Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Costly Demands on Steroids

Related to the last post regarding costly demands on parents is a subject that SuperRaizy brought up on her blog. However, this demand is far more costly, a demand on steroids. That demand is costly class trips. SuperRaizy's son's school has planned a Shabbaton at the cost of $320 per student. She didn't let him go to the Shabbaton last year because it cost too much, but would like to be able to send him this year. (And I'm sure there are families who can multiply these costly demands-school trips, mandatory school lunches, etc- by 2, 4, or 6).

I've written plenty about saying no. But sometimes we parents want to say yes! Yes, you heard me correctly. Sometimes we want to say yes.

The real chutzpah is putting parents in a position where they can't win. It is simply a chutzpah or plan a trip that is so massively expensive. It is simply a chutzpah to plan costly trips (and sometimes multiple costly trips) when many families have not taken even a small vacation of their own in many years in order to pay the already bloated tuitions. It is simply a chutzpah to ask for atrocious amounts of money and it teaching children that money grows on trees and is there for the taking. It is simply a chutzpah to make an already costly enough Orthodoxy even more costly and out of reach.

Raizy, I agree and sympathize with your sentiments. But, please. After you are done paying off this trip, let the administration know that the paying parents expect some mercy.

31 comments:

tnspr569 said...

my high school's week-long senior class trip cost somewhere north of $600. Fumdraising efforts were made to assist those who couldn't afford the full cost of the trip, but it was still a $600 trip.

ProfK said...

With perhaps the exception of a senior year weekend, please explain to me the chochmah behind these costly school trips. What possible educational benefit can there be that is worth the price? Particularly when paying for these trips means that a family can not afford to take a vacation together, or parents cannot take any time away together. A friend's married daughter has 4 of her children whose schools have scheduled these kinds of trips. None of them will be going. She has figured out that if she has to work overtime to pay for only part of her family to have a vacation, she'll decide where the trip is to and take the whole family instead.

baruch said...

This is the future

MO schools are for the rich - and will become more so in the future

an upper-middle class MO person and certainly a middle class or poor MO person - will be a museum piece

Their children will be in public schools

The chareidim will continue to send to yeshiva - but the poor secular education will hinder their ability to support the large families and even to pay the meager (compared to MO levels)tuition that is asked of them

anonymous mom said...

Baruch, as was the case in other comments, I disagree with you. We won't be sending our kids to public school, thanks. But, I do appreciate that you've made that decision for some of us. You've made some kind of ridiculous biased assumption that MO parents will send their kids into public schools, but Chareidi parents won't. Again, thanks a lot for your confidence. The fringe and disgruntled among us may make a stupid decision here or there, but most of us are actually pretty committed Torah Jews.

Anonymous said...

We won't be sending our kids to public school

anon mom, so what are you going to do?

We have 5 children and right now with 3 in the cheapest preschool and 2 in the local MO day school, I am paying about $4,000 a month in tuition. When all 5 are in the local MO day school, the tuition will be about $7,000 a month. At that point, I will need to send one or two of them to public school. We were thinking of maybe alternating 2 out of 5 kids in public school every year or two. The local public school (elementary) is quite good. But obviously we would need to find some solution for limudei kodesh.

And one we get to high school, it's a whole different story. I don't want my kids in public high school. I"YH, Mashiach will have arrived by then!

Mark

anonymous mom said...

Mark, I can't speak to your particular problem, but people do one of the following or a combination thereof:

a. go to the tuition assistance committee. My mom did that years ago. There's no shame in it.

b. have one parent work in the school and/or volunteer if possible at events for tuition breaks

c. forego camp and other luxuries

d. put your children in school later if possible to save the cost of nursery and pre-K. That's what many people I know, including myself have done.

Your idea of alternating kids in and out of public school would be pretty hard on your kids. I have a bit more trust in the tuition committees of these day schools. I know no one wants to do it, but if your lifestyle is simple, they do help you out. I know that first hand.

