March 23, 2010
Federation to shift funding for schools to scholarships
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has announced a new plan to base its annual $1.6 million allocation to day schools on scholarship need, rather than on the number of students in each school.
“We wanted to make sure we were supporting families, pure and simple,” said Jay Sanderson, Federation president. “We are committed to making it easier to get a Jewish education.”
Area schools are reacting with tentative optimism, saying they are awaiting specifics on how the process will work.
There are 9,455 students in 37 day schools in the greater Los Angeles area accredited by BJE (Builders of Jewish Education).
Until now, BJE distributed the Federation’s $1.6 million among schools mostly as a per-student allocation, which worked out to roughly $100 per student and went into a school’s operating budget.
Now, although the total allocation will remain the same, it will not be distributed by BJE. Each school will submit requests for families in need directly to the Federation’s education and engagement pillar, and the money the schools receive will be earmarked for scholarships.
“What we’re trying to do is encourage people to send their children to day schools by providing financial assistance to the families,” said Beryl Geber, Federation associate executive vice president who oversees its engagement and education pillar.
While schools will now have a dent in their budgets where the BJE allocation used to be — and the applications process is likely to become more time-consuming than the automatic handout of the past — schools are hopeful that additional scholarship income will make up the difference or, in some cases, maybe more.
No one knows yet how much this change will impact the bottom line at individual schools, and the answer won’t be known until the process is complete this year.
“I think it’s too early to know whether it’s more of a cosmetic change or if there will be real change in the amount of money,” said Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, dean of Valley Torah High School, an Orthodox school that has 200 students in separate boys and girls campuses. Stulberger said about 75 percent of his student body receives financial aid, leaving a $1.7 million gap in his $3.2 million annual budget.
“If the formula is based on financial need and families that are in need of help, then I think it can only be beneficial to a school like ours,” said Stulberger.
Orthodox schools, which educate 55 percent of the city’s day school student body, generally spend more of their budgets on scholarships than non-Orthodox schools. That could lead to a denominational imbalance in how the funds are distributed.