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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A School Without Bells and Whistles



I have been reading the numerous, and nearly weekly, installments on the movement regarding Jewish Schooling coming out of Teaneck. All tuition related articles in the Jewish Standard can be reference through this link. I'm not quite sure to start since I did not jump on top of the movement that seems to be in place in Teaneck, but I figure I will turn my attention to the seemingly controversial plan to provide a school without bells and whistles, which will now be known as the "Chevrolet School" in reference to a statement by Rabbi Saul Zucker, director of the OU day school services division.



A committee has been formed, lead by Abby Flamholz, has been formed to explore options for lower cost Jewish schooling. Currently the committee, which has sought and gained some Rabbinic go ahead for exploratory work, is looking into a scaled down schooling plan. I have a lot of admiration for any group of parents to formally meet and attempt to even bring new ideas forward on a public level. And I wish this group hatzlacha and they try to muddle through the challenges ahead.



In short, the current idea on the table is for parents to team with school to create a low cost school either within an existing school(s) or an entirely new school. Low cost, for these purposes, is as low as $6500. To achieve this goal the ad hoc committee is looking at calling for fewer layers of administration, larger classes, cutting back on the drive towards the latest technology, fewer extracurriculars, and mandatory parental involvement.

Rabbi Zucker posed four questions (how appropriate as the committee formed before Pesach):

1. How the school would handle tuition assistance especially if it charges less than $10,000 per year?

2. How to address special-needs education?

3. How the community would avoid creating a class system dividing the wealthy school from the non-wealthy school, in addition to creating positive relations between the Rolls Royce and the Chevrolet?

4. How a school can be implemented inside another school without tension between students if that is the direction the committee opts to take?



I thought I would play the narrator for Maggid and attempt to lay out my vision of how an alternative schooling system will develop and how it won't develop. Perhaps it is easier to start with how it won't develop. I do not believe that an alternative schooling system will develop from the top down. Until attrition reaches a particularly "dangerous" level (which has not happened yet) and/or tuition contracts are being breached in mass (this could happen sooner than the former), I see no reason for administrators to implement any "radical" changes which could involve shedding layers of administration, combining smaller schools which will also results in lay offs, or going to a radically different schedule or type of educational system. Change is always difficult. It is even more difficult when you are married to a present model, for better or for worse. Somehow, I don't see an alternative school gaining adherents within the educational sector of the community, and not just because their jobs might be on the line, but because educators believe that there is a specific approach to education and that deviations can cause irreparable harm.


In fact, two educators, in reaction to the formation of a committee wrote to express their horror. The first writes: "Reasonable class sizes, access to technology, and competent teachers are not luxury items, but rather educational necessities," and writes that this proposed new school will be an educational failure, not might but will fail, and will push parents away from Jewish education. The second writes that a lower cost school will fail to attract qualified educators, provided up to date materials, and fail to provide necessary education and states " I urge all who care about the next generation of Torah Jews and leaders to think long and hard before creating an educational system that will undermine their future." I think the parents who are looking at alternatives believe that the current system is also undermining the future because it appears to be unsustainable, places great pressure on families and their shalom bayit, takes both parents out of the house for many hours, and indebts them for years to come.

Now, to address the four questions and to address how a school might develop.

1. Whether the school is a new school, a group school with an overhead charge, or a school within a school, I believe that any initial school will require everyone to sign on as equal partners, either through fees and/or services. Adding scholarships into the mix is likely unfeasible and will only cause strained relations between those who need to cooperate to make what will likely be a "cooperative school" a success.

2. Special education is very expensive and many decry what is already lacking in current schools. What should be clear is that a low priced alternative school will not be funding special education. The organizing member of the committee has stated so, as I predicted, in a recent installment, to the consternation of this letter writer who writes in conclusion, "a program that denies these services is not a meaningful contribution to the discussion of the tuition crisis, but rather an experiment in social Darwinism that is sure to hurt more families than it helps."


