August 13 12

I thought that today, we’d talk about that little elephant on the blog.

It’s called yes, the Martells *are* pulling their kids from Jewish Day School and opting to send their children to public school come this September 4th.

We are happy with this decision.

But because I live in an only-sort-of large Jewish community in the Toronto nosebleeds, there, of course, has been a lot of talk. Of course there has. After all, I went to Jewish day school for many, many years. I went to Jewish preschool, elementary school, high school. I even spent a year after high school tanning learning at a party school seminary in Jerusalem. I kid, mostly. My husband went to Jewish day school too, until he went to University.

And I guess when we started out at this whole parenting business in 2001, we just assumed that our children would follow the path that we did. It was a fairly safe assumption—it’s the only thing we knew.

So we followed this path.

And it was good for us.

Until it was no longer good for us anymore.

And honestly, that’s the hardest part about the entire thing for me. I’m so disappointed that it’s no longer good for us anymore. Because I just always thought it would be.

And, you know, there are whispers we keep hearing. The Martells just want to use their money for selfish reasons. Ali just wants to not have to work. Apparently, it’s because of Josh—he has some “issues.” It’s because they aren’t Orthodox, you know—they are headed into a downward spiral. The Martells don’t care about anything Jewish anymore. The Martells had a huge falling-out with the school so they are pulling out because they are angry. 

Well, I hate to break to it to the whisperers and gossips out there, but none of your reasons are right.

Yes, money is an issue for us—a huge one, in fact. The cost of Jewish Day School is all-consuming. I have three children. Tuition is at $15,000 a child, per year. If you are doing the math at home, that’s $45,000 a year. That’s almost my ENTIRE salary. And that, friends, is not an exaggeration. I am an editor, and last time I checked, editors do not make very much money. My job is rewarding in so many ways—not financially. And, Jewish high school, the last I heard, was at about $22,000 per child. My husband and I are lucky that we are both employed full-time. And yet. We bought our mini-van used, and it’s a Grand Caravan—not a fancy Odyssey or Sienna like the rest of the school parking lot. We couldn’t afford to send Emily to overnight camp until we were no longer writing monthly tuition checks. We couldn’t go on a single family vacation. We couldn’t afford for Emily to be in more plays. We could only afford city camps. We couldn’t afford to swing a trip to Atlanta to see my sister—who I haven’t seen IN YEARS because she lived in Australia. We couldn’t afford to fly to Nashville to see our new niece. We couldn’t afford to take our family to Israel this summer for my nephew’s Bar-Mitzvah. Only a fraction of us were able to go.

We, essentially, were putting all of our financial eggs into this one basket—the tuition basket.

In my head I kept coming back to this—all of the things they were missing.

I want my children to be able to go to Israel for their cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah—what a HUGE JEWISH EXPERIENCE. I want my children to go to overnight camp—what a HUGE JEWISH EXPERIENCE.

So, YES, we want them to experience their culture, their heritage, who they are and where they came from. But financially, there was no way to swing both.

Sure, they were getting a Jewish day school education, but we were being forced to hold them back from everything else.

Yes, the school itself was an issue for us. There were stories I was going to tell you, but I decided against it. I left the school fairly unhappy, and I thought about using this very public platform to discuss the reasons why I am unhappy, and then I grew up and decided against it. The stories I have about the school in general are my stories—they belong to Emily, they belong to US. But yes. We are not pulling out because we are angry, but some things that happened did solidify our choices. But these are OUR choices, and we own them. 1000%. A NEW environment is the very best thing we can provide our children right now.

No, my work is not an issue. I work full-time. I will still continue to work full-time. END OF STORY. 

No, our non-orthodoxy is NOT an issue for us. We are not Orthodox. We don’t care if this makes you uncomfortable.

If you don’t want to eat on our plates, we will serve on paper plates—happily. If you don’t want to eat the food that we cook in our ovens, we will get kosher pizza delivery—happily. But, just because we are not orthodox, it does not mean that we do not deeply, deeply care about our traditions and our heritage. We have a huge friday night Shabbat dinner every week—it’s filled with challah and wine and chicken soup and kugel. We light Shabbat candles every single Friday night. We celebrate holidays. We are not Orthodox, but we are very, very traditional. And if we could, we would still be sending our children to a Jewish Day School—because Orthodox or not, we believe in the day school system. We love that our children learn so much about who they are and where they came from. We found a fabulous Hebrew school where our children will continue to learn these things—they just won’t learn them every single day.

And we are okay with this.

We are excited about this new adventure because even though we believe in the Jewish Day School system, we ALSO believe in the Public School System.

We are excited that our children will be immersed in an environment where there are children with different upbringings, different cultures, different traditions.

We are excited to be able to take our first family vacation.

We are excited to be able to send our children to summer camps, and to take more extra-curricular activities, to make it to family celebrations in Israel.

