Leaders from six Jewish day schools in South Florida met recently to discuss their support for the school choice expansion legislation that Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law on March 27.
The new law will allow all Florida parents to receive $8,000 if they chose to send their child to private school or to home school, without taking into account income levels or special needs.
Previously, Florida only subsidized school choice for special needs or low-income families.
The bill was supported by Florida Jewish groups as a way to ensure all Jewish families in the state will have access to Jewish education.
But one concern from Jewish parents was that the extra funds will simply be eaten up as schools choose to raise tuition by $8,000, according to the Orthodox Union (OU).
To alleviate this worry, Jewish day school representatives met with Teach Florida, an OU project that was founded in 2016 to advocate on behalf of Florida’s nonpublic schools and parents.
According to the OU, the schools “strongly affirmed that affordability is a critical component of their educational mission.”
“Affordability is an important value of our schools,” Teach Florida Engagement Director Melissa Glaser said. “They don’t intend to take the state funds and then turn around and increase tuition by an equivalent amount. The schools recognize the value of affordability, and their goal is to support families receiving much-needed relief funds toward tuition, while providing a quality education to their students.”
Rabbi Moshe Bernstein of Toras Emes said: “Over the last decade, we raised tuition very minimally as we value affordable education for our families. This year, before learning of the school choice bill, we made the decision to raise tuition due to incredible hiring challenges and inflationary costs.”
He added: “We fully support the fact that school choice funds are intended as a relief for parents and will not be viewed as extra entitlement for the school.”
Teach Florida Executive Director Danny Aqua noted that many parents have contacted the organization regarding the help they have received from scholarships and asking about the funding expansion next year.
“Teach Florida is committed to partnering with Jewish day schools to ensure that future changes will keep families at the forefront of their decisions,” he said.
OU noted that the issue isn’t limited to affordability for families. Day schools are also struggling financially in this era of high inflation. However, school administrators wanted to reassure families that tuition increases will continue to be minimal, pledging a commitment to keeping Jewish education affordable.
“Teach Florida is working with day schools on limiting tuition increases and helping them do what is necessary to complete their mission — educating the next generation,” Teach Florida chairman Dr. Allan Jacob said.