3 and 4. I don't believe that a low priced school will be welcomed into an existing school, as such is not in the best interests of the school in the present. If a school develops, it will likely develop independent of any existing "Rolls Royce" schools. It will likely develop where parents are willing to give tremendous amounts of time, as well as space in property they own (basements, vacant office space or homes). Therefore, I don't really see a class system as something to worry about because I don't envision a second track developing inside an existing school. If it does, I imagine that everyone will just have to deal with the fact that we aren't all cut from the same cloth and the kids will have to live side-by-side. As a public school graduate, I've been exposed to far more economic diversity and don't harbor the same fears about rich kids co-existing next to average kids. There will always be tension, I don't think it is particularly ideal. . . . but I'm pretty sure that there is plenty of tension now. In addition, I also don't believe that relationships between a newly develop school and an existing school, at least in the beginning, will be particularly cordial. If anyone has sat on a shul board where competition is discussed, they will know that competition doesn't particularly induce good will. Nonetheless, we live in a free market economy (and I'm thankful for that).

In summary: I believe that if an alternative school movement were to begin, it will begin from outside the walls of the current school, will open parents up to options they perhaps haven't imagined and are perhaps scared of. Some parents will make the jump. If the programming is sucessful, others will join them and other schools will look to compete. If not. . . .parents will be back to the square one.

Hatzlacha to these parents!
Comment away.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pretty funny post - you're describing the Yeshivot many older folks attended - 37 kids in a class, sit quietly and no one bothers you, special needs-good luck, one year learn sfardit, one year ashkinazit, wealthy kids get special attention, who went into chinuch...

Will most survive, sure, will it be the best allocation of community resources? Therein lies the rub-we have no real community when it comes to allocation.

KT
Joel Rich

Poor in Teaneck said...

Some of my kids happen to attend such a school--a small yeshiva with no gym, no cafeteria, no gym teachers, no art teachers, no science labs, and a total of two computers for the entire student body. The tuition is about half of the tuition at Yavneh/Moriah/YNJ/Yeshivat Noam/ and Ben Porat Yosef. I love the school. The student teacher ratio is fantastic--one teacher for the nine kids in the first grade class. The school also happens to provide a tremendous amount of special education. This particular school rarely gives up on a student--kids who are aren't succeeding at "normal" modern orthodox school find a home at this school. It is interesting how this school flies so below the radar to the degree that it does. It is a school for "strays".

Ezzie said...

I don't know. This (quite simply) doesn't sound like a good school.

I fail to see why a good school can't be run in an economically sound way - there are certainly a few around the country, why aren't we looking more closely at them as a guide?

Anonymous said...

a school for strays? which school could this be... breuers? ykom? enquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

Poor in Teaneck[space]

Is that even allowed in Teaneck? :-)

Some of my kids happen to attend such a school--a small yeshiva with no gym, no cafeteria, no gym teachers, no art teachers, no science labs, and a total of two computers for the entire student body. The tuition is about half of the tuition at Yavneh/Moriah/YNJ/Yeshivat Noam/ and Ben Porat Yosef. I love the school. The student teacher ratio is fantastic--one teacher for the nine kids in the first grade class. The school also happens to provide a tremendous amount of special education. This particular school rarely gives up on a student--kids who are aren't succeeding at "normal" modern orthodox school find a home at this school. It is interesting how this school flies so below the radar to the degree that it does. It is a school for "strays".[space]

Okay, what's the name of this school?

Now to the questions:

1. No tuition assistance. Tuition is $6500 payable in advance (at least one month before the start of the month of classes). The rich schools can handle those that need assistance.

2. No special needs children. Again, the rich schools can handle them.

3. A class system already exists. Next question.

4. A school cannot be created within a school. It has to be completely new and stand alone.

None of this is ever likely to happen. Schools like this start out "pure", but then begin with small exceptions, then bigger ones, then suddenly turns into something exactly like all the schools around it.

