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.