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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rav Hershel Schachter: Halachic Issues of the Tuition Crisis

I'm going to resist the temptation to make any actual comments on the shiur for the moment and just present my notes. My commentor Avi has his notes in the comments of a previous post. Thank you Avi! As Avi pointed out, the shiur was about Halachic implications, not how to solve the tuition crisis.

My notes without comment below:
Rav Schachter asks, why is there a crisis now, and we didn’t notice before?

He sites these reasons:
1. Melamdim paid better
2. Sizes of classes are much smaller, more teachers
3. Families are larger which means more tuition.


He believe that it is unreasonable to cut back on salaries (if you want better quality teachers, you need to reimburse them and talented young men will leave the field). Same goes for giving free tuition for even large number of children. He believes that this is part of the package to retain staff and that schools are competitive and if a school cuts this part of the package, a melamed can go to another school. He says that there is no sechel behind calling for larger classes and mentions that secular boards of education have finding that smaller classes are better educationally. He also mentions the importance of having more children, saying we haven't even replaced what we lost in WWII.

Rav Schachter believes that many parents currently in our schools are borderline committed and that we need to hold onto the students who are being scared away by tuitions as these students will be lost. He says that those who need a tuition break need to ask for one. Should not feel embarrassed. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money.

He mentions that a Rambam that obligates the father obligated to pay for education and if the father can't pay obligates the paternal grandfather. He notes that some schools in Lakewood write this on the bottom of the bill.

He asks should the wife be obligated to work to pay more tuition? He mentions that his wife always worked (they have 9 children!), but can appreciate a wife who wants to be a fulltime mother and says the tuition committee shouldn’t force wife to work.

He asks if children who work should be obligated to help pay their own tuition? No. He believes it will squash their incentive to make money and that is unreasonable.

What about vacations in Eretz Yisrael, pesach hotels, and expensive camps which hurt the parents ability to pay. He relates that he never went to camp (later he mentions he also went to public school) and that each summer was spent with a different aunt and uncle. He says if you can’t afford it, so you don’t spend, tuition comes first. [Compare the response to the Rav features in the Jewish Observer regarding tuition vs. camp].

What about cell phones, IPods, other narishkeit provided to children. Cut out these expenses and ask parents to pay.


What if the grandparents are paying for a Pesach Vacation, e.g.? Parents should refuse. Tell parents to give money as a donation to the Yeshiva.

Luxurious home? Not unreasonable to insist parents sell home and move to a smaller home. Why should Yeshiva be the first to loose?

Mentions a need for mentoring as many parents don’t know how to manage assets. He states we need to show people how to spend money properly. [OK, one comment. You have come to the right place :)].

The next part of the talk is about priorities in giving. The essence is that ayni ircha in your own city takes precedence and the precedence there is those to which you have a shaychus to, i.e. your own shuls, your own mikva, your own schools, your own poor.

He mentions that while the needs to aynaiim in Eretz Yisrael might be greater, e.g. need for shoes versus need for food, that when it comes to the Jewish schooling situation there is a danger parents might start pulling kids out and our needs are great and we need to take care of those who are close. Mentions that three-quarters of giving should remain local.

What about a Yeshiva that attracts students from outside your city, do you give scholarships to students outside? Here the important question is whether or not the outside students are forming a critical mass. If the students need help, they are ircha. If not, see to it you are supporting the local students.

What happens if someone has a neder to support organizations afar, not realizing they need to support the local students? They can take release the neder as there are overriding needs.

What about grandparents? Obligation to support local institutions, even if grandchildren are going to other schools. Your city first.

What about special needs? He mentions that it is unreasonable to expect a parent to take on a whole job just to support just one child and mentioned a special needs program that just raised tuition 30%. He states that we can’t force these children into public schools or they will loose their shmiras hamitzva and that although this is a very small percent of population, support is obligatory on the whole community.

Regarding Ma’aser Kesafim he mentions that although tuition is not ma'aser up to the amount of educating your own child, that one need not worry too much about ma'aser kesafim as the generally accepted opinion is that maaser kesafim is a minhag tov. He also mentions that pelnty of long married people have never given ma'aser kesafim and that those without can give shlishit ha’shekel according to what he can afford, i.e. a smaller amount. He also mentioned that one with a "normal parnasah" who can part with ma’aser kesafim should while those who can’t, can’t.
Shul membership is tzedakah as you can daven without membership, yes. Mikvah is a service fee and is not.

Are all needs of yeshiva are considered tzedakah? Yes, all the functions are important to help Yeshiva compete.

Should Yeshivas give a breakdown of expenses? He thinks it would calm parents down if this information was available and mentions there is little waste and that that spending is NOT why there is a tuition crisis.

What Rav Schachter believes the community needs to do:
Cut down on luxurious bar mitzvas and weddings. If you have money to "burn," make a smaller affair and give money to schools because they and choking.

Long term goal: Lower tuition. He state that the way to do this is to get more donations and that schools need to be run on donations and very minimal tuition. He states that assimilation and intermarriage can only be taken care of through more Jewish education.

From the Q and A session:
First question is something about charter schools. The Rabbi opposes public schools, but seems to leave the question of charter schools in the hands on a local Rabbinate.

Rabbi is asked why public school and an after school Torah program can't work? The Rav mentions he went to public school and was taught by his father. They lived too far from school and he couldn't go by trolley. He mentions that the generation was extremely committed and believes that today most people they will intermarry and totally assimilate. Goyim are much more welcoming today and the whole community will collapse.