SuperRaizy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SuperRaizy said...

SL-
I appreciate your interest in my post and I appreciate your sympathy as well. But I'm feeling a little guilty, because a reader might be able to identify which school my son goes to, and I really don't want to be too critical of his school. The administration at my son's school is made up of warm, caring, truly decent people who put enormous energy into creating a wonderful school experience for their students. The school is in a wealthy neighborhood; perhaps most of the parent body expects high-end trips and amenities. I knew going in that my family's financial status would be the exception rather than the rule and that this type of thing could occur. In addition, they have been very generous to me with tuition assistance and have never treated my son any differently because of this. I feel grateful to them for that.

Thinking said...

There are too many similar situations that come up like this to list, but here goes one. If anyone can come up with a "How I can say no" answer I would like to hear it.

Hot Lunch. My sons school offers daily catered hot lunch for $600 a year. I can easily feed him lunch on 25% of that for the year and my lunch will definitely be a lot healthier!. Here's the problem. A large percent of his class (I estimate it at 35%) qualifies to get the lunch for free or at a greatly reduced price. Another large percentage (35%) willingly pays for it. This leaves my son in the minority (7-8 boys) who bring lunch from home. Now, so far this seems ok, just tell your child you would prefer spend money on other items, right? Here's the problem, the rebbi feels badly that only a few boys don't get the hot lunch, and let's be honest they would all love to be getting it. So he takes the left overs and distributes it to the boys who do not get hot lunch. So now the boys are shnorrers!
I tried to speak to the rebbi about it, but he kept telling me that he couldn't not give it to them, it's going to be thrown out and they really want it anyway. I immediately signed my son up for hot lunch. I don't mind saying no to him, but I can't tolerate him eating other people's leftovers.

Thoughts? Ideas?

SephardiLady said...

SuperRaizy-I hope you weren't too surprised by my interest in your post. It happens that this was a subject I was already interested in, but just used your post as my jump post. The schools in our community, where parents are just holding on, seem to have no problem planning costly trips either.

My friends who teach point out all of the positives and I acknowledge the positives. But, we have to ask, at what cost?

Hope you will forgive me for drawing attention to your post. :)

SephardiLady said...

Thinking-The school lunch issue amazes me too. Our kids cousins go to a school where you are required to pay for the lunch period. I imagine a good part of the kids are covered by free lunch, but those that aren't are absorbing a tremendous bill when you multiply it out by the number of kids in the schools.

Here too, some think the school lunch is great (saves them the inconvience, makes what to pack a non-issue). But, I'm sure the more frugal really feel the pinch.

aml said...

anon mom: what if Baruch has already scaled back in luxuries as much as possible and what if the scholarship committee receives an influx of applications, so much so that they can only drop his bill to 6k a month? Then what is your suggestion? I actually think he's right on the mark here. And it sucks. And I don't know him but I know he knows it sucks. Sorry to be so crass but it does. And he is stating what will easily be a reality- what is becoming a reality. If Baruch's kids forgoe camp then presumably he or his wife (assuming they both work) will have to stop working to care for the kids over the summer, which could male the situations worse. And schools cannot continue to survive when they are handing out scholarships to 50 or 60% (or more) of the student body.

And I would tell my boys that they are stating home for that Shabbaton. Sorry. Life isn't fair and this is just too much money.

tdr said...

I, too, have "Hot lunch stress." The hot lunch at my kids' school is catered by a company that, at least according to one source, makes the best pizza in town.

