In previous posts, we learned that Catholic Schools in financial trouble have been taking some unconventional routes to save themselves. One such route in inner city Catholic schools, which largely serve non-Catholics, is to convert the schools to charter schools. Such is the case in NYC and DC.
I was shocked to find this article in the Jewish Press. According to the article, the Yeshiva Elementary School in Miami Beach, a K-8 institution of 450 students was in deep financial trouble that the administration secured a heter to divide the school into two separate divisions. Behind on payroll and in significant debt, the administration wanted to spin the general studies division off into a charter school (which would be open to all students of all religious backgrounds).
The plan to divide the school was spoiled when the parents were informed of this plan and rallied prominent Rabbis to speak against the idea. The school does not want to go against "the gedolim." The parents also quickly raised over $100,000 to help the school remain solvent. But, anyone who has ever worked with a budget should realize that such a sum is likely a short term solution, rather than a long term solution. Of course the irony is that the parent body, who likely not completely blame free vis a vis the insolvency, were the ones to rally the opposition.
The general sentiment amongst both the Modern Orthodox and the Yeshiva Community is opposition to charter schools. At least for the Agudah (and you can see Rabbi Shafran's comments), the only 'solution' they support is vouchers, which is basically DOA.
The reporter draws this important conclusion:
Though the plan was shot down, the very fact that an institution like Yeshiva Elementary - a school on the right of the religious spectrum - would even consider such an option underscores the scope and urgency of the financial challenges facing the Orthodox world as it attempts to maintain its decades-old commitment to universal day school education. And it also reflects the growing willingness of some parents and school officials to consider more affordable alternatives.I think the bottom line is that the years of plenty are drying up, the hurdles being currently faced by Jewish schools are large, and parents are impatient. Imagining money will magically materialize like manna in the dessert I think is a delusion. I can't say I'm gun-ho about charter school or dual language public school programs. But, I'm a realist and you can't opposed all alternatives to a comprehensive day school education when the bank is knocking on your door and you haven't made payroll in months. Insolvency, by definition, requires ACTION, not hopeful wishing. Agudah, what do you suggest besides vouchers? How many months behind on debt repayment and payroll should a school be before an alternative is worth pursuing (remember, an alternative need not be a permanent solution).
Your comments please. . . . .