Another person asks what is you have reached your limit (financially, I believe): Should you have more children and send others to public schools? He mentions that it is not right to keep having children if you can’t afford it and cracked a joke about idiots who make no living and have 17 children.

Another person asks what will become of yeshivot in Israel if 75% remains in town? The Rav replies that our own communities take precedence and says something about something about yeshivas in Israel with marble floors.

Another person asks what percent of the money that stays within the community, what percentage should go to schools and what to other needs? He says to ask this question of the local Rabbis who know the local situation.

Another person asks about schools that tell children their parents are not meetin the obligations? The Rabbi mentions his own children's schools did not do such and that parents should try to pay back when they can.

What about enacting takanot? The Rav mentions there have always been takanot throughout Jewish history and we should have some and that the chassidish still do make takanot.

The Rav is asked if schools should make physical expansions? He defers to local Rabbonomim to determine necessity.

When asked if Limudei Kodesh can be taught in the afternoon if it will save money, he says to do what works.

I believe the next questioner asked about whether or not parents with money put away should take a loss to pull money out for payment? He says a parent doesn't need to take a penalty and can pay later rather than take a penalty on a CD.

What about a communal tax? We are going to have no choice. We are going to have to lower tuition by relying on donations from wealthier Jews.

Those are my notes. Take the comments in any direction you want to. I'll come back to a few issues later, if time allows.

63 comments:

rosie said...

He sounds like he is living in another generation. If a grandparent is paying tuition for a grandchild, it may be to an out-of-town yeshiva. I doubt that the grandparents will feel the same obligation for the local yeshivas if their children need their help. It is a pipe dream to expect Pesach hotels to close and that the money will be given to yeshivas instead.
While the economy might force simchas to be pared down, I doubt that the difference between last year's chassunah and this year's will be passed along to the yeshivas.
And then there is the "old guard" that is oblivious to the economic situation and still insist that it is proper to go into debt to buy designer clothes for babies.
As far as the money for Israeli organizations; the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. These are the guys that knock at the door. Most people are not going to seek out the yeshiva and donate when it is easier to give tzedukah to meshulachim and it is improper to turn them down. If local yeshivas go door to door to collect, they might get more in donations.
It is interesting that he feels that someone is an idiot if they have 17 kids that they could not support but feels that we are still obligated to replace what was lost in the Holocaust. Very few people can support 17 kids but what would he consider the cut off? Personally, I feel that every Jewish birth is a spit in the face to the Nazi's (may their memory be erased. I was always told that finances should not determine if a child is born.

Ezzie said...

Some good stuff (stop spending) a lot of questionable (schools relying on donations to exist?!). All in all, a lot of the same (which isn't always a bad thing, but isn't always a good thing) as what we've been hearing all along.

Ezzie said...

I also like the local focuses - ircha ircha ircha.

And I don't think nearly anyone would disagree with any of the *halachic* points. I think a lot of people needed to hear that about Ma'aser.

The economic points, however, are interesting. There's a *heavy* reliance on donations to solve problems.

I'm curious why he assumes PS is essentially pas nisht, especially if he went to one.

Agree on the not forcing kids to work to pay their own tuition (and this despite paying my own HS tuition). Interesting issue about whether to force mother to work.

The more I hear from people in schools, the more I think that a) we do need open books and b) spending in schools isn't as horrible as we sometimes make it out to be, though it could be improved. I think that opening the books will actually serve the schools best as people will see just how problematic tuition has become and how necessary it is.

Clearly, I can go on and on here. :)

Lion of Zion said...

disappointing.
i suppose the talk was important for those who seek rabbinic guidance for family finances, but he didn't propse anything that hasn't already been discussed and overall i don't think his suggestions will realistically amerliorate the situation for many.

rosie said...

I don't live in NY and used to be on the mailing list and call list for NY yeshivas. I didn't give much and never bought raffles. People out-of-town are stereotypically less materialistic and people in NY are viewed as living way beyond their means in order to fit in. I doubt that NY yeshivas made much money on out-of-town communities.

SephardiLady said...

I was also disappointed because I think we aren't quite digesting what the changes in the economy are and mean for the Jewish community.

Rav Schacter did mention job loss and the importance of helping those in our communities find jobs. But the crisis is about more than job loss.

It is about an overleveraged country (read debt and lots of it) with a low savings rate. I think the Rav misses one of the major issues of why we are just starting to notice this crisis and that reason is because we were able to hide the problem from ourselves by not living on a cash flow budget. We dipped into pockets that are starting to dry up (credit, grandparents). There are grandparents out there still paying off their own chidren's education, who are oversaturated. Many young people are carrying heavy debt loads of their own and I don't even think we will see the results of this for another few years.

I'm gearing up for a post of my own where I put out some of my own comments. But, I'm interested in hearing all of your thoughts first.

Ezzie-I too like the emphasis on ircha.

SephardiLady said...

Another Macro issue that we may likey have to deal with is going to be tax increases.

ProfK said...

Fairly much a rehashing of what has been said in many places by many people over the last few years. One point niggles with me: "Luxurious home? Not unreasonable to insist parents sell home and move to a smaller home. Why should Yeshiva be the first to loose?"

One, there is the equating of size and luxury. Let's say that a yeshiva did insist that someone sell their home and move to a smaller home. Where would they do that? In our community the houses fall into two groups: fully detached and semi-attached. The houses in each category are all pretty much the same size and they are all fairly large. Yes, the semis are smaller than the fully detached houses. There are also less of them. Telling someone in our community to move to a smaller/less luxurious house would basically be telling them to move out of the community to somewhere else. Tell the 15-30% of parents who get tuition assistance this and you pretty much kill the school and the community. Nor is our community unique in this.

