There is an article up on ephilanthropy which probably will not be given much of a look in Orthodox circles titled "Day School or Nothing?" The Conservative Jewish author challenges the notion that "there is day school and there's not day school" writing "'no alternative to day school' is problematic because there must be an alternative." He goes on to state "unfortunately, binary decision-making by Jewish leaders and educators in the past two decades meant the 'smart money' and intellectual capital in Jewish education and philanthropy went to Jewish day schools, at the expense of supplementary schools and other alternatives."
This is a thought provoking and important statement and certainly one which the Orthodox community might need to grapple with in the future. I personally don't think we can continue down the road of supporting only one model to the exclusion of others.
But such will probably be. Please see this article at BeyondBT promoting homeschooling. As a supporter of homeschooling, but not an actual homeschooling parent (although I've been accused of such since as I keep my children home far later than is currently trendy!), I personally don't care for the way in which this particular article promoted homeschooling (just an issue of style). But please try to look past such and focus on the comments of Mr. Marvin Schick, who was asked about homeschooling in an interview, as it is in direct relationship to the subject for which I began this article. Mr. Schick is quoted as saying:
I have enjoyed Mr. Marvin Schick’s articles on day schools and financial issues for many years now, often finding myself nodding in agreement . I find it sad that he is on record essentially dismissing the possibility of supporting homeschoolers, or other opportunities that might open up such as group schooling or hybrid schooling. Day schools and yeshivot are most certainly a very important component of the fabric of our community, but I worry that they are eating more and more of the communal and family budget to the exclusion of other programming, developed or undeveloped.
“I can understand why parents with limited income who face high tuition bills might pursue that route, but even with the tuition crisis, I doubt that many parents will opt for homeschooling. For one thing, Orthodox families partake of the general societal trend in which both parents work. This alone makes homeschooling difficult.” Asked whether he felt that Avi Chai may take a position on home schooling or even provide support for home schooling families, he replied that Avi Chai is not presently involved in home schooling and that he is certain it will not provide support for home schooling. Nevertheless he does also acknowledge, “ . . . the inability of our schools to accommodate boys who are not good learners or students who are just a bit off the beaten track.”
I get the feeling that NCSY, Bnei Akiva, Pirkei/Bnot groups are far less supported and popular today. I already know a handful of children from religious families who are enrolled in public school, and while I try to avoid predicting the future, I do believe that number will grow, financing being the primary reason. While many believe that Shomer Shabbat parents will do anything to keep their children in a yeshiva/day school, I do believe we will see more families leaving the confines of the day school. I already know a handful and I know others that talk about it and I'm not certain that it is just talk. I'd personally like to see support for alternatives developed at the leadership level, but I'm not counting on it. I do admire those who have taken a step outside of the box and formed alternative schools such as the Jewish co-op school in Flordia and the Yeshiva Alternative in Los Angeles, as well as homeschoolers, and it would be nice to see leaders leave the black and white world of "day school or not day school" and consider the possibility of supporting (or at least not completely dismissing) some viable alternatives.
Now is probably a good time to give a Yashar Koach to the Lookstein Center on their newest journal looking at the Financial Crisis and the Jewish Day School. It was such a pleasant surprise to see a "Tuition Crisis" edition that contained some debate regarding charter schools, as well as articles on the alternatives mentioned in the paragraph above. Also, as Public Service Announcement: Second Annual Torah Home Education is coming on Sunday, June 13 in Baltimore. The speaker lineup looks impressive and I welcome guest posters as I always do).
As the Conservative Jewish author writes: "We need a more holistic approach to Jewish education, one that doesn’t pit one model against the other, but instead regards Jewish education as a continuum that contains a variety of viable alternatives." I think that sums it up well. I think it is a mistake to dismiss alternatives as "not day school."