A first-of-its-kind national study conducted by the Institute for University-School Partnership at Yeshiva University surveyed the presidents of Jewish day schools and found that a key to more affordable schools rests with improving board functioning in two critical areas: financial planning and fundraising.
Indeed, while communities across the country are rightfully galvanizing to confront the increasing cost of Jewish education at a time of diminished communal wealth, the survey suggests that individual day school boards can play a pivotal role in responding to these challenges.
The more than 60 day school presidents completing the “Survey of the Governance Practices of Jewish Day Schools” represented Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Community day schools from across the country. Their responses revealed a number of key opportunities to reduce the growing affordability gaps:
- Only about one-third of presidents strongly agree that board members give their schools their top personal philanthropic gifts or that they generate financial support for school events.
- Only about one-quarter of presidents feel that board members are actively engaged in identifying and cultivating potential major donors for their institutions.
- Only about 24% of presidents strongly agree that their schools have a comprehensive long range financial plan.
- At the same time, presidents overwhelmingly say that fundraising/advocacy and strategic planning, the two areas in which their boards are underperforming, are the two areas that impact most on overall school performance and affordability.
“Too often we hear calls for cutting core educational components of schools, from teacher salaries to professional development,” said Dr. Scott J. Goldberg, director of the Institute for University-School Partnership. “While schools must find ways to cut spending, this survey suggests that we can help preserve the educational core of the school and maintain school quality by maximizing fundraising and strategic financial planning.”
The study targeted board presidents of Jewish day schools affiliated with four school networks: Orthodox day schools that associate with YU; RAVSAK, which comprises community day schools; Solomon Schechter Day School Association, which is the umbrella for Conservative Jewish day schools; and PARDeS, the umbrella organization for Reform Jewish day schools. About one in four responded. The participating schools are diverse in terms of grades offered, size, age, location and denominational affiliation.
The Institute is finalizing a second report that will explore the relationship between board practices and school demographics and operational performance factors.