Equate luxury homes with money (the cost of houses)as well as size and you get the situation where no one on tuition assistance should be living in most parts of Brooklyn,Far Rockaway, the Five Towns, Manhattan and most of Queens unless they are living in apartments, and even there you would be wiping out most Manhattan dwellers and plenty in Brooklyn and Queens as well. Add in the peripheral expenses that come with such "luxury" dwellings, like real estate taxes in the $10-25K range, and no one on tuition assistance can live in NJ, the Five Towns or Westchester just for a starter.

There is also this: most people buy a house to live in it. But they definitely have in the back of their minds that the house is an investment. Even if they are not planning on moving out for years and years, if they bought for X they hope to realize a profit when they sell. As people become older many want to reduce the size of their houses and/or move elsewhere--Florida comes to mind. Given how real estate markets work, it is reasonable to assume that a house will go up in value over a long period of time, long being the key. If people are not required to cash out a CD or other investment vehicle, taking a loss to pay tuition, then the same idea could be applied to a house.

And one last question--in today's depressed real estate market, just who is it that is going to snap up those "luxury" houses, allowing a family to buy a less "luxurious" house?

Ariella said...

When I was living in Passaic years ago, I recall a woman telling her friend that she was making a very modest bar mitzvah even though her parents wanted something more elaborate and even offered to pay for it. She said that if it came to the attention of the yeshiva that she made such a lavish affair, they could question why she needs such a large scholarship. I'm not sure if she actually thought the school could demand that the grandparents fork over the money for tuition rather than for the bar mitzvah. It could be that she just had the sensitivity to realize that something seems wrong when you tell a school you can't come up with full tuition but you manage to come up with the money for an affair. Personally, I don't think it is right for schools to put the squeeze on grandparents. But I suppose, from their point of view, if the grandparents want to pay for expenses, tuition should be a higher priority than luxuries.

Unfortunate though it may be, schools -- and not just yeshivas -- rely oh donations to meet their expenses. Despite the fact that tuition seems so high, it alone doesn't cover all the costs involved, especially as many parents are on some type of scholarship from just 10% off to half off or more, depending on the school and the family circumstances. Related to your tax point, SL, some places are concerned that they will lose even more donation money if the tax benefit is decreased as proposed.

rosie said...

That is on today's VIN, that Obama wants to reduce the charitable tax deduction for the wealthiest 1% of the population. Most people will still benefit from charitable giving but those who can afford tzedukah the most will have less incentive to give.

Gavra@work said...

ProfK

There is what to be said for making people who will not pay the costs of their children's schooling move out of town so that they should afford it.

Also (to Rosie) there is no reason why I should have to give to anyone in EY, when they have no job skills and no interest in getting a job, and "need" the money to buy their children an apartment!

Anonymous said...

ProfK's comment brings up another point. At some point, should everyone expect to keep living in one of the most expensive regions of the U.S.? I don't think more KJ's should be set up, but what about getting groups of young families to move to less expensive areas?

tesyaa said...

It's pretty unrealistic to think that people will forgo expensive vacations paid for by their parents and insist the $$$ go to the school. Sadly, this goes against most people's nature.

It's also sad to think that the generation today is less strong in its Yiddishkeit that R' Schachter's generation. Is this the results of 4 decades of near universal yeshiva education among the Orthodox? If the parents are yeshiva educated and can't pass on their strength in Yiddishkeit to their children, what does this say about the quality of their education?

SephardiLady said...

rosie-Regarding tax, the wealthiest already do not realize their charitable donations to the full extent because they are subject to the AMT.

The scary part is not so much this particular plan, but the philosophy of "fairness" behind it. He wants to punish those able to give in the name of "fairness," but is basically biting the hand who feeds? Who does he think donates the funds that provides for the incredible amount of non-government funded social services in this country? (Of course, he favors big government, so perhaps he'd rather the government run the charities being run by foundations and churches/synagogues).

This is a macro issue that may really hurt our own social services and schools.

rosie said...

Gavra@work, some of the meshulachim from EY are collecting for valid causes and some are merely collecting for themselves and I am not a big giver at the door so very few come to me but I know many people who save a percentage of their maaser money for the collectors and figure that they have the mitzvah of tzedukah without having to sit and figure out where to give.
I also agree with tessya that after several generations of chinuch from age 3 to age 20 and beyond, the current generation is not strong enough to keep their kids frum without yeshiva. Possibly the yeshivas have given negative messages along with the positive ones.

Dave said...

It doesn't look like an unreasonable proposal to me.

Starting in (I think 2011), the deduction rate for charitable donations would be capped at 28%.

I could be wrong, but I don't think the 7 cents on the dollar difference (assuming no AMT) is going to be a make-or-break deciding point for people giving to charity.

One way to check this would be to see the charitable giving rate for those subject to the AMT versus those who are not.

tesyaa said...

Rosie, I didn't necessarily agree that the current generation is not strong enough, but the Rabbi said it. The fact that he said it is a sad commentary.

Dave said...

(As a caveat, I should note that I'm a fan of a modified flat tax, with a single deduction rate per adult, and a single deduction rate per child, and no deductions beyond that, so the notion of removing deductions for charitable donations entirely doesn't bother me)

ProfK said...

