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Thursday, April 26, 2007

JO Review: Of Facts and Figures

The Introduction to the Jewish Observer's "Tuition Dilemma" feature, "Vibrant Memories Indelible Imprints," introduces the articles to follow as drawing upon presentations that took place at the National Convention of Agudath Israel in November 2005.

The author in "Raw Figures and Precious Neshamos" starts by repeating figures that are dated by nearly 7 years. The author quotes an Avi Chai foundation study of 2000 stating that day school/yeshiva tuition range between $5,000 and just over $18,000. Unfortunately, these staggering tuition figures are far more staggering today. While I cannot determine the lower tuition across the US, I can report that the $17,000 tuition figure that nearly made choke on my dinner last year has now increased to just over $18,000 this year. Ari Kingsberg reports that the tuition in Riverdale's SAR has now topped $26,000.

(MB--Are you still reading my blog??? This is for you.) I hate to be correct, but I predicted the 2006/07 tuition rates nearly to the dollar by applying the average percentage tuition increase from the past three years and projecting it into the future. You don't even want to know what tuitions could be in 5 years, much less 10. But if the cost of education continues to increase at a rate well beyond that of your average Certificate of Deposit, we are in trouble.

And let us not forget that these tuition figures are not "all inclusive" as special class trips and graduations are extra. Also, there are often hidden costs like transportation (anyone purchased a newer and bigger vehicle than they currently need for carpool?) or even uniforms that impact the family budget. (Please don't laugh about uniforms. I know one family who claims the most expensive outfits their girls own are their school uniforms. I believe them).

The other topic of the introduction was the salaries of mechanchim. Nearly everything presented has been said before and I have no doubt that the author is accurately reflecting the sentiments of those in the chinuch professions. A brief summary: Mechanchim are not paid enough and must seek extra income to support their families. The minimal salaries make it difficult to find or retain quality staff.

The author did not bring up the lack of timely payment which some might tell you is far worse than not being paid what was agreed upon on time. (Unfortunately there are schools out there that have never paid their workers. I won't name names). Even if we cannot solve the tuition crisis all at once, working on a halachic problem like this which undermines employee morale could go a long way.

But I felt the author took a far too gratuitous jab at more Modern Orthodox schools when he stated, "the typical yeshiva's tuition income does not permit it to come anywhere near the salary and benefits level of public schools or wealthy suburban day schools," when introducing his comments above.

Modern Orthodox and even non-Orthodox schools suffer from many of the same challenges that the more right wing schools suffer from. In fact one of the problems that the Modern Orthodox community has is finding teachers from within its own ranks as the push for aliyah is great and teachers are armed with degrees from recognized Universities and Colleges and can more easily choose to pursue options outside of the frum world. Attracting staff and retaining staff is an uphill battle in modern schools, despite generally higher tuition charged (and most likely collected).

And outside of a handful of administrators in select day schools, I have yet to hear of teachers being offered anywhere near the level of benefits of those in public schools, even where salaries come close to that of the public school counterparts. And how can the benefits come anywhere close even if the funding is there? The Orthodox world lacks a regional or central body that can negotiate benefits or administer benefits.

(Of note: See the Jewish Action's article "Averting a Crisis in Jewish Education: Retirement and the Jewish Educator" for a more Modern Orthodox perspective. Of note is the unified efforts in Chicago where a community has come together to combat some of the issues and offer better benefits. We could all use a lesson from Chicago).

While I'm sure that involved in the Yeshiva world schools look upon their counterparts in the Modern Orthodox day schools as "wealthy," it would be of service to realize that we are all in the same boat, even if the dollars don't add up quite the same. And friends of mine in the Modern Orthodox day school world will quickly point to their counterparts in the Yeshiva world that there are rarely, if ever, tuition discounts for teachers (not administrators) and that they must stand before the tuition committee just as everyone else.

I'd like to explore the issues of staffing at a later time and would welcome guest posts from readers more in the know. There are many interesting aspects to staffing issues in school. Some questions I would be interested in:

* Is it more difficult to attract and/or retain male teachers than female teachers?
* How do frequent pregnancies of female teachers impact on school budgets and education where frequent absenses require the hiring of substitute teachers as well as inconsistencies in education? (A related subject: Post-seminary students who leave mid-year to get married).