And you know, selfishly, we are excited to someday get rid of that damn Dodge Grand Caravan.

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  1. From a cultural perspective, I can’t comment on this, but since I went to private school I can totally get the financial burden three tuitions would place on you. If you have good public schools and you’re happy with the experiences your children will have- school, religion and otherwise- then I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to criticize.

    ali replied on

    Thankfully, we have heard nothing but good things about the public school that is right across the street from our house :)

    but people always criticize, yanno? Especially when you make decisions that those people don’t make…it makes it seem like I’m saying what they do is WRONG, which isn’t the case. It’s just wrong FOR US.

    Comment by The Tutugirl on August 13, 2012
  2. I have many things to say, but I won’t. Because they will be mean. But you have an awesome public school. And I’m excited for your kids to experience and I think they will love it! And that is A LOT of money. And not a one time expense. I can’t even imagine.

    People need more in their life than talking about other people’s choices. You and G are awesome parents. You love your kids so, so much. And you want the very best for them. The end.

    Comment by Kristabella on August 13, 2012
  3. You don’t owe anyone explanations, except for your own family, and even then, they only need to know what you want to tell them. You’re doing what’s right for YOU – no excuses. Of course, this wasn’t an easy decision for you, so for people to judge you for what you’ve ultimately decided to do, is unfortunate.

    Your kids are amazing and they will do well wherever they go to school.

    ali replied on

    I know I don’t owe any explanations, but I thought it was a good place to just put it all out there…so people can stop whispering so much :)

    And maybe it was good for me too, yanno?

    Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] replied on

    Oh yeah, totally. Though you don’t owe it to anyone, it feels better to get everything out in the open so YOU are the source of the information.

    Comment by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on August 13, 2012
  4. I am now feeling quite lucky that no one would ever expect us to spend that much money on elementary or secondary school. And that people aren’t whispering about what we do spend our money on. Well, as far as I know. But whatever. What you do with your money is none of anyone else’s business in my world!

    Hope they enjoy the new school and all the other adventures coming up.

    Comment by Emma on August 13, 2012
  5. This sounds just like the conversations we’ve been having for the past six months. We ultimately came down on the site of the kids’ private school being the best place for them, but it’s a struggle every month. I wish we could find a decision that we could be at peace with.

    Comment by Ashley on August 13, 2012
  6. Sending good vibes and happy thoughts as you make this transition. It sounds like you are making thoughtful, wise decisions that will benefit your family in many ways. Don’t look back. I can’t imagine anyone begrudging you any kind of happiness. If they do, there’s no room for them near your sweet family.

    Comment by Jen @littlemissmocha on August 13, 2012
  7. Ali, you and I have had conversations about this very subject and to be sure, I have had many similar conversations with others. Both Eric and I are products of the public school system and so is Hannah. I believe in the public school system as strongly as I hold my identity as a Jewish woman raising a Jewish daughter. There are infinite ways, times and places to be and do Jewish. Where you go to school does not define who you are. I’m happy to hear that you’re happy with the decision that you made and I hope that the year ahead is full of awesome for you and your family.

    Comment by candace on August 13, 2012
  8. Facing judgement is so challenging. I admire your ability to take the higher road. I am sure that your kids (and your family) will flourish because you are making the best decision for your family. That’s your job.

    Comment by Amanda on August 13, 2012
  9. My sons are nearly 30 and I am nearly 60.
    Aging is a relief!

    Comment by Linda on August 13, 2012
  10. Sometimes less is more.

    ali replied on

    Not sure what you mean by that? ;)

    Rae Ann replied on

    There is so much more to other parts of life. It sounds to me that by spending less, you might be giving them more in the way of a well-rounded life experiences.

    Mozel Tov!

    Comment by Rae Ann on August 13, 2012
  11. It sounds like you made the perfect decision for your family. Honestly, to me spending 45k on school, when you have an acceptable public school option, seems insane. I’m sure your kids will appreciate the breadth and depth of cultural and extra-curricular activities you will be able to provide when no longer having to scrimp and save for tuition. I’m sorry you have to defend that decision. I’ve had similar dynamics as a Christian who chooses public school, but as you said life provides so many other opportunities to express and experience our religious traditions. Sounds like you are doing what is best for all of you.

    Comment by Kristen Howerton on August 13, 2012
  12. I almost wrote a post today about changing synagogues. Because we are. And it is for many of the same reasons, money, although the synagogue we are going to is not THAT much cheaper, and because I was soooo unhappy with the sunday school at our old synagogue. And then I didn’t. Because it doesn’t really matter why we left. We just left.

    I don’t really have a point, except to say I get it. We are the adults. We get to make the choice in our adults lives. Even if other people don’t get whyb we do it.

    Comment by jodifur on August 13, 2012
  13. all i can say is..wow.. $15,000 a year for an elementary school? per kid.. for 3 kids? no, not in my lifetime here.. i can’t even imagine having the money to do that. not jewish and not canadian but i am still amazed that people can afford that and that anyone would think less of you for not doing it anymore. good luck in your new school system.