Gavra and Anonymous,
As an OOT living in NY and who can't wait to get back OOT, your suggestions of getting people to move out of town for financial reasons is one I've touted for a long time. However, if the lack of money is due to poor education, lack of skills, inability to earn a decent parnoseh, wanting more than is ever going to be possible for them to afford,and no financial sense no matter where they live, then please leave those families right where they are. Unless those families are willing to "re-educate" themselves in all ways, you are merely passing the burden of supporting them to another community. You can't bring the NY attitudes and approaches OOT and expect to be successful.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: I am the anonymous you are responding to. You are correct that for the out of town model to work, people have to be more self-sufficient. However, there still is a big cost of living diference between NYC and many other areas when considering home costs and taxes. If kids aren't educated to earn a decent living and if certain types of work are looked down upon, then doesn't the in-town model also collapse in a generation or two?
So, why not combine both -- OOT and education for good jobs?

gavra@work said...

ProfK:

OOT, you can EARN much less and still get by due to the lower motgage & tuition payments. This assumes you are willing to carry your own weight, as you pointed out. "a decent parnoseh" is much lower OOT than IT.

Also OOT there is less pressure to conform, which will lower costs in it of itself (as I'm sure you are aware).

If the parents aren't willing to ""re-educate" themselves", at some point the school has to do something about the parents. Perhaps collecting for their children at the bimah of shul will knock them into responsibility.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

i was surprised to read your comments here. first, as someone who is constantly touting OOT living i don't understand your defense of remaining in NY.

then when you try to explain your comment you state that leaving NY is not going to help because people must be educated, willing to work, etc. to survive in OOT

but surely you recognize that it is not black and white. there are plenty of educated and hard working people who simply can't make ends meet in NY but could probably do so in OOT.

also, you oppose mass migration lest the schools face closure as their student bodies are depleted. i don't understand this. if schools are not full to capacity it would be *healthy* for them to close, consolidate or downsize. so what? if half of SI jews leave, the schools should not need to close down, but rather reorient to the new reality (and perhaps become stronger in the process). (and this is the problem, as i see it, with schools and other jewish institutions. they are so conservative and stuck in there ways that they are simply unwilling to recognize when it is time to adapt, improve, etc.)

Anonymous said...

I question the Rabbi's assumption that the schools have to give free tuition to all of the teacher's kids or they won't be able to get/keep good teachers. Completely free tuition could be an $80,000/year bonus for some.
While this doesn't compare to the AIG bonuses, one of the reasons they were so distasteful was the thin justification that the bonuses were necessary to retain good people.

While I don't begrudge teachers a good salary, why should the teacher making 50 or 60K/year be exempt from the tuition process that his neighbor making 60K as a computer programmer has to go through. If teachers were treated the same and had to request tuition assistance like everyone else and contribute a little something to tuition, they might be more interested in school finances and more sensitive to what their student's families have to go through. Teachers might be in the best position to suggest good changes fro cost savings and for the tuition committee process.

Ariella said...

I have relatives in chinuch. My impression from them is that out of town it is the norm to allow free tuition to the teachers -- particularly rebbeim. In NY, some schools give their teachers half off. But this varies by school. And I believe that the English teachers who are also needed to keep the yeshiva functioning do not get this benefit even when they are also struggling to raise a frum family on a teacher's salary. One more thing, the salary of rebbeim is not all that low in schools like MTA and even elementary level yeshivas in the 5 Towns. Plus they often have their tuition to other schools their children attend paid directly, so that they show a much lower salary for taxes. Combine that with parsonage, and they could end up paying almost no taxes were it not for AMT.

rosie said...

A while back, a group of Satmar chassidim wanted to move to Scranton PA; a cheap place to live. The plan apparently failed. There are few jobs in Scranton and that is why it is so cheap to live there. Jewish or gentile, there are few opportunities. The same is true of some West Bank communities where the living is cheap compared to Jerusalem but the commute to jobs is long.
Look what happened to Postville. The first Jews that moved there bought homes for very little money. The entire frum economy though, was based on Agriprocessors which is now defunct. Jews who built or bought homes are stuck because there are no other positions for them in Postville. Because midwesterners tend to have stereotypical views of Jews, it is questionable about whether the Rubashkin trial will be fair. In a Jewish (but expensive) community such as nearby Chicago, it was felt by the lawyers that he would have a better outcome. The whole Postville affair probably shut the door on mass migration to small American towns.

Anonymous said...

the audio and video are up here

ProfK said...

Lion,
Of course I recognize that this issue is not black and white. Of course there are some hardworking people who simply cannot afford the NY lifestyle and would be able to live on what they make out of town. But "NY lifestyle" is key here. Emigrants to other parts of the country cannot expect that they will have everything the same as it was in NY when they move out.

But let's also be realistic here. A large number of those who are having tuition problems fall into the poorly educated/lack of skills that the work force is looking for category. Sending those people out of town will do little for them. Sure, expenses may be less oot, or at least in some places and for some things. But they still won't have enough money to provide full tuition payment. And let's not kid ourselves here either. OOT tuition for yeshiva is not all that cheap in many, many communities.

Re the mass migration, if the half the SI Jewish population that you suggest left, the few schools we have here wouldn't "downsize"--they
'd disappear. We basically have one school with three divisions in three different buildings. One is all female, one all male, one a mixed sex day school. Reduction of student size doesn't affect basic service payments--you still have to heat the whole building even if it's not full. Reducing class size from 20 to 10 per grade means that you still have to provide the same number of teachers but the cost is now borne by fewer parents, and those parents are going to have to pay more, not less. Try and combine those three schools into one school and you are going to lose at least another 50% of the parents, if not more, because they either want the single sex schooling or they want the mixed sex schooling. And if parents have to send their children out of SI to get schooling then many of them are going to wonder why they should live here and off they'll go. You don't attract people to a community if there is no school that meets their requirements.