Once again, I look forward to your comments. And bear with me as I comb through the JO's Tuition "Dilemma" Issue.


mother in israel said...

A note regarding pregnancies: My daughter's 7th grade teacher had a baby and took 3 months leave, as required by Israeli law (technically they can take off up to a year of unpaid leave, but teachers are under tremendous pressure to come back, and b/c they don't work long days it's worth it). She also gets an extra hour off each day for 7 months--max of 19 hours/week. Because the school is so big (8 classes per grade!) they hire several substitutes whose job it is to cover for maternity leave and other absences. When there is no need I'm sure they put them to work in other ways such as tutoring etc. Part of the solution is definitely to have larger schools, even though this creates many challenges to make sure the kids don't get lost. Sorry for the length!

Bob Miller said...

Regarding Mother in Israel's comment above:

Small schools are OK, too, in this respect if they can pull in substitutes from a common pool that serves multiple schools.

Anonymous said...

One serious issue with transitioning from parental to community responsibility for schools is the additional funds will have to come in large part from a number of parents whose children have graduated but who have already stretched themselves thin to pay tuition for years, and were hoping to catch up on their own retirement needs, deffered maintenance on homes, paying off tuition loans, etc.

I know that in my case I have already paid something in excess of half a million dollars in day school tuition over the past 2 decades, with, depending on how much rates increase between now and my 4th grader's graduation (she is much younger than her siblings) another quarter of a million plus to go. (Plus another half million or so in college tuition) I will need some time to catch up with some of those needs after my oldest couple finish college in the next couple of years.

Chaim B. said...

>>>Is it more difficult to attract and/or retain male teachers than female teachers?

I can't comment on whether there is a disparity, but as for attracting staff, my son's school is in Long Island but he has Rebbeim who shelp in from Lakewood (that is about 1.5+ hour commute each way) to teach because there are only a limited # of chinuch positions for which hundreds of kollel-niks in Lakewood are all competing. Sans college degree or other marketable skills, those few positions are their best bet for work while remaining 'klei kodesh'. With such a large pool of candidates, simple supply and demand drives the wages down.

Halfnutcase said...

I think that we need to do anumber of things.

Firstly I think that we need for our elementery school teachers to be qualified to teach both limudei kodesh and limudei chol. This will allow us to employ all of them at full time, and thus will provide a living wage for each of them, as well as drive down the amount you have to pay them per hour just to attract them.

Next, we need to unify our schooling systems and make them more broad based in order to drive costs down. Larger schools with medium class sizes (between 15 and 22) will help with the tuition costs, because there are more students to pay for each teachers tuition. We have WAY to much redundancy in the current system, and we are paying dearly for it. This would also allow us to offer more benefits to each of the teachers who do teach.

Also we need to set up the highschools in a manner more similar to secular highschools, with classes of both limudei kodesh and chol through out the day, and making sure to employ the best available for gemorah and have him teach all gemorah shiurim etc. This way each teacher is full time as well, instead of a half day.

Also I think that this attitude amoungst the chereidim of their men not working has got to go. We need the incomes they make in order to run our school systems.

But I think that this has to be delt with sensitively and carefully. We need to take care to ensure that our schools truely do meet the needs of each segment of the population, and I think that everyone needs to compromise sometimes and not others. Having unified schools would go along way to increasing achdus as well.

Aharon - said...

As the son of a Yeshiva Principal, a former Public School Principal and the husband of a Yeshiva Day School teacher, I know that Mechanchim are not paid nearly enough. Looking at my tuition contract I know that parents are being asked to bear a huge load and while a Good Jewish Education is important enough to spend the money there will be a breaking point soon.

One thing I can think of is to have areas with multiple schools have some kind of expense sharing mechanism that goes across schools. It might not work for health insurance, since bundling 5 schools with high pregnancy rates is not going to reduce the overall risk but supplies, transporation, pensions might also be helped.

It might also help if Teacher Tuition discounts went cross schools, so that if you are still a teacher but find better opportunities in a neighboring school or your kids are too old for the school you teach in, you aren't taking a $5,000 hit per child to make that choice.

Ari Kinsberg said...

half nut case:

"I think that we need for our elementery school teachers to be qualified to teach both limudei kodesh and limudei chol."

some of them are not even qualified to teach just one. both is pushing it.