    Comment by kris zielinski on August 13, 2012
  14. Can I ask why it costs so much?
    I mean, obviously I know it’s a private school, but what about private school has to cost so much?
    Whispers behind backs make me crazy. Glad you made a decision that is good for you guys.

    Ed Prutschi replied on

    Ali asked me to (try) and answer this one. The short answer is that quality education costs money. The longer answer is as follows: Jewish Day schools in Ontario (unlike in EVERY OTHER JUISDICTION in Canada and MOST others in the world) receive ZERO gov’t funding. Combine that with the fact these schools are required by law to provide an identical Ministry-mandated secular public education along with their cultural and religious education and you have a “double program”. More teachers. Longer classes. that doesn’t come cheap.

    Hope that helps.

    Hadass replied on

    Oops, I didn’t see this before I crowed about Manitoba. Didn’t mean to rub salt in the wounds …

    Amy replied on

    I guessed that it was something about no gov’t funding…

    thanks!

    rachel replied on

    as i wrote before, it costs a ton because of the low student/teacher ratio, double curriculum, [hebrew and english],and the fact that i believe that no [real] jewish school will deny jewish education to parents who can’t afford to pay for it– therefore it becomes a school/community obligation to support the need, and by need i mean real needs [not to deny the need for a better car, or vacations,i would not consider these essential needs,therefore i keep my kids in jewish schools lol..] it is kind of prioritizing.. i am not here to judge them or anyone else, just wanted to explain to all. i can understand why you would want ur family vacations,car etc, it’s is hard for me to agree with that, though… jewish continuity depends on jewish education.wishing u all much luck in educating ur kids and maintaining our faith in such turbulent times, the more the kids internalize judaism as a way of life, the more they will remain jewish.

    Comment by Amy on August 13, 2012
  15. Our daughter is in a day school and will be until it isn’t the best thing for her. Right now she loves it, she is learning a lot, she has great friends, and the families are nice. Things change, we’d happily change schools.

    Community is great too until it becomes too much community and too much into everyone’s business. I trust that everyone is making the best decisions for their family and choosing to live a Jewish life that works for them. Can’t do m

    Comment by Sandra on August 13, 2012
  16. more than that!

    Comment by Sandra on August 13, 2012
  17. Well-written, Ali. I just wanted to express publicly my gratitude that the province of Manitoba, unlike Ontario, supports ALL parochial schools, including Jewish and Islamic. Also, our Jewish Day School is a community school with a sliding tuition school – that apparently makes it unique in North America.

    Just in case you wanted to consider Winnipeg ;-).

    Comment by Hadass on August 13, 2012
  18. Um, make that sliding tuition SCALE … sorry about that.

    Comment by Hadass on August 13, 2012
  19. Thank you for sharing your story. No one should be surprised that many parents like yourself are opting for public schooland a normal life vs Jds and missing out on so many things.

    At the least with the $ you’re saving you can join the new Jcc, because that’s what is really important.

    Comment by Ben on August 13, 2012
  20. I can really relate to this. With four kids in school (preschool, elementary, middle, hs) this year the tuition is killing us. Even with a bit of a break it’s well over 50k. Which is staggering to realize. What we could do with 50k! Not to mention the time! I spend 4-5 hrs a day driving unless I’m hiring someone to drive for me so I can work, to pay the tuition. I chase my tail. I love the community of the Jewish Day School 3 of 4 of my kids attend but I have no illusions about it being perfect. This same school completely rejected my oldest daughter cold. They couldn’t handle her dyslexia “issues”. How’s that for community? It rankled and I stewed for a few year until I got over it, because in the end it was not the right school for her, but it was the right school for some of my other kids. It helps me keep my emotions straight and gives me perspective now. We’re sending our kids to school there. We’re not joining a cult. We’re in, but probably not all the way. Some people might talk. So be it. I don’t blame you one bit for sending your kids to public school. If it was an option for us, we would do that too. Kids get their identity primarily from their family, not their school. If your family flourishes, they will too. Here’s to a new van, a family trip to Israel and all the good things your decision may bring you.

    Comment by Ciaran on August 13, 2012
  21. We *just* bought a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan AND WE LOVE IT. I’ve never owned a brand new vehicle before, and I have to clean a lot of toilets to be able to afford it, but we LOVE it. But that is totally off-topic and beside the point.

    I grew up in a Christian Reformed (read: very Dutch, very traditional, very religious) church and went to a Christian Reformed school for grades K-10 (where it ended, sending us to the public high school). My parents both grew up in the same church (different cities, same denomination), and my dad had gone to the exact same school I did. His parents had a part in starting it, in fact. When I became a parent (also in 2001), I just figured that my kid(s) would go there, too. They didn’t. (Well, I agreed to a year, but no further.) Tuition is stupid expensive and, well, I just don’t agree with a lot of the people/teachings there (anymore).