Ezzie - I fail to see why a good school can't be run in an economically sound way - there are certainly a few around the country, why aren't we looking more closely at them as a guide?[space]

Which schools (MO day schools, not Charedi cheders) would you suggest as examples of being run economically?

Mark

LeahGG said...

I find it interesting to see Rav Zucker involved in this project. He was vice principal at Frisch, which is far from a bare-bones school.

I wonder what of the "bells and whistles" he believes can be cut.
u

Lion of Zion said...

MARK:

"Which schools (MO day schools, not Charedi cheders) would you suggest as examples of being run economically?"

perhaps yeshiva of central queens (YCQ)

SephardiLady said...

Joel-Perhaps that is what the organizers are imagining in terms of students and everyone sitting still. I believe that way a "school" will likely develop would be through parents who form more of a loose homeschooling network, except that the schooling is more formal.

Ezzie-Besides YCQ, which is rumored to be well run and less expensive, please point us to schools we can use as an example. AFAIK, there are few frum schools that aren't sweating. Perhaps we could look towards some smaller Protestant schools that are low priced for examples, but I don't think most non-Jewish schools deal with the type of tuition assistance Jewish schools do.

Anon819 said...

Why would anyone select this option over organizing a group homeschooling that would cost almost nothing in tuition? If it already will require parental involvement, why would those parents choose to pay for administration overhead for something that they could do themselves at a much higher quality?

I think this is still the denial that people will be moving away from the day school system as a whole and going with the various alternatives that have been discussed here before.

Thinking said...

Let me takes this in another direction here for a minute. Why is there so much discussion about how much tuition is fair and what kind of services should be provided for what price?

Any school that has been around for 10+ years can predict, almost to the dollar, what their revenue (tuition + fundraising) will be for the coming school year. I say 10 years because that's long enought to have gone through an economic cycle or two. The school budget is then based on the income it generates, not the services it "believes" it needs to offer.

This is simple economics. The house you purchase is based (or should be, let's not start that dscussion here) on your ability to afford it, not what you think you "need".

They are being disengenuous, and frankly dishonest, to there staff if they are basing their budget on anything but expected income.

One more point if I may. This one is from personal experience. Chevy/Cadillac distinctions alreayd happen in many schools. If you pay in full and donate generously your child will always get the teacher you want them to get. If you don't you probably won't have much choice.

SephardiLady said...

I agree, the distinction has been around for quite some time. My husband told me about waiting to get a pass into class and how students with discounts were processed last.

Avi said...

First, I'm really sick of these stupid car brand analogies. If you know anything at all about cars, the Rolls/Chevy characterization is terribly misleading. Our schools are, at best, Toyotas, and most probably more closely resemble Chevys. Perhaps Moriah in Englewood is an Acura. But a Rolls is a hand-made price-is-no-object car for status-obsessed multi-millionaires. There are no schools like that in the Jewish community (if there were frum Swiss boarding schools, that might deserve the Rolls label). The car brand analogy misses the point - to move to a dramatically lower cost structure, you don't go from a Chevy to a Kia, you go from a Chevy to a public bus. Since we don't like who we'd be sitting next to on the public bus, we need private buses, or minivans. There's your new analogy.

@Anonymous - I know you were being facetious, but it's important to realize just how easy it is to be poor in Teaneck. A lot of people here are house rich/cash poor due to high home values, but even if you've paid off your mortgage you still have sky-high property taxes (and you still have to pay for garbage collection on top of that). Utility costs are relatively high, and NJ state taxes are now very high. This is all before you get to tuition or Teaneck-specific lifesytle choices like the frequency of eating out. (Why do we live here, again?)

@Anon819 - Home schooling is an option for individuals, not the community at large. Dual income families can't homeschool at all in many cases. People who don't communicate information well - or can't teach their own kids without tension - don't really have this option, either. I'm not sure that a school that demands intensive parental involvement (in an area where dual incomes are mandatory, even to pay $6500/year/child in tuition) is right for many parents.