JS said...

A few points:

1) Disappointing to not see real ideas here, just a rehashing of the same old, same old.

2) Running yeshivas totally or mostly on donations? Please. As if the yeshivas haven't been trying for years to get this to work.

3) The overall problem with telling people no luxuries (house, simchas, etc) and to give to ircha is that there's no way to enforce it. People who waste money on vacations and send tzedaka elsewhere aren't going to be turned away from yeshiva so it's all meaningless.

4) Free tuition or discounted tuition to teachers is ridiculous. Many teachers make well over 6 figures through this mechanism and I hate to say that many of these "6 figure earners" aren't the best and brightest and could NEVER find a job in any other industry that would pay them that much. While their service is valuable, it's not as valuable as other jobs that pay that much and they don't work nearly as hard as other jobs that pay that much.

5) Forcing people to move out of their houses? Are you serious? Good luck.

6) We don't know what led to this crisis? Debt! Low earning potentials! Misplaced priorities!

7) I don't like the focus on grandparents and I don't like the wishy-washyness on issues like women going to work or charter schools and other important issues. If you're not going to really stand up and make a point, just sit down and say nothing.

8) It's sad that a rabbi who went to public school is forced for political reasons to denounce the idea. It's even sadder that supposedly we're a less frum society even though we have wide-spread yeshiva education for boys and girls, many more mosdot, Artscroll, etc etc. Maybe this deserves a talk in and of itself.

gavra@work said...

As a seperate point, R. Shachter mentions that without high salaries for melamdim, they would go to work.

1: Is that a bad thing?

2: Will they really? They have no secular education. Part of his premise (also for tuition breaks for rebbaim) is the need to entice people to chinuch. That's not needed due to the rebbaim not being able to do anything else that make the same amount (especially after parsonage).

Anonymous said...

ProfK - In our community the houses fall into two groups: fully detached and semi-attached.

But this isn't entirely accurate. There are really four groups, fully detached close-in to the Jewish community, semi-attached close-in, fully detached a little out of the community, and semi-attached a little out.

In the Willowbrook community, for example, the main Jewish community is mostly bordered by the SI expressway to the north, Bradley Ave to the east, Wooley Ave/Forest Hill Blvd to the west, and Brielle/Walcott to the south. Within those borders, houses, both detached and semi-attached have the frum-neighborhood premium built-in to their prices. I would agree 100% that if someone living in that area can't afford their tuition (not a one-time thing due to illness, job loss, etc, but a general thing based on normal income and normal expenses), that they ought to consider selling their house and moving a few blocks outside those borders for a substantial savings on their housing costs. I knew some people that specifically chose to live on Bradley, or across Bradley to lower their overall housing costs. I also know some people that chose to live south of Walcott Ave for the same reason. I even knew a few people that moved to the Rockland Ave area for that reason, however I would say that that would be a bit excessive due to the distance to shul and the danger involved when walking on roads without sidewalks (or even proper shoulders).

ProfK - Telling someone in our community to move to a smaller/less luxurious house would basically be telling them to move out of the community to somewhere else. Tell the 15-30% of parents who get tuition assistance this and you pretty much kill the school and the community. Nor is our community unique in this.

ProfK, I don't understand why you think this would "kill the school" (or the community for that matter). If the 15-30% of parents that can't afford to live there and need tuition assistance move out, you will be left with the 70-85% of the families that can afford to live there, and they will all be paying full tuition to boot.

Mark

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

JS:

i pretty much agree with everything you wrote, but this:

"It's sad that a rabbi who went to public school is forced for political reasons to denounce the idea"

is he someone who is known for bowing to political pressure?

JS said...

Let me clarify. I just meant it would be HIGHLY unpopular and raise a significant number of eyebrows if a prominent rabbi came out and said public schools were OK. Even if he said, public schools are OK only for those with dire financial issues and only if they first consult a rav - it would still be controversial.

Also, it's part and parcel of this age old idea of "yored dorot" - that everyone in the past was frummer than everyone in the present. We're just on an endless downward spiral - just circling the drain apparently.

So, I don't think he bowed to political pressure, but as Ricky told Lucy, he'd have "a lot of 'splaing to do."

Anonymous said...

JS - "It's sad that a rabbi who went to public school is forced for political reasons to denounce the idea"

LOZ - is he someone who is known for bowing to political pressure?


A few things -

1. Anyone affiliated with YU knows firsthand that there is substantial political pressure about almost everything. Basically, YU is a hotbed of politics.

2. Rav Schachter has in the past made certain apparently incendiary statements that eventually required a public apology by him.

tesyaa - It's also sad to think that the generation today is less strong in its Yiddishkeit that R' Schachter's generation. Is this the results of 4 decades of near universal yeshiva education among the Orthodox? If the parents are yeshiva educated and can't pass on their strength in Yiddishkeit to their children, what does this say about the quality of their education?

This is an excellent point and a good question. I wish Rav Schachter had a blog (or at least an email address) with comments that he answered. I think that would be a most useful addition for those who follow him as their posek (unfortunately, it would probably also become a magnet for those who vehemently disagree with him, the Reform, most of the Chassidim, the Conservative, etc).

Mark

ProfK said...