    Parenting decisions are hard enough without all the external guilt piled on top of them. External guilt SUCKS. I’m glad that you guys have found a school/system that will work for you and your family.

    And I really REALLY want to get to Israel one day, too. (My father-in-law has led Israel tours every year or two for the last lots of years and I WANT TO GO SO BAD.)

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on August 13, 2012
  22. I’m *just* starting to learn about Jewish culture, as my partner is Jewish, so I found this very interesting. We have similar thing here in Victoria – Japanese school – and I don’t have my kids enrolled in there anymore. Different culture, different city, but it still made me chuckle that the people who like to speculate and gossip exist in every culture. I believe you 100% that you make best decisions for your children – who am I to judge that? Hope they have a great start of the new school in September :)

    Comment by Yukari on August 13, 2012
  23. Great post. YOu owed no one an explanation and never feel guilty for doing what YOU know is right for YOUR children! Enjoy those vacations and fun things.

    And yeah, I just bought Grand Caravan too – it’s brand new. Its great, as far as minivans go, but there are definitely fancier ones out there – way out of our budget!

    Comment by Katy on August 13, 2012
  24. Ali,

    as Manager of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education’s Day School Affordability Knowledge Center, I could wail and gnash teeth and cluck my tongue, stroke my beard and say, “what is to be done about this Ali Martell?” After all, it’s literally my job to be the Jewish day school affordability guy.

    But that’s not fair, nor is it useful for you, your readers, or Toronto’s community. I can’t imagine how difficult your decision was, and I don’t pretend to know any of the relevant details. Knowing you and Gav, I’m sure your kid are living in and will continue to live in a home that values Jewish life, and incorporates Jewish values in every aspect of your home.

    So…what am I adding to this? Only questions in response to those whispered questions you mentioned. How is the community responding to the affordability issue? What was your school willing to do? And, given that this seems to be more than just about the money, what is the school doing to improve those issues? How flexible was the administration in working with you to address your concerns?

    This issue is a two-way street, and I’m in no way suggesting that there was a perfect compromise that would have allowed you to feel comfortable keeping your kids in day school. The upshot of my very long-winded comment is that I only hope the school learns from this interaction and serves its current and prospective parents as a result, and that you are able to provide the Jewish environment and values you are committed to upholding.

    dj replied on

    Charles, We are parents to 4 children who attend the Day School in our area. Over 70% of our takehome pay goes to the school currently. We have a very low mortgage payment, no luxury cars and live very cheaply in every other respect. The school still hassles (yes I am intentionally using that word) on an almost annual basis to give more (we receive a discounted tuition rate) because of the “value” of our house and their thoughts that the entire extended family could give more. Tuition rates have increased almost 250% since our oldest son started over a decade ago, but the quality of the school has dropped considerably. I have trouble walking into the school sometimes since I feel that the administration views us differently than those families that pay the full amount. We have made a very significant commitment to our children’s Jewish education (over $1.5MM when its all said and done), but we often feel like unless we are rich doners we will always be looked at as second class citizens. We nearly pulled our children out this year, but were dissuaded by family members. The reality of gritting your teeth and grinding through couldn’t be more true in our case.

    Charles replied on

    DJ,

    I am deeply empathetic to your position. 70% of your income for tuition alone is an obscene commitment by any measure. That’s why my comment was more about questions than answers, and why I think it’s vital for any school (your school in particular, it seems) to figure out how to work with parents, instead of standing against them.

    My only suggestion would be to talk to the head of school directly, and maybe you can help work out a system that is less adversarial. At the very least you will be able to voice your frustrations. If I can help in any way, please contact me @ charles at peje dot org.

    Comment by Charles on August 13, 2012
  25. Ya know, just yesterday I was wondering about this exact thing. You had mentioned that you had major issues about the school, esp. regarding Emily.
    And now this post.
    I’m sure you didn’t make this decision lightly – and weighed all the pros and cons. I think it’ll be the right one. And if you want to go back, it’s only a year away.
    Good luck with your new venture!

    Comment by monstergirlee on August 13, 2012
  26. Ali, I really want to congratulate you on what was probably a very difficult decision. Your amazing children will be missed at our school but I know they will thrive where ever they are (as proud Jews) because they have such devoted parents. Naomi always speaks so fondly of Josh and I know she will miss him. I am saddened by the news that you experienced judgement from within the community (although I can’t say I’m surprised) and didn’t leave on the happiest of terms. I hope you will find the public school community warm and welcoming as I did as a child of the public school system. Best wishes….

