Monday, April 19, 2010

NNJKIDS - a communal approach to funding day school tuition

One of the most significant challenges facing our community today is the issue of Day School affordability. Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing In Day Schools (NNJKIDS) is a crucial first step in a broader long-term initiative to assure access to a high quality dual curriculum and to make day schools affordable for Jewish families in Bergen County, New Jersey. Established in May 2009, the funds collected through NNJKIDS help mitigate tuition increases and provide critical assistance to meet burgeoning scholarship needs which are currently in excess of $7 million dollars. NNJKIDS is a unified effort that includes day schools of all denominations in the Northern New Jersey area. Orthodox and conservative synagogues have joined in launching and promoting this program. To strengthen the synagogue to school affiliation, funds collected from the members of synagogues are allocated to schools in that denomination, unless otherwise indicated by donor. Funds are allocated on a per capita basis, based on the number of preK-8 students in each school residing in Northern New Jersey. Distributions occur quarterly.

Thanks to united community support, over 1,000 people have already contributed to NNJKIDS, and we have distributed over $300,000 to the network of day schools during our first two quarters. These crucial funds have already mitigated tuition increases for the 2010/2011 school year.

NNJKIDS is a project of Jewish Education For Generations (JEFG) – an organization established in 2009 to work across our entire day school network and the broader community to identify and execute solutions to the challenge facing day school parents. At this point, JEFG is the only such integrated, nondenominational network in the United States. Many aspects of this agenda involve partnerships with other organizations such as UJA, YU and Avi Chai Foundation, which see JEFG as a unique platform to drive new ideas and approaches.

Currently, JEFG initiatives include the following:

1. NNJKIDS (Northern NJ Kehillot Investing in Day Schools) - a broad-based community fund for Jewish education that is a foundational element of changing the communal mindset to view education as the responsibility of all - not just of parents. Funds raised through NNJKIDS will be directed toward burgeoning scholarship needs and help mitigate tuition increases. Key elements of the program are as follows:
- Goal of 100% participation
- Individuals sign up for monthly debit from a checking account or credit card
- Suggested minimum is simple - $1 per day, or $30 per month
- Those who can, are encouraged to give more - those who cannot, may give at any level
- Funds are distributed on a per capita basis to area Day Schools each quarter

2. ENDOWMENT SUPER FUND - We have entered into a partnership with UJA NNJ to pursue the creation of a large Endowment Fund that would be directed toward lowering the financial burden of Jewish education. Similar funds are being raised in a number of other communities. If successful, this Endowment would be a game-changer in addressing affordability.

3. BENCHMARKING INITIATIVE - Individual schools continually work to find savings wherever possible while maintaining educational quality. Beyond these efforts, we have collaborated with the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University to benchmark the cost base / revenue drivers of our schools and have identified opportunities for cost savings and revenue generation across the network . This approach is widely utilized in the private sector, but this is the first time it has been applied across an entire network of yeshivot.

The next NNJKIDS quarterly distribution to schools is scheduled to take place in May, 2010. At our one year anniversary, we are excited and encouraged by the support of our community and our partners including Avi Chai Foundation, whose generous grant allows us to pay for the day to day expenses of running NNJKIDS. For more information, please visit www.nnjkids.org.

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