SephardiLady said...

Anon819-Good question. I think homeschooling is a word that is so unpopular that it can't be used to get people out and form a committee. I believe that an alternative school, if it forms, will likely form as a "group school."

Anonymous said...

Avi - I know you were being facetious, but it's important to realize just how easy it is to be poor in Teaneck.[space]

I definitely realize it. The real question is - should people continue living in places that they can't really afford? Not Teaneck specific, but everywhere where the cost of frum living is too high.

A lot of people here are house rich/cash poor due to high home values, but even if you've paid off your mortgage you still have sky-high property taxes (and you still have to pay for garbage collection on top of that). Utility costs are relatively high, and NJ state taxes are now very high.[space]

Oh, I know all about the high taxes in NJ. That's part of the reason I moved out shortly after Florio was elected and added a relatively high income tax on top of very high property taxes and high tolls.

This is all before you get to tuition[space]

In my family, we have a saying - "compared to tuition, it's nothing" that applies to just about every expenditure we make. We are generally frugal and all our spending each month outside of tuition (and mortgage) is less than 1/4 of our tuition payment.

or Teaneck-specific lifestyle choices like the frequency of eating out. (Why do we live here, again?)[space]

I have no idea what this sentence means. What does the frequency of eating out have anything whatsoever to do with where someone lives? As far as I can tell, the only thing it has to do with is how often you choose not to cook meals at home. Can you explain?

Mark

JS said...

This idea will never work.

It cannot be implemented in an existing school. What are you gonna do? Have a guard at the computer lab checking ID's - "oops, sorry, David, you can't use the computers, only Yosef here paid enough money to use them."? The amount of classism that would take place would be intolerable and against the very Torah values that are trying to be taught.

In terms of opening another school, where is the money gonna come from? By definition you're excluding the wealthy. You'd have to find a wealthy donor who believes in making education more affordable for the less wealthy. If you find such a person and they're not already a donor, why not just have them chip in to the scholarship fund of an existing school?

Also, are teachers paid less in the Chevy school? Why would a teacher want to work there?

I think the idea here is a good one, but we're too married to the existing model in MO yeshivas. This should have been thought about before Kushner, Frisch, and other MO yeshivas built their gigantic, state of the art campuses. Millions of dollars were sunk into those buildings. We can't just let them sit idle - after all, there aren't enough rich families to fill those yeshivas.

Besides, how many "rich" are we talking about here anyways? By the Kushner numbers in a previous post 2/3 pay full tuition. Those numbers are only going to escalate as the situation worsens. Does it really make sense to have 50% of the kids in a "rich" school and 50% in a "poor" school? How many of the 50% in each group are really "rich" or "poor" anyways? In the "rich" camp amongst the truly wealthy, you have people getting money from grandparents, too proud to ask for a scholarship, taking out HELOCS, etc. In the "poor" camp, amongst the people who genuinely can't afford it, you have those unfairly getting tuition assistance. The whole premise therefore makes no sense.

Besides, is a parents really going to say (or is the community willing to force) the less wealthy to limit their children's opportunities by having less "extras" that many top-notch colleges don't view as "extra" but as "necessary"?

As I mentioned above, the time for this decision has long passed for many MO yeshivas, it should have been considered when big donors lined up to pay for the extravagant campuses. The only solution now is to just pack the kids into these buildings and start increasing the student to teacher ratio.

JS said...

Another point, if you remove all the kids on tuition assistance from the "rich" school, presumably the "rich" school tuition would go down as they are no longer subsidizing the "poor."

Wouldn't this now make the "rich" school more affordable and make the "poor" parents struggle to get their kids in at the new, lower price?

You're basically just forcing a model of zero tuition assistance at a lower tuition cost and telling those who can't afford it to go elsewhere.

I don't have a problem with this, per se, but at least be honest about what you're doing.