    Comment by Natalie on August 13, 2012
  27. JDS in our area is ever more expensive, ridiculously so. It is just not on our financial means. I’d love to do it, but it is simply to much money. Josh graduated his hebrew preschool this year and will start the local public school in a couple weeks. Most of his friend will be going on the JDS or the even more conservative Hebrew Academy. We aren’t orthodox either even though our shul is modern orthodox. But we celebrate shabbat every week, we go to shul mostly every week. OK when the weather is bad Melissa will drive the boys, I’ll usually walk. But we go. So our kids are going to public school. We will send them to Hebrew school to. Thankfully we live in a very accepting community but there are people that won’t eat at our house unless its catered and on paper plates. I respect that. It’s not the life I want, but I do want my kids to have the foundation. I wish JDS was an option, but it simply isn’t

    Comment by Corey Feldman on August 13, 2012
  28. good for you!

    adrienne replied on

    you have to do what is best for you and your family. :)

    Comment by adrienne on August 13, 2012
  29. I love you and your entire family. I know this decision wasn’t easy for you guys and I know, first-hand, how much you adore your children, to assume otherwise is absolutely obsurd.

    Am excited for all of you in this new adventure – new school, new opportunities and new growth.

    I love you!

    Comment by sam (temptingsam) on August 13, 2012
  30. What? Forget the new mini-van! I say it’s time for a snazzy 2 seater convertible!!

    Making ANY decision regarding your kids is hard, but it’s especially hard when it comes to their education. From the moment they start preschool until you send them off to college – decisions, decisions, decisions. You & Gav know your kids & what’s best for them better than anyone so kudos to you for having confidence in that.

    Also, what are these “Toronto nosebleeds” you speak of? Interesting phrase, but never heard it out here in BC :)

    alimartell replied on

    You know, like, in stadiums…the seats all the way at the tippy top? The ones that are so high altitude-wise that they give you nosebleeds?

    Well, that how far north of Toronto I live. In the nosebleeds.

    I might have invented the phrase Toronto Nosebleeds ;)

    Comment by Eileen on August 13, 2012
  31. This was a great article. $45,000 per year, multiplied by 8 years of elementary/middle school (Grades 1-8), is $360,000. Mind boggling.

    I graduated from Toronto’s largest Jewish high school several years ago, and from one of our well known Jewish elementary schools before that. I excelled in school and received academic awards upon graduation. I thrived in university and was accepted to a prestigious law school.

    My alma mater Jewish high school has seen its tuition DOUBLE since the year 2000. Why? Incomes in Toronto certainly haven’t doubled.

    Tuition at Toronto’s Jewish schools is spiralling out of control. We live in a very expensive city. Houses are now reaching $1 million in parts of North York and Thornhill. Cars are a money pit to operate. We have to pay income tax, sales tax, property tax, mortgage payments, hydro, water, phone bills, clothing….and a whole multitude of other daily living expenses. After all of those expenses, you have disposable income.

    To enrol even one child in Jewish day school today in Toronto takes a huge bite out of your after-tax income. Yes, Jewish schools are expensive to operate, but when large fancy buildings are being constructed with wealthy donor names plastered all over them, I always wonder why there is not more money directed towards tuition reduction, rather than building shiny new JCC’s and high schools that fewer and fewer families can afford. Nice buildings are great, but when more and more families can’t afford to send their children to Jewish schools, what’s the point?

    When I do have a family of my own in the future, I will likely not send them to Jewish schools simply due to the ballooning tuition rates. I am very committed to Judaism and my identity, but I would never make myself poor for the sake of outrageously high day school tuition.

    Comment by TorontoDayschoolgraduate on August 14, 2012
  32. Hi,I just heard a great quote, if drive by a town and see a jewish cemitery, u know jews lived there
    if u drive by a [different town?] and see a synagogue, it means jews Live in that town
    if u find a town that has a jewish school it means that jews Will live there in the future.
    jewish education is jewish future, of course the family support is a must too.
    for the ones who asked why does it cost so much, i can tell u, the ratio teacher/student is very small, sometimes classes only have 10 or less students,[specially when we separate genders], and we don’t deny jewish education to the ones in need of financial help, so obviously the other parents need to pay to help offset the costs, and believe me even w all federation help,grants etc it is hard to find a jewish school that is not suffering financially speaking,
    wishing all luck in providing ur kids w the very best and strongest education so than have the tools to choose to continue our faith and religion. ps i am sorry to disagree than i find that Nothing substitute real jewish education where for years the kids are totally involved in seeing the beauty of the real jewish life, it is our future!!

    Comment by rachel on August 14, 2012
  33. I’m sure this has been difficult for you so I congratulate you and your husband. I wish your children all the best as they start in a new school. As they seem outgoing, I’m sure they will have friends by recess on the first day.

    Comment by Heather on August 14, 2012
  34. Your very wealthy (and sadly unemployed) and ridiculously gorgeous (when you squint) sister will come and visit you ;) I know how hard this post was for you to write. I am very proud of you. xoxo

    Comment by Charna on August 14, 2012
  35. I found this post very interesting, as well as all the comments too. I think traditions start at home and it sounds like you have that covered. I’m not Jewish so my kids are in the public school system & doing very well. I’m not sure, even if I could afford it, if I would ever send my kids to a private school…good luck with the new school year – sounds very exciting for you!

