Jewish day school education is in crisis mode and we must have a strategy to prevent day school education from being an exclusive rite of passage only for those with more substantive incomes (“Affordable Jewish education: fresh ideas,” Jan. 9). The question posed in the articles — how do we reduce the cost of Jewish schooling? — was especially perturbing to me. Is the question really about reducing cost, or is it about freedom of choice? Why is it that schooling is defined almost exclusively by one’s zip code?
Many of our leaders and think tanks are not yet ready to rock the boat and mobilize the Jewish community to support school choice. The Nobel laureate and economist Milton Friedman began pursuing the dream in 1955 when he first introduced the idea of school vouchers. Rabbi Joshua Lookstein’s call for tax credits are part of Friedman’s vision for school choice, but Lookstein doesn’t appear to advocate for all of Friedman’s plan. Vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits/deductions are currently in operation in various states. The political tide in favor of vouchers is slowly rising.
Public schools vanquish personal freedom; the values taught are often not those we would choose for our children. Furthermore, there is no competition. We all know of stories of incompetent tenured teachers and of epic waste. Friedman often compared the current school system to monopolies like Ma Bell and the United States Post Office that caused opportunity to dissipate.
Parents who seek alternatives, like Jewish day school, must pay twice: once in local taxes dedicated to the school system and once again in tuition. Vouchers are not just a viable solution to the current day school crisis, they are the most viable solution to the current education crisis in the United States. Despite all we spend as a nation on public education, the U.S. was recently ranked 26th in math and 21st in science. Isn’t it time public schools were forced to compete on a level playing field ? Isn’t it time that public schools upped their game to really allow the United States to compete in a global economy and release the unions’ stranglehold on our future?