Jewish school study suggests families leaving New York for states with lower cost of living 

Teach Coalition establishes Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research, focused on tracking the vital statistics of U.S. Jewish day schools.

New York City. Credit: Koky Gonzalez/Pixabay.
New York City. Credit: Koky Gonzalez/Pixabay.

A landmark inaugural study by Teach Coalition’s new Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research has found a worrying slowdown in New York yeshivah and Jewish day-school kindergarten enrollment growth since 2015. At the same time, Jewish kindergarten enrollment is increasing elsewhere in the country. The likely explanation, the study concludes, is that young families are leaving New York for states with lower costs of living and tuition fees.

Using nonpublic school enrollment data collected by the New York State Education Department, the report found that New York yeshivah and Jewish day-school enrollment has grown tremendously over the past two decades—from 104,797 students in 2000 to 177,252 in 2021. However, since 2015, Jewish kindergarten registration has steadily been declining. As kindergartens feed the entire Jewish school system, this trend has resulted in slower overall enrollment growth in New York since 2015.

Specifically, the Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research study found that:

From 2005 to 2015, Jewish enrollment grew at a historically high annual rate of +3.5%.

Since 2015, the average annual growth rate in New York Jewish schools has halved to +1.5%.

Kindergarten enrollment in New York Jewish schools declined from 18,067 in 2015 to 17,767 in 2021.

Jewish kindergartens in states with lower costs of living and/or state-sponsored scholarship programs have grown faster than ever since 2015.

With no evidence that Jewish parents are having fewer children or opting for non-Jewish schooling options at higher rates, these enrollment trends suggest that young Jewish families are moving out of New York to more affordable states such as New Jersey and Florida.

The full report can be found here.

“We have heard anecdotally that Jewish parents are leaving New York due to the high cost of living and tuition. Using hard data, this report largely confirms these anecdotes,” explained Gabriel Aaronson, director of the Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research.

Based on this study, Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools, strongly recommends that the New York Jewish community launch a major campaign to reduce out-of-pocket tuition costs for New York Jewish families. This would include both advocacy for state-funded scholarships as well as cost control measures by Jewish schools.

Dan Mitzner, Teach Coalition director of government affairs, urged: “This report has shown the risks of inaction in the face of rising tuition costs. The entire New York Jewish community must embark on a major campaign and pursue aggressive policy goals to ensure New York remains competitive in attracting and keeping Jewish families in the state. This is now the top priority for our Teach NYS division.”

Teach Coalition established the Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research in 2023 to help inform the discussion on Jewish day schools by publishing research on Jewish day schools in the United States.

“Jewish schooling is essential for Jewish continuity,” said OU executive vice president Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “That is why the OU has built Teach Coalition as an effective advocate for state funding for Jewish schools, and why we have now initiated the Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research to carefully track enrollment, tuition and other vital trends for our day schools and yeshivahs.”

This research will also support Teach Coalition’s advocacy work as it champions equitable government funding for nonpublic schools nationwide. Future reports by the Office of Jewish Education Policy and Research will center on yeshivah and day school enrollment trends in other states, tuition trends, taxpayer savings generated by nonpublic schools in other states, and the positive economic impact of Jewish day schools. 

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Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU), or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.
Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union, is a nonpartisan, multi-state, grassroots movement devoted to advocating for equitable funding for nonpublic schools. Teach Coalition works to make nonpublic schools better, safer and more affordable. Teach Coalition advocates on behalf of approximately 90% of Jewish day school and yeshivah students nationwide and counts more than 90,000 dedicated volunteers, activists and subscribers among its supporters.
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