SephardiLady said...

JS-If a school wants to continue having kids separated by age and offer the extras, it needs not only those who pay full tuition or the "rich kids," but those that can add more money to the pot beyond their variable cost. So long as the "poor kids" are covering more than the cost of materials bought specifically for them, they are an asset to the school.

Avi said...

@Anonymous - eating out is more expensive than eating in. Teaneck has many options and a culture of indulging in them.

@JS - "You're basically just forcing a model of zero tuition assistance at a lower tuition cost and telling those who can't afford it to go elsewhere."

Absolutely. But this solves the problem a lot of people have with the lower priced school - they assume that all the kids who go there will feel like losers. Hardly! All the kids who go there will be from upper-middle class families who can afford $6500 - $10K per child without tuition assistance. Actually, if that family has three or more children and lives in Teaneck, they are probably rich, at least by our current President's definition.

Of course, you'll end up with a different kind of problem: the parents sending their kids to this school will be envious that the poor parents who need tuition assistance are all giving their kids a better education at the "rich" schools. This could be a disincentive for parents to earn additional income by getting a second job or working in more demanding jobs - why earn more and spend less time at home actually involved with your family just so that you can afford to send your kids to the worse school?

JS said...

"JS-If a school wants to continue having kids separated by age and offer the extras, it needs not only those who pay full tuition or the "rich kids," but those that can add more money to the pot beyond their variable cost. So long as the "poor kids" are covering more than the cost of materials bought specifically for them, they are an asset to the school"

This of course assumes that the fixed costs are already being met. Once the fixed costs are met, then yes, each additional child just needs to cover their marginal cost.

Al said...

Regarding rich donors: "If you find such a person and they're not already a donor, why not just have them chip in to the scholarship fund of an existing school?"

Because the scholarships funds AREN'T scholarship funds. A scholarship fund is a source of money that pays the school for the "scholarships" that it offers. Our "scholarship funds" are dumped into operating budgets (even if the school washes it through a bank account). The schools don't say, "We have $350k in scholarship funds, we can offer that much assistance," they say we have $350k in scholarship funds, we have $750k in needed tuition breaks, and so they just don't collect $400k in tuition.

Regarding class distinctions, they are part of human nature, and a part of Judaism back to the Biblical era (different tribes had different land, the Leviim and Kohanim and tithes, etc). The Gemara is filled with respect for the wealthy... this socialist Judaism is a modern invention.

Will the kids at the cheaper school be envious of the "better school?" I hope so, maybe they'll aspire to make more money to give their children advantages. The biggest problem we have as a community is that expenses are growing faster than income... it's great to talk about holding expenses down, but how about a little focus on getting income up!

Look at the non-Orthodox Jewish world, HUGE upward mobility through education. If we don't push our children to succeed, the system will collapse. If it requires being in the upper 5% of US Income ranges to be Frum, then in addition to attacking costs (hoping to make it the upper 10% instead), we need to focus on getting our children into the top 5%.

Solid education (logic and reasoning skills, don't care whether it's from the "Jewish" or "Secular" side), mastery of the secular course materials (required for professional advancement), and either educational success through a masters degree in high earning fields OR vocational training in high earning professions for all.

You can't train all the women to be teachers in poorly paid schools and hope to hit the levels necessary. An income of 150k supports a Frum lifestyle, and is totally obtainable by dual-income families with either secular professional status or high earning vocational training.

Automechanics can make $45k - $70k, electricians/plumbers $55k-$85k, etc. That's on the vocational side. Engineers, accountants, network administrators, computer programmerse, lawyers, doctors can all earn six figure salaries.

Nurses, paramedics, police officers, etc. can all earn decent livings with benefits and annual cost of living raises.

$6500/year * 5 children is $32,500, or $2708.33 a year... add $2k/month for the mortgage, $1k/month for property taxes/insurance, and $2000/month for groceries/utilities/living expenses, and $1000/month for saving for big ticket items is under $9k/month... that's hittable on dual income if you are both well paid professionals or well trained in vocations.