Just a thought before I leave for work, brought on by R'Shachter's talking about rebbes. I would imagine that one half of all same sex yeshivas are for girls, girls making up 50% of the population. In no way are moros paid anything approximating the living wage that seems to get mentioned when talking about rebbes who teach.

So here is a question: is the tuition crisis across the board for all schools or is it more of a crisis for only some of the yeshivas? If we break down the schools by sex and put mixed sex schools as a third category would we find the tuition crisis equal in all three of the categories? Girls' schools pay far less in salaries than would seem to be the case that R' Shachter laid out. Less in salaries paid should equal less of a crisis. Are the tuitions in the boys yeshivas comparable to the girls yeshivas? How about in the mixed sex schools?

It might make more sense if we were to break down religious schooling by the type of school, look at the fees and expenses for each of those types and then see if the problem is across the board or if a higher percentage of the problem lies in one type of school over another.

Just a note to the commenter who asked if secular studies teachers get the same "perks" that religious studies teachers get. As a secular studies teacher I was never offered tuition reduction, free tuition or any other type of tuition deal. That was strictly for the limudei kodesh teachers.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, that's completely bizarre that tuition reduction doesn't apply to secular teachers. If this is supposed to be an incentive to keep good teachers, secular teachers need the incentive more since they in theory have the alternative of teaching in public school. What is a rebbe's alternative job choice? It may be more lucrative to stay in kollel rather than teach without the tuition incentive. That's crazy.

Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

"But let's also be realistic here. A large number of those who are having tuition problems fall into the poorly educated/lack of skills that the work force is looking for category."

you are so wrong.

"Reducing class size from 20 to 10 per grade . . ."

ok, you got me. i don't know anything about the schools in SI. but most of the schools i am familiar with in the other boroughs, LI and NJ don't have one 20-student class per grade. (when i went to e.s. it was 30+ per class with 5 classes/grade; in the h.s. it was 7 classes/grade)

"you still have to heat the whole building even if it's not full."

alternatively, you can move into a smaller building or (when real estate markets are bad) rent the unused portion of the building.

and to follow up on mark, why does everyone have to live in the heart of metro jewville. there are, for example, a number of towns near 5Towns with (relatively) cheaper housing, but why does everyone have to davka move to 5T? so your kid will have to spend extra time on the bus. big deal.

Lion of Zion said...

TESYAA:

i've heard that the logic is that rebbeim, being men, are the primary bred winners and thus deserve to be paid (and get better benefits) than women.

but i've never heard of MO schools making tuition benefits for teachers contingent upon sex. (but then again, this benefit is on the way out altogether in MO schools.)

tesyaa said...

LoZ, look on the last thread about cleaning help where the excuse someone heard that it's OK to pay very little is because the cleaning lady "doesn't have to make Shabbos." Shouldn't my employer pay me more because I do have to make Shabbos and pay tuition?

Lion of Zion said...

TESYAA:

i'm just explaining, not defending.

besides, if you would like to get paid for making shabbos, you should probably take this up with your husband. (there was an episode on an 80s sitcom about this.)

Commenter Abbi said...

Rosie, your Satmar in Scranton example doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Satmar are usually in business for themselves; I doubt many of them would have walked into local businesses looking for jobs.

My father grew up there and I'm very familiar with the community. I assume the local kollel, which happens to be very strong there now, probably didn't let them take over and run things.

The Scranton frum community happens to be burgeoning. They have a day school that's decades old, shuls and, as I said, a kollel.

Greg said...

Every private school, religious or otherwise, survives solely on donations. There is not a single private school in existence that does not depend on donations. It doesn't work otherwise.

rosie said...

The Satmar would have opened businesses in Scranton like they had in Williamsburg. I think that it fell apart because of a building that they wanted to buy to use as a central building. Still, opening a business in a smaller community is risky.

JLan said...

"but i've never heard of MO schools making tuition benefits for teachers contingent upon sex. (but then again, this benefit is on the way out altogether in MO schools.)"

None of the MO schools make tuition benefits based on sex. They also don't typically base it on secular/limudei kodesh either; that would likely run them into possibilities of tax issues, unless they made limudei kodesh all "full time" and secular studies all "part time."

The on the way out bit, though, is generally true. Most schools are no longer offering a tuition remission cutoff at any point for new hires- i.e., it's not that you don't pay for the 3rd or 4th kid or above, it's a flat rate of 50% or something like that. I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see that change further into need based only, with the teachers whose spouses don't make a lot getting help and the ones with spouses who do quite well not getting help.

People should also keep in mind here that R' Schachter generally deals with MO schools, and may not have been addressing entirely some of the chareidi and yeshivish type schools. While they may not require certifications, MTA and Central (YU's high schools) certainly require college degrees and prefer some outside experience and/or additional education beyond that. The people there are not typically the types who would have no opportunities outside of the day school world.

Lion of Zion said...

JLAN:

"The people there are not typically the types who would have no opportunities outside of the day school world."

but aren't you only describing the secular studies teachers? most of the limude kodesh teachers have semicha only and/or some other "useless" (i.e., unmarketable) degree from azrieli, revel or an academic jewish studies program.

Anonymous said...

"While I don't begrudge teachers a good salary, why should the teacher making 50 or 60K/year be exempt from the tuition process that his neighbor making 60K as a computer programmer has to go through. If teachers were treated the same and had to request tuition assistance like everyone else and contribute a little something to tuition, they might be more interested in school finances and more sensitive to what their student's families have to go through."

Agree and remeberthat there are teachers earning much more than 59K-see eg the 990 for YU HS-I assume senir RIETS RAbbeim earn even more than seniorYUHS Rabbeim.

mycroft

Anonymous said...