Halfnutcase said...

not if we make the push to get a whole lot of seminary girls and yeshiva bochurim qualified in this respect.

Besides, the petagogy training (which is largely what is at issue is secular teaching programs for elementery) will be very usefull in the limudei kodesh.

It also makes sure that that parnassa is going to jewish teachers instead of non-jewish ones, this way we're not loosing that money out of the community.

Bob Miller said...

The lead article of this local newspaper shows what's being done to help families afford tuition in Indy:

another jewish accountant said...

many of the ideas recommended here are in place in my kids LA school. most of the teachers teach full day and some kids have limudei kodesh in the afternoon (they daven in the morning before secular classes) the classes are on average 18-25 kids, with 20-22 being typical. I think they also have a program where you can get tuition breaks at schools other than the school you teach in, so you dont have to change teaching jobs when your kids progress to the next level of schooling (or if the school you are teaching in doesnt happen to meet your needs for your kids). I dont think trying to have teachers teach both secular and judaic studies is the answer, would you want your kids learning biology from their rebbi that is a fantastic kodesh teacher, but science is not his area of expertise? although i think our school is comparitively well run (a very active board and parent body), it is still very difficult to find the middle ground where parents expectations are met, teachers are paid fairly and can support their families, and parents dont go into shock and have to make difficult choices when tuition payments are due. I know that the solution is bigger than any single school/community, but wonder how we get the wheels in motion to begin making progress.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

When I went to teach for Rav Yehoshua Wender in Houston, he insisted on tuition breaks for the rabbanim teaching in the community, and no membership dues in the shul. That not only helped financially, but it helped morale (and had a good halachic basis). Unfortunately, I heard after I had left there that the 'constituents' no longer supported him on this, and that the situation had changed. I don't know what the present situation is there.

Halfnutcase said...

Another jewish accountant:

Elementary school students don't learn enough "serious" material for it to be much of an issue. Better someone who is competant at everything, and excelent at petagogy (the study and application of teaching) and that will get you by far the most bang for your buck. Someone who is simply awesome at something wont be able to give it over to the vast majority of elementary schoolers anyway, so whats the point? Better to reserve such specialists for junior and senior highschool. (or middle and high if you prefer, but it would seem to me to be better split in to junior and senior)

Bob Miller said...

No amount of razzle dazzle can make up for a lack of age-appropriate content.

another jewish accountant said...

although it is more cost effective to have teachers teach a full day, i do not think the way to do that is to have the same teachers teaching both kodesh and secular studies. particularly for boys where there is an importance of looking up to one's rabbeim. I am not sure that having their rebbi also being a math teacher is the right kavod for these teachers. I would much rather see classes staggered throughout the day, and some kodesh classes in the afternoon to allow teachers to work a full day while teaching what they teach best. I know way too many great teachers (both secular and judaic studies) that wouldnt be good at teaching the other "half" of the curriculum.

although - if that is what it takes to make my $36,000 (and rising) tuition bill less likely to go up over $50,000 in the next few years, i'd say go for it!!

Halfnutcase said...

well for elementery school why should it matter? Elementary students told learn anything in enough depth for it to be an issue, and why shouldn't the teachers teach both subjects, why would kavod be an issue? all the more so, now the hebrew teacher is going to be able to intigrate the limudei chol in such a matter as that the children learn to see all the wonders of the natural world as an expression of g-dliness and something that can be used to compliment torah instead of treating it like an "other" that could possibly compete against torah (as if that were really possible).

for this I'm not talking about highschool. Junior and senior high is another issue all together, but for elementery they are not (in 99% of cases) capable of the questions that really require major esoteric knowledge by the teacher. Yes they tend to grate at the teachers weak point, but no they don't really know enough to need to know the depths of physics or gemorah.

Bob Miller said...

I had some excellent teachers in day school, especially in English (5th-7th Grade). While they taught nothing esoteric or even advanced, they had a good grasp of the subject material plus good teaching skills. That really mattered. Teaching skills alone would not have done the job.

Halfnutcase said...

having a good grasp of material doesn't take an expert.

mother in israel said...

In Israel the main elem. school teacher teaches Torah, Navi, holidays/halacha, Hebrew language, and math. They usually don't teach science and English. If they're not good at teaching math they trade subjects with a different teacher. As the boys do more advanced Jewish studies they study with a male "rav" for the relevant hours.