A sustainable frum model aims for getting "average" dual income families up to $9k/month after taxes... if that were the average income, scholarships and other tzedakah to handle those that fall short would be doable by the bigger earners. But you have to get the average income at least there, and if you can get the median there as well, there would be room to assist those on the lower end.

Any "Orthonomics" that don't plan on getting the "average" dual income family up to $150k (before taxes) by the time they'd have all their children in school doesn't work, and that's upper 5% of the country.

Given the concentration in high income NYC and other high income areas, that seems doable... we might have to also lower our expectations for "financial basket case" families... the family with lots of kids and low incomes needs some support, but it necessarily 9 free tuitions, it might be free Talmud Torah for them and public schooling... it might not seem ideal, but you'd teach them Judaism AND hopefully give them the skills to have a better life than their parents.

Get the Orthodox model sustainable, and you'll lose the "tuition crisis." However, asking the middle/upper middle class to support the poor and working class is a recipe for disaster, and the wealthy are giving and seeing it get worse each year, that's not helpful.

Talmud Torah paid for by wealth Jews is probably a burden that could be stomached, and would get the burden of the poor off the middle/upper-middle class.

Lion of Zion said...

AL:

"Look at the non-Orthodox Jewish world, HUGE upward mobility through education."

i assume you are talking about immigrants or disadvantaged minorities. they are not starting at the same level we are, so the the situation (and potential climb)is not analagous. if you are referring to typical white america, i'd like to see you back up "huge" upward mobility claim.

"we need to focus on getting our children into the top 5%"

i assume that most people living in teaneck other suburbs are already making in the top 5%. how much more can they make?

"An income of 150k supports a Frum lifestyle"

cutting it very close (and assuming you mean net)

"Solid education . . ."

what do you think people in teaneck have? they are mostly professional. there is not kollel culture that would be fixed by what you recommend.

Dave said...

I read that as "non-Orthodox, Jewish" population.

Which yes, has exhibited enormous social mobility. In large part because of a focus on making sure that the next generation was in a position to do better than its parents, a drive for higher education, and keeping a firm grasp on the immigrant "striver" mentality.

How long that continues, I couldn't say.

The bigger issue is that, with a rare handful of exceptions, you can't have it all.

When you want something, look at what it would take to get there, then determine if it is worth it.

And some choices preclude others.

If you want to live in one of the most expensive regions in the world, you are going to need to earn an income to make that possible, or accept significantly limited living conditions.

If you want to have a large family, you are going to have to make a very large income, or reduce or eliminate whole categories of expenses.

If you want an expensive private school education, you are going to have to do some combination of small family, very low cost of living region, or very high income.

The insistance on having everything is disastrous.

Anonymous said...

Al - $6500/year * 5 children is $32,500, or $2708.33 a year... add $2k/month for the mortgage, $1k/month for property taxes/insurance, and $2000/month for groceries/utilities/living expenses, and $1000/month for saving for big ticket items is under $9k/month... that's hittable on dual income if you are both well paid professionals or well trained in vocations.

A sustainable frum model aims for getting "average" dual income families up to $9k/month after taxes... if that were the average income, scholarships and other tzedakah to handle those that fall short would be doable by the bigger earners. But you have to get the average income at least there, and if you can get the median there as well, there would be room to assist those on the lower end.
[space]

You forgot to add retirement savings, a minimum of 10% of gross is prudent, but really more than that is necessary. So let's add $1500 to that $9k. Now we are up to $10.5k. Also, if you are only paying $6.5k tuition, then you also have to save for college education for those 5 kids, add another $1k or so (which isn't anywhere near enough for 5 kids, but we'll also assume lots of college loans later on, or maybe a cheaper city/state college for some of the kids), so now we are at $11.5k/mo. Now we are at $138k net per year which comes to somewhere in the low $200's gross depending on where you live. That's more than a nurse+computer programmer can earn, and I didn't even mention the costs of daycare if both parents work full-time, as they would have to for this kind of income. Even if every frum man were an attorney or a medical doctor, it still won't work out well because those two professions are seeing reductions in wages, and for doctors soon to be major reductions.