They serve it 3X/week and at the beginning of the year they let you pick your menu for your kids if you wish to purchase hot lunch for them. I couldn't even afford pizza for them, much less lasagna, baked ziti, etc. But honestly it broke my heart that they would have to sit there and watch (and smell!) those yummy hot lunches. I console myself by reminding myself that it's probably "building their character." :-)

Regarding the shnorring -- a teacher I know, someone whom I know to be very frugal, once told me that you have to make the lunches you send with your kid somewhat attractive and "main stream". I tend toward bags of pretzels, crackers, an apple, a hunk of home-baked bread and occasionally tuna or peanut butter (for the school that allows it). She said she sees ALL THE TIME the begging that goes on in the school cafeteria from the kids that have "nebby" lunches (my word, not hers). It's a real problem. I imagine this goes on in all lunchrooms where kids do not eat the same thing.

How much more so the begging on hot lunch day when the food is that much better. I can just imagine. So perhaps the Rebbe's actions prevents OVERT begging of the haves by the have-nots.

At least this way, the boys know they will be getting some yummy lunch, too, and can leave the other boys in peace to eat.

Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

"explain to me the chochmah behind these costly school trips"

no chochma. just bragging rights and fulfilling the expectations of parents who are expect fancy things for their high tuition (even though the trip is not actually included in tuition).

this is part of that vicious cycle i referred to on your blog

ANON MOM:

i agree with you yeshivah should be non-negotiable (with some exceptions), but your suggestions for alleviating a tuition burden are not realistic

RAIZY:

"I knew going in that my family's financial status would be the exception rather than the rule and that this type of thing could occur."

interesting. one reason my wife didn't want to send my son to one school is because our lifestyle would be the exception

Lion of Zion said...

TDR:

what's the deal with "catered" lunches. i'm a bit upset because my son's school charges $500 a year for a menu that i doubt i'll be happy with (nutritionally speaking) and i'd rather send my own lunch, but at least it's from an in-house kitchen. the other school i was interested in "caters" in from a different restaurant everyday. the three-year olds in this school eat fancier than i do.

tdr said...

The school is in an old synagogue building and they don't really have the facilities for producing their own in-house lunches. I can't remember the prices, but you could even specify how many pieces of pizza you wanted to order for your kid. It was *way* out of my budget.

My daughter reports that most of the girls get hot lunch. My son reports that most of the boys don't.

I'm going to make a pile of lasagna to keep in the freezer and send my daughter with at least a decent lunch every once in awhile on these days. This child has a healthy appetite and even eating cold lasagna is better than bread or matza on these days. (for some reason she'd rather eat matza than home-baked bread. go figure.)

Ariella said...

It's funny that superraizy was concerned about identification because My husband pointed out that he thought he knew which particular trip this was. If it is that school, the tuition there is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20K, though they do have a policy of not denying admission based on ability to pay. Still, the tuition level does indicate an assumption about the income levels of parents in general, even if not all parents do fit that category, and that would explain why they would not consider it excessive to charge this amount.

I have never ordered hotlunch for my kids, but for the boys who can only get breakfast in school after davening, there is very little way around paying for that meal. My son used to bring cereal from home, though he had to purchase the milk from the school at 50 cents per day. This year, as he entered high school, I didn't even know there was an option for milk alone so just paid in for breakfast for the year. But for parents who are paying for breakfast, lunch, plus the suppers on the late nights (minimum two) the cost of the meal plans alone adds on 10% or more to the cost of tuition.

tdr said...

It wouldn't be so hard to pay for all this food if there was an option to pay once a week or when you got the meal. Paying for a whole year of lunches really takes a bite out of the bank account though. No pun intended.

Public schools have been doing it for years. In fact there is a time-honored tradition of losing/forgetting your lunch money or getting mugged by the school bully.

And the frum kids are losing out! (I'm kidding of course)

Anonymous said...

the public schools offer free and reduced priced lunch and breakfast programs for students and families meeting the criteria. the children eat the same food as the children paying full price. yeshivas should follow suit to help needy families. hungry children cannot learn.

YomTova said...

The schools my kids attend do make you fill out the "reduced meal" forms -- so I assume that some kids do get the $500/year lunches for free.

Anonymous said...

a. go to the tuition assistance committee. My mom did that years ago. There's no shame in it.