    Comment by Maria on August 14, 2012
  36. Ali, we went through the exact same decisions years ago. I went to Day School from grade 1-7. I wished the same for my kids. But, when we examined the costs, the most we could manage was to take them through preschool. Jewishness comes from more that the school, and education is more than in a building. giving your kids traditions and memories and the rituals that you model at home are worth more than scraping by due to school tuitions. It’s unfortunate that we cannot give them everything, but such is life. And good luck on your journey away from the minivan.

    Comment by mara on August 14, 2012
  37. I didn’t know Canadians could be judgy, too. I’m glad you’re doing what’s right for your kids regardless of the rumblings of people who think they have the right to comment or criticize any of your decisions.

    Comment by Avitable on August 14, 2012
  38. Awesome post!! We are pulling Luca, also, after this year from his private school. We have an amazing public school in our neighborhood and BOY did it feel good to write his last tuition check!!

    xoxo

    Comment by Allison Zapata on August 14, 2012
  39. Hi Ali – I totally get that this would have been an agonising decision for you and your husband to make. That said – Emily, Josh and Bella will thrive wherever you place them. Why am I so sure? A teacher friend of mine who is a senior teacher at a very posh (and expensive) private boys’ school here in Perth told me that that number 1 factor in kids’ success at school was PARENTS’ SUPPORT. Not wealth, not connections. He basically said, after I asked if I should send Toby there (he’s very gifted), he told me that Toby would do just fine in the local public school system. I come from a totally public school background (my parents had neither the resources nor did they know any different) and I’ve done amazingly well.I do appreciate that of course that you are grappling with separate cultural and religious issues as well but I’m confident that you address these on a daily basis in your everyday life anyway. My children originally attended a Catholic private primary school for a few years and both Toby and Jeremy were well behind by the time they transferred to the local excellent public school Grades 1 and 2 – they are now achieving at an above average level, have been exposed to whole multitude of cultures and experiences (whereas at the Catholic school it was pretty much 99% rich, white people :((( )and are really happy to go to school every day. I pay only about $400 per year plus school supplies for each kid (includes voluntary contributions and excursions)and they are getting the best education possible. The stock standard talk around the traps in my ‘hood, though, is “Where are you sending your boys to high school?” and I do still get the shocked look when I reply, “Applecross Senior High School (local public high school)”. While we could afford private school for the kids, not sending them will allow me to continue to work part-time, have them participate in a range of activities outside of school, pay our mortgage off faster and go on fantastic holidays which are an education in itself. Plus I just can’t deal with the SNOB factor ROFL! You and Gav are wonderful role models – Emily, Josh and Bella can only grow into fantastic, productive adults you’ll be proud of. Does this mean you’ll move out of the nosebleeds now? Hugs. xo

    Comment by Heidi on August 15, 2012
  40. Love your blog, don’t know if I ever commented before, but this post really spoke to me. I went to Jewish day school until grade five, when my parents pulled us out and put us in public school permanently. Like you, they were then able to afford the things they felt were important to them Jewishly (namely family trips to Israel), and they didn’t identify with the brand of Judaism being represented by the schools we were in. They decided a strong Jewish home and Hebrew tutors were enough for us, even though we were more on the Orthodox spectrum.

    It definitely had its challenges for me. It was hard not to go things on Shabbat, or not to eat the fries in the cafeteria. Alternately, I also always felt “outside” of the world of my shul and neighbourhood friends, and in high school particularly I campaigned to switch to the school those friends went to (denied!). But overall, it was so much better for us. Sure, we had our weird religious issues, but so did many other kids in the culturally diverse student body (I should also add economically diverse, something you’re less likely to find at schools with such high price tags). I think I got a great education academically, but I also think getting out of the insularity of the North American Jewish communities – where is an invaluable lesson in itself (particularly the Orthodox one, but I don’t know your deal, denomonationaly :).

    It also taught me the importance of the home over the school. My home life and the values instilled in me by my parents were so much more significant than anything moral/religious I could have learned for $15,000 a year.

    Good luck, I’m sure your kids will do wonderfully!

    Comment by Sarah on August 15, 2012
  41. It’s your decision, so I’m not sure why anyone in their right mind would judge.

    Comment by Holly on August 21, 2012
  42. This is an ongoing rant of mine and we are in the thick of the tuition “payin’” right now at this time of year. Kudos to you for pulling your kids out. I made sort of a parallel decision: with 4 kids, I’m letting the older 2 graduate (they’re 16 and 17) and I’ve been homeschooling the younger 2 (4 and 7). Not only because of the money but for the mediocrity of the education, both kodesh and chol. The system is sick and as a committed, religious Jew-without-funds, I honestly don’t know how to fix it. Next year, we’ll be opting out altogether and making aliyah.