Mark

SephardiLady said...

Al-Highly simplistic. You leave off DAYCARE, which is necessary for the high income earning full time dual income working parents who have their all of their children in school. School simply doesn't cover all the hours needed for work and commute, planned breaks, unplanned breaks, and SUMMER.

Teaneck is a high income earning locale. I don't know how much more up there is in such a community. . . . especially when income earning investments have taken a hit.

Dave said...

Universal private schooling and large families just don't go together outside of enormous wealth.

The only reason the Catholic schools were able to do it (emphasis on were) was the combination of a single unified school structure, dedicated but inexpensive staff in the form of clergy, and diocesan resources.

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

DAVE:

"you can't have it all . . ."

this is is the best comment *ever* on the tuition "crisis"

the only thing i will say is this: it is very hard to be in the top 5% and live as if you are in a much lower percentile. day in and day out a frum jew works his tuchus along with his colleagues. the non-jews can come home to fancy cars, homes, vacations, entertainment, etc., and the jew should come home to nothing but tuition bills for schools he probably is not even satisfied with?

i'm not defending this attitude, but i think it explains psychologically why it is very hard for people (myself included) to accept your comment.

tesyaa said...

LoZ, I don't even want the vacations and plasma TVs. I wouldn't mind a little more help around the house, having cut back to the minimum, but even that I guess I can manage. What I don't like is being hit up by our shul rabbi (in public!) for a large donation to a sefer Torah dedication fund. Paying full tuition is this double edged sword. If you pay full tuition, you can't afford any extras. But if you pay full tuition, people assume that you must be rich, and what's another $500? Suffice it to say that if the donation is made, it will be more in the $36 range.

Dave said...

I'd argue it is, if not the most important lesson to learn in life, certainly one of the top lessons.

Choices preclude other choices.

And yeah, sometimes that can be frustrating.

Ask anyone who has chosen a career they find personally rewarding, but not financially rewarding. Or for that matter, the reverse.

Perhaps if people thought more about what they were choosing (and what they were excluding), and made the decisions explicitly, rather than implicitly, it would be easier.

Ezzie said...

SL, Mark, et al - I think that the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland is reasonably strong economically (I'm not saying they're rolling in dough, just solid). I've heard some other schools outside the NY-NJ area are as well.

I don't know that YCQ is (I thought I recall them being mentioned as struggling now a year ago at a panel here in KGH), but I would be happy to be mis-remembering.

Anonymous said...

LOZ - "you can't have it all . . ."

this is is the best comment *ever* on the tuition "crisis"
[space]

Not just about tuition, but about life.

The only thing i will say is this: it is very hard to be in the top 5% and live as if you are in a much lower percentile. day in and day out a frum Jew works his tuchus along with his colleagues. the non-Jews can come home to fancy cars, homes, vacations, entertainment, etc., and the Jew should come home to nothing but tuition bills for schools he probably is not even satisfied with?

I'm not defending this attitude, but i think it explains psychologically why it is very hard for people (myself included) to accept your comment.
[space]

It is very difficult. The people I work with think I am completely nuts to pay out each year in tuition enough to buy an almost top-of-the-line Lexus (they also think I am nuts to have 5 kids). I always tell them that I prefer my kids, and their education, to a new Lexus each year. What so I need a new car each and every year anyway? :-)

Mark

Avi said...

