Adding up the Costs to Community: Who Will Pay?

Adding up the Costs to Community: Who Will Pay?

By Gerald B. Bubis

Providing scholarships for all those who wish to participate in intensive Jewish experiences might result in a doubling of current enrollments in day schools and camps, which at present attract 10 percent and 7 percent of the eligible population. The figure of twice the current enrollment is an educated conjecture as to the numbers for whom participation is price-sensitive.
How much money is needed in a community to make this happen? If we assume $10,000 per year per child for day school scholarships for families not currently enrolled but interested in enrolling, then $36.5 million would be needed in Los Angeles alone-over a third of a billion dollars. And the $10,000 subvention would not cover synagogue dues, camp fees, and so on.

Furthermore, the costs are not limited to operating expenses. If enrollments doubled, there would be a need for added capital investment in facilities. A minimum of $20,000 per child would be required to double the number of classrooms and camp beds available. This would add up to over $7 billion needed for infrastructure costs. (Not annually, to be sure.)

In addition to capital improvements, the number of principals, teachers, camp directors and ancillary staff would have to double-and the cost of educating them would be considerable. The graduate school programs required to produce the principals and Jewish studies teachers alone would cost $10-20 million annually. And as classes in graduate schools of Jewish education and communal service expanded, new faculty would have to be found and funded to teach them.

Who would fund these costs? The major potential funders for many of these services are the Federation, foundations, and the synagogues or synagogue movements.

There are those who would turn to the federal government for help under the rubric of voucher and indirect subventions from the government. A recent survey showed that only 22 percent of Jews favored the use of vouchers (Cohen, 2000), even after Senator Joseph Lieberman, selected as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, expressed qualified support for them. Even though most Jews do not favor vouchers, present realities and future possibilities may bring changes of attitude.

In reality, Jewish schools, camps, and organizations have been subsidized for over 50 years, accepting surplus foods and ancillary services-such as busing, psychological counseling, and books-for years. Despite the mantra of church-state separation, repeated by most Jewish organizations for most of the twentieth century, there has been no consistency in its application. Chaplains, prayer books, and special foods have long been made available, using public funds, in the armed forces. The G.I. Bill of Rights was a voucher system but never so labeled.

The current administration is confident that it will pass some sort of voucher legislation with bipartisan support. If it does so, most Jewish schools will try to take advantage of that legislation. In truth, in today's Jewish human services agencies, health agencies, and homes for the aged, Federal funds are a larger part of the budget than are Jewish funds. The amount today is in the millions of dollars. If the education voucher passes, government dollars might come to be 20-40 percent of the budget.

The Federation system that distributes $750 million annually to local, national, and international agencies faces its own problems. The majority of its own dollars are earmarked for services to the elderly, poor, single parents and immigrants to Israel. In ranking the needs that Federations should address, only about 20 percent felt that local concerns should be ranked highest (Tobin and Tobin, 1995). While building identity was ranked as a key motivator for giving, this study found that fundraising efforts would succeed only when there were concrete proposals to accomplish the goals.

Given the rising needs and concerns addressed by Federations, there has been no appreciable increase in giving in recent years, if one factors for inflation. Only times of acute crisis seem to result in extra giving. To date, there have been no radical steps toward earmarking funds for intensive Jewish experiences, with a few notable exceptions, where large gifts or endowments have made this possible.

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