    Comment by Jennifer in MamaLand on August 27, 2012
  43. [...] actions, but, well, for the sake of a little background here, I will tell you this. My three kids will be going to a brand-new school next year. It’s across the street from our house (major win, I’d say), sure, but I don’t [...]

    Pingback by » On Googling Teachers Cheaper Than Therapy on August 29, 2012
  44. [...] Check out why I’m pulling my kids from Jewish Day School and sending them to public school. [...]

    Pingback by » Tanner and I are Basically Twins Cheaper Than Therapy on September 5, 2012
  45. [...] Yes. I will take your advice on centerpieces because it looks like our small and intimate dessert affair is now going to be more of a sit-down sushi and appetizer dinner-ish affair and now it looks like I have twenty six days to figure out how to make tables look lovely and surprise! I do not have a DIY bone in my entire body, no matter what my Pinterest page looks like to you. For real. I mean, for example, want to know what my children are taking to school for Valentine’s Day tomorrow? It’s a trick question, really, because hell if I know what they are taking. You will have to forgive me, though, because celebrating Valentine’s Day—which apparently is now called Friendship Day?—at school is a new phenomenon for my previously Jewish Day School-ed children. [...]

    Pingback by I'm Basically an Overdue Pregnant Lady Right Now - Cheaper Than Therapy | Cheaper Than Therapy on February 13, 2013
  46. So. I just Googled “public vs. Jewish day school,” and I found this. It’s like reading an account of the last few years of my family’s life. Three kids, day school, both parents employed with modest salaries – and spending almost everything on school. And stressing every month about will we have enough for school AND xyz that shouldn’t be a stretch but really is. And, and, and…(you probably know all of those “ands” anyway)…

    Anyway. Thank you for writing this. We have a wonderful neighborhood school that many people have told me we will love. It’s a shame that, once again, money (or, lack thereof) is the culprit for our decision. Having grown up in horrible public schools in an inner city, education has been a #1 priority for myself and my children. I know that my and my husband’s love for Judaism and traditions will not be lost on our children. And just possibly, I think I can sleep tonight knowing we are making the right decision.

    Comment by Stef on May 3, 2013
  47. Ali, I’m also from the Toronto “noseblids” and we may very well be living in the same neighbourhood and my son goes to a very big jewish day school and his younger sister will start soon. I would like to say that I agree with you about the tuition being very high and unaffordable. But you definitely exaggerating about the tuition financial impact on you as you are not being completing forthcoming. We pay very little mortgage as well and our family gross income was over $115K last year and we still manage to get financial assistance for a single child and will pay $11K in 2013/14. I was told with my second child I would likely end up paying about $15K for both and if we had a 3rd one (as we are planning)we’d pay $18K for all 3. If we earn more we’d pay more but far from $45K. In fact, we’d have to earn more than $150K/yr not to qualify for any subsidy for 3 kids. You are claiming that 3 kids have cost you 70% of your income. Did you mean only your income or did you factor your husband’s? Why did you not tell the readers about the Donation tax receipts you received from the school. Assuming you really paid $45K you should have received more than $30K in donation tax receipts which you yield a refund of more than $12K/year. That would put tuition cost at $33K or $11K/child. It is still a lot of money by any standard and I would never be able to afford this even if I made twice as much as you do. I just think you did not tell us the whole story and demonizing the Jewish day school system for that reason.

    ali replied on

    Hi Levush—I’m actually not sure where you are getting your numbers? Did I say anything about 70% of my salary? I don’t think I actually disclosed how much money my husband and I make…so I am a wee bit offended that you would make assumptions and say that I am exaggerating.

    I am telling MY whole story.

    And I’m not demonizing Jewish Day School. If you actually read my post, you will see full and clear that my husband and I are both huge fans of Jewish Day School, but after much soul searching we decided that we couldn’t swing it for our family.

    Comment by levush from upper thornhill on June 2, 2013
  48. Apologies…got you confused with DJ’s comment on Aug 14th. Did not mean to offend. However, I still find it misleading that the cost of education for your 3 kids were $45K without mentioning receiving about $30K of donation receipts that would result with approx. $12K income tax refund. Most of the comments to your story assume the actual cost to you was $45K where it was probably about $33K.