But this doesn't solve the problem, it just shifts it. We all have to realize that this is a community problem, not only an individual problem. Fund raising is off almost everywhere, and the Federation gave less this year than last year. Next year isn't looking too good either.

b. have one parent work in the school and/or volunteer if possible at events for tuition breaks

In almost all cases, having one parent working in the school (instead of elsewhere) results in substantially less income, and thus even less ability to pay tuition.

c. forego camp and other luxuries

Absolutely. My kids don't go to camp. Last year, two of them went to a cheap Chabad day camp for 4 weeks, but this summer nobody went to camp. Of course, if both parents work, this isn't an option.

d. put your children in school later if possible to save the cost of nursery and pre-K. That's what many people I know, including myself have done.

This definitely helps, none of our kids went to school until they were about 4.

Your idea of alternating kids in and out of public school would be pretty hard on your kids.

It's a terrible idea, but is it worse than sending some full-time to public school and others to day school? Is it worse than sending all of them to public school? I don't think so.

I have a bit more trust in the tuition committees of these day schools. I know no one wants to do it, but if your lifestyle is simple, they do help you out. I know that first hand.

I know for a fact that they want to help out, and I know for a fact that they are generally very good people with very good hearts. But I also know for a fact that they simply don't have enough money to do enough. Especially this year, and if it gets worse, next year they will be able to help even fewer people.

Mark

tdr said...

Yes, at least one school in Baltimore (TA) is part of the state-sponsored (I think?) reduced/free lunch program.

I also think these meals are catered BTW. Cheaply catered I would assume. Probably cheaper than my kids' school (Rambam).

anonymous mom said...

Mark, I hear you. What can I say? It is a communal problem and it affects our family too even though I am a teacher. In the meantime, though, many parents are not making smart decisions in advance. I have seen it blogged about elsewhere. Planning for tuition. Arranging jobs, community and school choice around future realities. I get frustrated when people who send their kids to camp and drive leased cars complain about this stuff. And I hear them complain every day. I kind of feel that many wealthy Frum people are investing a lot more in their homes than in years past. I sure wish they would invest more in our schools, but maybe that's pie in the sky.

anonymous mom said...

HOT LUNCH:

Gone are the days of cafeterias and the crotchedy cook lady who doled out the soup and said something like: "You have enough! Keep moving!"

I hate these catered lunches! As a teacher and a parent. When I asked why the schools stopped cooking, I was told that it is way more expensive to keep up to code with a working kitchen, health code wise, building-code wise. When did this become the norm?

And, just so you know the stats in our large day school. Most of the kids get school lunch so if your kid needs a social boost, you will want to pay for it for that reason alone. It would be nice if it cost less and was a heck of a lot less fancy--like the good old days.

anonymous mom said...

LoZ, you say my suggestions are unrealistic. No suggestion or combination thereof will help every parent who is struggling with tuition, but more would find relief if they tried some or all of what I suggest. Many do not approach the tuition committees. I understand why, but that's what they're for. If you are cutting all the corners you can, you should be okay with saying, "I need help." And the rest are just a short list of lots of things people don't consider at all. I don't claim to hold the ultimate solution for all, but I don't think it's as simple as some people make it out to be. Many aren't changing their lifestyles or asking for help, or planning well. I've been around the Yeshiva system as an adult for quite a while and the longer you are actually working inside the Yeshivos, the more insight you may have. You yourself called someone on the statement that they made about putting their kid in a school where the average lifestyle was more upper-class than theirs. Again, I know it is a community problem that needs attention and it does need a community-wide solution too.

Lion of Zion said...

ATTN. PROSPECT PARENTS:

my wife tells me that in prospect lunch is free until 1st grade. is this true? how come?

(i just want to make sure my school is not missing out on something.)

Lion of Zion said...

ANON MOM:

"Many do not approach the tuition committees"

my impression was that too many people approach the tuition committee, particularly those who shouldn't be getting it (for whatever reason). you write about shame. are people really that embarrassed when the popular view is that full tuition is for suckers?

