknowledge that they have a choice: free public education or a true commitment to private education.

If the Jewish community is committed to day schools, it must try previously untapped sources. These schools deserve to have reliable sources of funding.