    Jennifer in MamaLand replied on

    I’m glad you clarified. However, I want to emphasize that this article rang true all across the income spectrum, not just those earning >$100K.
    Regardless of how low your income may be, and even with a [humiliating, but okay] process where all our tax information is openly shared with the schools, they STILL ask for more than you can afford. I know because every year the subsidy form asks me to fill in honestly how much I can pay – and then they come back with a number that’s a few thousand higher.
    Oh, and that tax receipt you’re so excited about… totally worthless if you can’t deduct it from income because you haven’t earned any.
    My father asked me at one point, “what if you tell them you can’t afford ANYTHING?” My guess – based on 13 years of painful experience – is that they’d still ask for more. (He was about to call a meeting with school admins a few years ago to ask THEM that question on our behalf, but got cancer and died instead. :-( )
    This is a system that is rotten to its core, and we have opted out in a different way, as I said above, by a) homeschooling our younger two kids, and b) making aliyah this summer, God willing.

    ali replied on

    …that’s kind of exactly why I didn’t get into number crunching specifics. I wanted to talk about the fact that the price tag is high—and it was too high FOR US. End of story.

    I didn’t really want to get into the whole system of how you can request subsidy, but it’s an embarrassing and tedious process, involving disclosing every single thing you have ever bought, including meals out and clothing etc. It’s a process we have been through before, and once it came up with an offer for $5,000 off of our tuition.

    I will say that every school and every system is different. We lived in Atlanta for a year and our experience with one of the Jewish Day Schools there was pleasant and we happily sent our kids to that school.

    I didn’t get into dollars and cents because it doesn’t matter. And truthfully, Levush, if what your takeaway from my post is nickel and dime-ing me, then you really completely missed the point of my post.

    Levush replied on

    Jennifer, I feel very bad for your situation of not having any income in your family pay for tuition and consequently deduct the donation reciepts. In Ontario Canada you can accumulate those reciepts for 5 years and claim once you declare income. I’m particularly surprised that in your situation you did not have substantial financial aid for your kids as I personally know of several families in similar situation that do recieve substantial help to the point where it’s only a few hunderds of dollars/yr per child. I agree with Ali as to the huge financial burden to her family and conseqently for us as well even though both of our housholds earn a very healthy income we pay the full amount or nearly the full amount. This results with serious lifestyle sucrifices as cost of living here is pretty expensive. Bottom line is that someone has got to pay for the tuition and someone has got to pay to help offset the significant subsidies given to lower income families. Unfortunately it falls on the middle class families’ shoulders. I wish you best of luck with the aliyah and god willing all be well for you and your family.

    Ali, I agree with you 100% of the humiliating process for applying for financial assistance. But we have to consider that they are “giving” money away and in some cases substantial amounts. This is, unfortunaetly, the general process they chose and I was told that this is more for us than it is for them in order to help us be able to budget better. I may have missed the point of your post but I chose to focus on many of the comments to your post that focused on on your comment at top of your post “Tuition is at $15,000 a child, per year. If you are doing the math at home, that’s $45,000 a year. That’s almost my ENTIRE salary. And that, friends, is not an exaggeration.”
    This may sound nickle and diming but I’m assuming you paid full tuition (or close to it) for all your 3 kids which means that you had the opportunity to recieve $12K in income tax refund and this is a lot of money. I’m glad that you feel this was a good decision for you and your family and frankly I would very likely have made the same decision if I was in your situation. Take care and good luck!

    Jennifer in MamaLand replied on

    Okay, I may have exaggerated *slightly*. We do have some income and always deduct the maximum allowable – between shuls, schools and “incidental” donations, we have way more receipts than we will ever be able to use.
    I have never known families whose tuition was assessed in the HUNDREDS. If there are such people, I am grateful for the compassion they have been shown, as they must be in desperate straits.
    My husband has a blue-collar job and there are 6 of us living on his one income. Our situation (based on the same Notices of Assessment we submitted to the schools) is considered “low income” by the City of Toronto for purposes of its Welcome Policy, wherein low-income families receive a certain number of classes/programs at no charge. We live in a 900-sq-ft house and own a single car, purchased by my parents.
    Our tuition burden this year (for 2 kids) has been in the multiple thousands BEFORE textbooks, trips, uniforms and any other expenses.
    Based on what I’ve seen in six schools over the years, there are literally only a few families with less income than us who are still sending to Jewish schools.
    As I said, I pray it’s true that some families are being assessed in the hundreds. The rest of us cut corners that most families would consider unacceptable – like the Martells, they’d have cut out the day-school bill first.
    I am VERY curious about why more families in our community don’t homeschool, by the way. Day school and public school are not the only answers. If one parent stays home and educates the kids, you save money in a ton of other ways (like not needing a second car, childcare on days off school, home-cooked meals every day). No stress of parent-teacher interviews, phone calls from school administrators or having to sell books, chocolate, magazines or whatever… plus, no kvetching about the quality of the kids’ education!

    Comment by levush from upper thornhill on June 2, 2013
  49. [...] a year ago I wrote a post addressing our decision to pull our children from Jewish day school right before my three were about to begin the 6th, 5th, and 2nd [...]

    Pingback by The Jewish Day School Elephant: One Year Later | Cheaper Than Therapy on July 12, 2013
  50. When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

    Comment by cone on April 11, 2014
  51. Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by anadoul-hammam.blogspot.com on April 11, 2014
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