"you say my suggestions are unrealistic."

maybe unrealistic was the wrong word. they can work for a few individuals, but not for the general parent body.

"have one parent work in the school and/or volunteer if possible at events for tuition breaks"

volunteering is not really possible for working parents. as far as working in the school, a lot of schools (at least the ones i am familiar with) give some type of a discount (some none altogether?), but the days of full tuition waivers is a thing of the past (obviously every family has to do a חשבון to see if it makes financial sense to give up a higher-paying job for a lower-salary in the school with tuition benefits). more importantly, there are only so many positions in a particular school so this is not widely applicable suggestion (one camp i know of, for example, has a very long waiting list for parents who want to work there to get a price break). finally, too many employees taking advantage of this perk is not financially healthy for the school (hence the above-mentioned phasing out of this perk)

"forego camp and other luxuries"

i'm with you on the luxuries, but (day) camp is a requirement for working parents.

"put your children in school later if possible to save the cost of nursery and pre-K."

again, not feasible for working parents.

anonymous mom said...

I have mentioned before on these pages that the majority of families in our MO day school have one parent who either stays home full time or part time. Part time is more common. We have a slim minority of two-parent full-time workers. It is what it is. This allows many parents who need to to volunteer and/or work at the school. It's a large school. Camp is negotiable when one parent is home and the kind of camp (sleep-a-way or day camp) is also negotiable. That's been discussed here. Most of what needs to be done at the level of the family not the community involves major planning ahead which many families do not do. Who will work, how much, in what field are questions that should be asked and answered well before a family is facing a few elementary school tuitions. In which community should we live? Who really asks these questions? Well, we certainly did way back before the first backpack was purchased. Also, maybe there are too many at the tuition committee who don't belong there, I don't know, but I definately know that not enough people who do need a break but are not destitute are not approaching the committees.

Anonymous said...

Most of what needs to be done at the level of the family not the community involves major planning ahead which many families do not do. Who will work, how much, in what field are questions that should be asked and answered well before a family is facing a few elementary school tuitions.

This is for sure. I see far too many young families that do almost no planning whatsoever. In our case, I was over 30 when I was married and my wife was in her mid-20's, both of us were working, and we had already matured enough to be able to properly plan. Of course, life sometimes throws curves, doesn't it? :-) And some things aren't easily planned in a halachic manner.

In which community should we live? Who really asks these questions? Well, we certainly did way back before the first backpack was purchased. Also, maybe there are too many at the tuition committee who don't belong there, I don't know, but I definitely know that not enough people who do need a break but are not destitute are not approaching the committees.

After much thought and many discussions about this issue, I have concluded that many people are simply not willing to share all their financial (and other) facts with their friends and neighbors. That is one of the reasons my wife and I have never applied for financial aid. I wonder if there is some other way? Maybe the financial aid committee could be made up of "outsiders"? But even that wouldn't work because lots of information always seems to filter down to the various yentas in any community ...

Mark

JLan said...

" lot of schools (at least the ones i am familiar with) give some type of a discount (some none altogether?), but the days of full tuition waivers is a thing of the past (obviously every family has to do a חשבון to see if it makes financial sense to give up a higher-paying job for a lower-salary in the school with tuition benefits)"

This is of course true. Note also that while stam tuition reduction isn't going to require any sort of justification, the practice of deducting pretax dollars from teachers towards tuition from their kids (very common across the board in NY) is very questionable in legal terms. I have yet to hear any reasonings that could stand up to an audit, and I'm curious if anyone has ever heard any.

SephardiLady said...

jlan-These laws are extremely complicated. I've looked into them and would be hesitant to design the tuition benefit policy myself. To be legal the benefit must be offered to all employees, not just to administrators, i.e. non-discriminatory. These laws are complicated and I won't comment further, although if there is an expert in this area I would welcome a guest post.