As a Rabbi in training, I had the opportunity to travel and live in countries around the world, such as Argentina, France, Israel and Ukraine. What I saw was greater emphasis on preparing the youth to succeed in life. Kids were being given the skills necessary to grow and become successful adults who can find work and support themselves and their future families. In the U.S., we are definitely falling short of this goal.
As the most prosperous country in recent history, we owe a great deal of our success to free markets and the excellence that competition breeds. The ability to choose where you live, work and play has forced the marketplace to create products catered to our society.
Education should be no different. The more options we have for schooling our children, the more focused schools will be on providing the best experience possible. This means supporting a successful public and private school system, so parents can find the right environment and system that caters to their individual child’s needs.
The reality is many children have been removed from this marketplace by the cost of tuition at private schools. Even with scholarships available, it is still too costly for many of our middle-income families, thereby excluding them from making the right choices for their children.
Floridians are truly fortunate that our state has seen this challenge and acted to overcome it.
Through vouchers and tax credit scholarships, many parents can now apply a state grant toward the private school of their choice. A marketplace that is open to more parents will help ensure the next generation has every chance to succeed.
Working with a private Jewish day school in Tampa, I have seen the success of the tax credit scholarship program first hand. The family of two students, for example – an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old – struggled to support themselves after the father lost his job. The family wanted desperately to give the girls a quality Jewish education, enriching them with their shared heritage and traditions. But even though they visited the school, they had no intention of applying for fear they could never afford the tuition. Thanks to tax credit scholarships, a school representative approached the parents and showed them how their dream of sending their daughters to the school could be a reality.
This isn’t a question of whether public or private schools work better. This is a matter of choice. We can no longer afford to trail the world in the education of our youth. We must do everything possible to give them the tools necessary to build a beautifully bright future.
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski is co-director of Chabad Lubavitch in South Tampa.