Mycroft: If there really are teachers earning a lot more than 60k/year, that may be part of the problem. I know a public school teacher with a 4-year degree plus a masters in special ed, 30 years experience and lots of additonal continuing ed courses who makes 55 What's more, they have to spend lots of night and weekend time on reports, testing, meeting with parents, lesson plans, etc. While they do get some benefits that the private schools might not offer (health insurance -- but they still have to contribute to the cost, and some pension benefits) if there really are many teachers at the day schools making a lot more that raises a whole other set of questions about the tuition crisis.

JLan said...

"I know a public school teacher with a 4-year degree plus a masters in special ed, 30 years experience and lots of additonal continuing ed courses who makes 55"

Not in NY you don't. NYC's scale tops out at about $100k, and the suburbs are generally more.

Mycroft- do you have an easy place to see YU HS's 990?

Anonymous said...

True JL, not in NYC, but not in Idaho either.

Lion of Zion said...

could someone please post screen shots of those YUHS 990s (and for any other schools as well)

Anonymous said...

If they have filed a 990 (religious organizations are not required to do so, so maybe YUHS did not) it would be on http://www.guidestar.org/

Anonymous said...

ProfK - Just a thought before I leave for work, brought on by R'Shachter's talking about rebbes. I would imagine that one half of all same sex yeshivas are for girls, girls making up 50% of the population. In no way are moros paid anything approximating the living wage that seems to get mentioned when talking about rebbes who teach.

So here is a question: is the tuition crisis across the board for all schools or is it more of a crisis for only some of the yeshivas? If we break down the schools by sex and put mixed sex schools as a third category would we find the tuition crisis equal in all three of the categories? Girls' schools pay far less in salaries than would seem to be the case that R' Shachter laid out. Less in salaries paid should equal less of a crisis. Are the tuitions in the boys yeshivas comparable to the girls yeshivas? How about in the mixed sex schools?


In the world of gender separated primary schools, many of the people in those schools firmly believe that boys require a better education than girls. That is why the teachers in the girls schools get paid less and is also why the girls schools can't raise anywhere near the amount of money raised by the boys schools. That's not my world, in my world, the boys and girls get an equivalent education, and not a separate-but-equal one, but rather a just plain equal one (including having the girls and boys "compete" in the same classes for grades, etc).

Just a note to the commenter who asked if secular studies teachers get the same "perks" that religious studies teachers get. As a secular studies teacher I was never offered tuition reduction, free tuition or any other type of tuition deal. That was strictly for the limudei kodesh teachers.

This varies widely by school, however many MO day schools have pretty much done away with this perk and have reserved it only for administrators (though some schools have played games by creating new administrator positions for favored teachers).

Mark

Anonymous said...

But let's also be realistic here. A large number of those who are having tuition problems fall into the poorly educated/lack of skills that the work force is looking for category.

This used to be true. Sure there were always a bunch of people who didn't quite have a clear career direction in their mind as young adults, and then suddenly found themselves married with a few children they needed to support. Not meaning to be disparaging, but there are the kinds of folks that simply didn't bother with college, and also didn't bother learning a trade. Or folks that went to college and had no idea what to major in, so chose something generic like sociology, marketing, communications, or psychology that are not careers known to provide an adequate living for a family.

But again, that used to be true. Today there are people, more and more of them every day, that made the right choices careerwise, and earn enough to properly support a family, however their industries are simply disappearing. Think of all the people that studied accounting/finance and earned $200+k on or near Wall Street. Those jobs are disappearing, probably never to return, and those people will either have to, if they are qualified, go back to regular accounting jobs at sub-$100k salaries, or worse, if they are not qualified, will have to find a completely new field. Even attorneys who specialized in investment dealmaking are losing their [previously great] jobs and will either have to take a regular attorney job or do something else completely different.

Over the next few years, it will be medical doctors that begin to get adversely affected by new legislation effectively reducing their earnings.

Unfortunately, it appears that the careers that will be among those most badly hurt are the very careers that most MO Jews relied upon to ensure a high enough income to live the typical frum lifestyle. It's really very sad.

Mark

Avi said...

Mark,

Some of the high earning finance and law jobs will return once the markets improve and companies have credit to buy and sue one another.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the cost of Jewish living has risen so much over the past decade that even MO families with two professional incomes are being priced out. I have so many friends where one spouse is a tax accountant or a lawyer at a small firm, and the other spouse is an architect or a speech therapist. Family income ends up between 100K and $200K, and if they have 3 - 5 kids in school, there's no way to make ends meet in almost any frum neighborhood. Property values are still much higher today than a decade ago in these neighborhoods so mortgages are a major expense, property taxes and state taxes are extremely high in the Northeast, AMT wipes out any Federal tax breaks, and tuition rates have risen much, much faster than inflation. It is true that costs are higher in places like Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston, but income levels are higher in Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston.

Ezzie said...

It is true that costs are higher in places like Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston, but income levels are higher in Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston.

The scale is not even *close*, though. COL is approximately 51% when comparing Baltimore to NYC; salaries are at 87%. COL in places like Houston or Cleveland are even lower, and salary %'s are 70+% of what they are in NYC.

A couple with the same jobs in NYC-NJ vs. the rest of the country will do much, much worse, not to mention the added stresses.

Al said...

Here is a value question... is the goal Jewish children and grandchildren, or is it an absense of gentile children and grandchildren.

