For many parents, deciding whether to send your kids to Jewish day school is not an easy choice–especially when you aren’t even sure what the tuition is, because it’s hard to find online. Now, all the silence and secrecy behind day school tuition is coming out, as anonymous collaborators built a massive Google spreadsheet listing tuitions for hundreds of Jewish elementary schools, highs schools, and yeshivas in the United States and Israel, as reported by the Forward.
It’s nothing new that tuition costs are rarely advertised on school websites–and also range greatly among private religious schools in general. I know this only too well, as I attended private religious schools from elementary to high school–and even ended up teaching at one myself.
Some private schools list their tuitions online (for instance, The Heschel School lists theirs, which starts at $28,550 for nursery school and increases to $43,900 for 12th grade). Of course, some do not. This lack of transparency can be difficult–it would be nice to easily know if you have to pray for your kid to get a massive scholarship or if you can afford it.
This is why it’s not surprising the spreadsheet has gotten so much traction–by yesterday morning, more than 70 people were viewing the document at the same time. James Wolfe, a dad in Newton, Massachusetts, set up the spreadsheet on Friday. He apparently spent “weeks wondering why” Maimonides School, the Brookline Jewish day school where he sends his two kids, had not started classes yet. He told the Forward:
“I was watching on Facebook all of my friends, they were posting first day of school pictures. For whatever reason, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to know this information”
He started a spreadsheet comparing tuition and number of school days, and that’s when he noticed that not all schools list their tuition publicly. As of now, countless anonymous people have already added hundreds of schools to the document (after his initial contribution of five). That being said, because it’s similar to Wikipedia in that anyone can edit, it can also carry false information–whether intentional or not.
Of course, I’m all for transparency in any forum, but especially education. It’s strange to me that education is a place where secrecy and inaccessibility lingers–which causes financial, racial, and gender tension across the board. One Facebook user put it best:
“I love this private effort because I believe in transparency. If you want to know why Modern Orthodoxy in the US is not affordable except for the wealthy, see here.”