SephardiLady said...

Everyone is leaving fantastic posts.

Chaim-Great point about supply and demand. It sounds like the "in town" places are suffering from their own success so to speak.

Aharon Fischman-I emailed you, but the email bounced back. If you would like to right a guest post, I'd welcome one. (Everyone else is welcome too).

Bob-I wasn't able to access the link. I will have to see if I can when I install the updates on our computer.

Another Jewish Accountant-Welcome. I actually think that we might see better behavior if the boys had Rabbis teaching a secular subject. Unfortunately the behavior issues drive away secular teachers in droves. What a shame! Also, goodluck with your rising tuition bill.


triLcat said...

In my high school, there were 2 rabbis who taught much of the day - one taught Talmud, Chumash, Nach, Biology, Chem, and Physics. The other taught Talmud, Chumash, Nach, and psychology as well as being a guidance counselor and managing the drama club. Both were overall VERY respected.

Also noteworthy, it's getting to be a better and better economic decision to live in Israel, especially if you can telecommute to an American job.

A year in a good yeshiva high school runs $3000-3500 here. Up to 6th grade, the schools are generally under $1500 per year with all the extras. Not to mention that even the fancy houses around here go for about $400K... and you can get something very livable for $250K (in Modiin, at least).

Time for you guys all to come home!

Michael said...

Yes, I still read your blog (I will try and call you tonight to explain why I've fallen off the face of the earth of late though I did get your voicemail on Wed night) and I was in the home of the author of the article entitled "Averting A Crisis In Jewish Education" just last night (we are very close). He's right, of course, and so are you. But solutions remain elusive and the crisis persists.

I've just lost my appetite and would ask that you not share the updated spreadsheet with me, I will have nightmares all over again. :(

Speak to you soon,

SephardiLady said...

I won't ever share the spreadsheet with you. We need you to get what little sleep you can.

But, watch for an upcoming post of Coverdell Accounts that might help a bit :). I want to bring some hope to you too. :)

I'm afraid there are no solutions.

Bob Miller said...

"Bob-I wasn't able to access the link. I will have to see if I can when I install the updates on our computer."

I've been able to access at work and on my own laptop.

Do you have the latest (free) Adobe Reader update?

Anyway, the article is about the Hasten family's recent action to make it possible for all tuition-challenged Jewish parents in the Indy area to send their kids to our local day school.

Ariella said...

It owuld be interesting to get the figures taht show the diaprity of pay between female and male mechanchim. While it is true that many rebbeim work a somewhat longer day and have less time off (Sundays are mandatory) than moros, that alone does not account for their higher pay scale. When my husband was interviewing for chinuch positions (quite a ways back), he was told that smicha was worth $5000 of pay on a half-day job. That was more than the MA was worth. So how is a frum female supposed to get the same credentials as her male counterpart? Another plus that men ususally take advantage of while women rarely do is the tax advantage of parsonage.

It seems that both sides do not take the job for females as seriously as they do for males. It has become more than acceptable for a single female teacher who becomes engaged to schedule her wedding for during the school year and then move off to Lakewood with her new husband and leave her job. So the schools could argue that they have to factor in that possibility and replacement costs when calculating the pay scale for its female teachers.

Anonymous said...

One issue that you may want to touch on is that salaries for women teachers are at many schools much less than those of rabbeim with the inevitable effect that tuitions for "the girls school" often subsidize "the boys school".

Ari Kinsberg said...

many comments to add, but must study.

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-Another interesting issue. I think I might be able to touch upon in while I am reviewing the JO's Tuition Dilemma Issue. Please add any comments you might have. I certainly haven't seen a difference in tuition between boys and girls, yet I don't see the female teachers hitting the top of the pay scale.

Ari-Thanks for the link. I had no idea the under 18 Israeli population is 52% Hareidi. I assume the the Dati Leumi make up a good portion too. Do you think this is possible or a factual error?

Anonymous said...

halfnutcase! your right on

Anonymous said...