If the goal is the latter, than one should stop once you have a boy and a girl, because each child opens up the possibility of the "sin" of intermarriage, and while it may have been permitted in previous generations, with halachically acceptable birth control, we should not permit such leniency.

If the goal is the former, than the solution is more children, not less. Yeshiva for all has raised the costs of having more Jewish children, discouraging larger families.

More importantly, it has divided the community into poor large families (where the marginal cost of an additional kid is back to $0), and small families that support the large ones.

If the goal is maximizing your frum grandchildren, then it's a balancing act, and Yeshiva for all is stupid. 40 years ago, Orthodox intermarried at 10%, which has shrunk to 3% through Jewish education AND increased practice (referring to oneself as Orthodox today implies Shomer Mitzvot, or at least with a goal of getting there -- in previous generations it meant that the synagogue you went to occaisionlly was Orthodox), while other groups have heavily intermarried. Claiming this all as Yeshiva'Day school is agenda pushing, it's birth rates driving things.

Thought exercise, grab the chart from "will my grandchildren be Jewish," the famous day school propoganda piece... swap the intermarriage rates for Chareidi and Secular, but leave birth rates alone. The Ultra Orthodox family still have Jewish grandchildren (albeit fewer), and our Reform/Secular counterparts STILL don't, even without intermarriage...

If our universally Day School educated and Yeshiva educated generation has less attachment to Judaism than previous ones, then what on earth have those schools accomplished. Yeshiva as the place you send a frum Jew to go off the derech is a VERY expensive bad joke.

Avi said...

Ezzie,

Do your COL figures take into account the frum COL, or just the general COL? Because the frum neighborhoods in lower COL areas are often the most expensive, and housing costs start approaching NY suburbs (though property taxes can be significantly cheaper). Yeshiva tuition in lower COL areas is sometimes lower than NY suburbs, but not always, and even then not by enough to offset the lower income levels. I've used real numbers for my own dual-profession household every time we say we're leaving Teaneck and moving to Silver Spring or Baltimore or Atlanta or wherever. There can be savings - especially if we were to change our lifestyle as a result of the move to a new locale - but they haven't been nearly enough to justify the move. If I was starting a family now would I recommend starting out in Denver or Cleveland instead of LA or Scarsdale? If the jobs are there in your choice of profession, definitely. But it's hard to make the numbers work once you factor in lower salaries vs. lower costs. The costs for living frum aren't low enough, even "out of town."

Anonymous said...

Some of the high earning finance and law jobs will return once the markets improve and companies have credit to buy and sue one another.

Sure some of those jobs will come back, but precious few. The investment banks are gone, all having converted themselves to bank holding companies. Then they all took federal money which automatically places restrictions on salaries and bonuses. So gone are the kids of jobs where your base salary is $150k, and your bonus in an okay year is $500k and you gave $50+k out of that bonus to your yeshiva as a donation (and, yes, there are/were plenty such baalei tzedaka, each school had a few)

The problem is twofold, one, the typical MO wage earner will be earning less than previously, and two, the large MO donor simply isn't earning the "big bucks" anymore, and therefore cannot make those large annual donations anymore.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the cost of Jewish living has risen so much over the past decade that even MO families with two professional incomes are being priced out. I have so many friends where one spouse is a tax accountant or a lawyer at a small firm, and the other spouse is an architect or a speech therapist. Family income ends up between 100K and $200K, and if they have 3 - 5 kids in school, there's no way to make ends meet in almost any frum neighborhood. Property values are still much higher today than a decade ago in these neighborhoods so mortgages are a major expense, property taxes and state taxes are extremely high in the Northeast, AMT wipes out any Federal tax breaks, and tuition rates have risen much, much faster than inflation. It is true that costs are higher in places like Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston, but income levels are higher in Teaneck and L.A. than in Baltimore or Houston.

Our family (of 7) makes ends meet, but we spend very little aside from tuition (which is 3 or 4 times the mortgage). My wife is a great eishet chayil and is a wizard with the coupons and sale items. Just tonight she sent me to a particular supermarket with some $1 off coupons for something that was on sale 10 for $10, and I also picked up some kosher lepesach shredded cheese for $3.99 a package (8 oz).

Mark

Ezzie said...

Avi - Untrue. While the numbers I gave were for general COL (and I'd love for more people to take the Jewish Economics Survey I've been running so I can get a better Frum COL index), the differences when we switch to a frum person are small, and the savings MUCH greater OOT. My BIL and a friend did a cost comparison from NY to Baltimore, and found that the costs were still approximately 1/2 in Baltimore vs. New York, and the salaries were still around 88%. That doesn't even factor in that out of New York you have more free time, larger properties, etc.

One of the most interesting aspects of the survey results so far is that overall, 56.2% own their residences. In NY-NJ (not including W. Hempstead and Monsey), it's 43.5% at the moment. (Including them it rises to 46%.) In the US, outside NY/NJ, 73% own. That's a *huge* disparity, and a bad sign for NY Jewry.

Anonymous said...

I have only two comments:

1. The Rav did not say what should be done if the childrens' grandparents are not frum and would not pay money for a yeshiva education under any circumstances and the parents are too poor to pay.

2. As far as living in smaller houses, the Rav is correct in his hashkafa but is that even a choice in most places in the US where the housing prices are insane and out of control for even a small place?

Dave said...

To be fair, housing prices have never been "out of control" in most of the United States.

Even at the peak of the bubble, it was the coasts, and a few cities in between (say, Las Vegas), with enormous swathes of quite reasonably priced housing.

Just not near New York.

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