Halfnutcase, you're thinking re: el.ed teaching is flawed. These teachers need to know how to teach how to instruct reading, math and other skills, yes these skills are at a much lower level than HS but if the foundation isn't laid correctly then you can't proceed. a good education is done on the building block principle. This why many seminary girls and yeshiva bochurs are horrible teachers; they are clueless about key issues such as class management, no recess is not the answer, and how to teach a variety of students of all different levels, teaching to the middle is not acceptable. Teaching el.ed is MUCH harder than it looks! I did it for a number of years and now teach HS.

Given the tuition that we are all paying, every parent should expect a certified teacher in both leumudai kodesh and kol. my children's school has broken with "tradition" all teachers must be certified, many Rabbaim are coming out of YU's ed program and many teachers/rabbaim teach full day. Yes, some kids have lemudai kodesh in the afternoon but at least the rabbaim have a means of supporting their families. The half day positions tend to be the female teachers, not sure if this is done by teacher's request, many have kids, or program design.

A number of the schools have formed a consortium to buy supplies. Many schools are trying to be budget concsious but their fixed costs keep rising. This is where help is needed from a "super fund" or something. as parents we can't keep doing it on our own. For some perspective, my tuition bill for 3 kids in elementary school this year (NY area) was $31,000. Ours is not the most expensive school, probably mid-range.

Lack of decent health and pension benefits are problems for the teachers; we loose good english teachers to the public school. every few years.

Maternity leaves go with the territory, all 3 kids had teachers out this year. If the school is well run a system will be in place and there will be minimal disruption to the class. this is a true test of how organized your administration is.

Sorry so long, hope was helpful.

SephardiLady said...

Don't apologize for a long post Queeniesmom, I'm glad you are still reading and commenting.

I agree with you that recess should not be cut. If I was in charge I would make sure more physical activity was the rule and I'm guessing behavior would be far better. Kids need to burn energy and cutting recess only hurts the class, the teachers, etc.

And I want certified teachers, especially at these tuition rates for the lower grades.

Having substituted, I feel that the maternity leave can be completely wasted time (not because of the sub, or at least not when I tried it). Considering the 1/6 of each school year could be with a sub, it should be a top priority to make sure that long term subs are supported to do the job and that they can do the job.

Anonymous said...

the sub issue definately relates to the school's philosophy. Does the sub coteach with the clsrm. teacher for a few days to learn the curriculumn, learn about the kids or are they a warm body? Yes the coteaching before and after the clsrm. teacher costs more but this is in the students best intrest and is thew most educationally sound method. Again these are decissions made by the school board, money, and the principal.

Anonymous said...

It makes me laugh when chareidi yeshiva parents complain about tuition. My brother who sends his kids to a chareidi schools can send five kids (including all the discounts) for the price I pay for one

That is why the modern orthodox world will be subsumed and dominated by the chareidi world - the chareidim can reproduce and support those kids in yeshiva for a pittance compared to mainstream orthodox (it won't be long before chareidi judaism is mainstream)

when it comes to summer camps and college - the discrepancy just gets wider

the modern orthodox child is the most expensive child in america to raise - the charedi child can be raised for just a little more than the public school kid (when college and high suburban re taxes are considered) satmar kids are definitely cheaper than public school kids.

Within orthodox judaism - There is an inverse relationship between yeshiva tuitions and family size

suburban parent said...

Concernin the JO's insulting comment about "wealthy suburban day schools" and public schools

There is plenty of wealth in flatbush and boro park - they just choose not to fund their yeshivas and pay their mechanchim

suburban parents sacrifice greatly to send their kids to yeshivas and pay the mechanchim on time (mitzvas aseh midiorayso) and a living wage

suburban parents have a choice there are excellent public schools to choose from - brooklyn parents have no choice

Bob Miller said...

FYI, this is about Chareidi institutions in Israel pooling their buying power:

Ora said...

52% of kids under 18 hareidi in Israel? Not a chance. The article itself says that 1 in 4 babies are born to hareidi families in 2006. 1 in 4 << 52%, and it was probably less than 1 in 4 just five or ten years ago.

Latest estimates show dati leumi and hareidi together making up about one third of the Jewish population and 25% of the total population of Israel in another 18 years. We shall see.

As for tuition, I don't have much to say. Tuition can be tough here too, but nothing like it is stateside. Our main financial crisis seems to be the post-army crisis, but that's not nearly so bad IMO. Good luck to all of you American parents.