Al, in addition to leaving out saving for retirement, you also left out life insurance, healthcare, camp (or something else to watch and occupy the kids during the summer while the parents work), and, ideally, tzedaka. Add those back in, then add a multiplier for hitting higher tax brackets/AMT, and you're well above $200K. And that's IF you can somehow get tuition down from $10,000 (kindergarten) - $23,000 (high school) per child to $6500. It also assumes that you put a lot of money down on your house (or your mortgage would be higher than $2K/month), and that you don't have college and grad school loans to pay off. Oh, and none of those five kids are allowed to need additional tutoring, therapy of any kind, or braces. (I'm assuming that car payments, home repair, and making simchas are covered under your big ticket savings, but if not, add those in, too.)

Plus, I'm with LoZ. Once you have a family income well above $200K (again, that's with the vision of cheaper tuition; it's closer to $300K in the world we actually live in), it's hard to drive a beat up car, mow your own lawn, and shop at the thrift store. Most jobs that pay these wages are demanding, and you'll find that your colleagues all use some of their income to relax and reward themselves and their family for the long hours and stress. Some people are content with knowing they are giving a Torah education to their children and derive all the relaxation they need from Shabbos and Daf Yomi. But for others, the family income needs a further boost to cover some creature comforts, or chocolate bars, or gym memberships, or regular visits to a psychologist. (Or, sadly, a marriage counselor.) ...and that's with the cheaper tuition.

Thinking said...

Well, if we are going to discuss socioeconomic class I have to throw this in here. The security guards at the door comment reminded me of this.

http://www.youtube.com/v/QCz8he36hsk&hl=en

Al said...

Avi, you're right, there are other costs... My post was WAY oversimplified. My point was not that things are "nice" at $150k and 5 kids in private school, but that appears to be the minimum, assuming this "no frills school" works for Jewish middle class life. The issue between 150k and 200k to have a nice life at this level strikes me as less of an issue than Jewish families without higher education struggling on $60k...

My point is that the lack of emphasis on earning power has rendered most Frum families at the mercy of the "scholarship committee," which creates a cycle of dependency, because you can't get out. Every additional dollar that you earn goes to tuition, so there is no incentive to make more money and get ahead, which has resulted in stagnant earnings, less than full employment, and tuition growth WELL beyond the rate of inflation.

The fact is, private school in the upper middle class (100k - 200k) is certainly not unheard of, but K-12 is not the norm. At my secular private high school, less than 10% of my graduating class were "lifers" (there since Pre-K or K), with class sizes increasing dramatically for middle school and again for high school.

A family income of $150k with both spouses working isn't the same as a job earning $200k... getting to $150k is possible WITHOUT a high status position, just two good solid blue/white collar career paths.

If you and your colleagues are earning $200k - $250k, you're playing in a different league than if you make $90k and you wife makes $60k, which was the scenario that I was envisioning.

In that neighborhood, nice designer clothing bought at the end of season, reasonably new cars, reasonable lawn service (but not a gardening service), and modest vacations are quite normal, because you're both in middle class careers.

Children are expensive. Children in private school are expensive. The ability of the community to provide it for the less well off has been dramatically hurt by the less well off taking no steps to earn more money.

Smart Jews going to ITT instead of a real college and studying engineering means a 33% reduction in earning, but it's more "acceptable" because the education is 100% practical instead of taking "wasteful liberal arts," or because the Yeshiva didn't prepare them for college applications... Jewish women that want to go into education teaching for $20k-$25k in a Yeshiva instead of $30k growing to close to $100k +pension and benefits over their career because they aren't certified and therefore can't work in the public school system, each of these individual actions result in children needing scholarship, which means that they zap the community of funds.

Forget the socialist mindset, view the Frum world as a semi-private economy, since the neighborhoods are becoming increasingly homogenous as the "frum premium" makes it ridiculous for anyone else to live there.

GDP = C + I + G + X(net), (C)onsumption is the internal expenditure, (I)nvestment includes investment in education, businesses, training, etc., and G is the communal spending of tzedakah. That money all flows around in the community, let's look at e(X)ports...

We "export" the members that work outside the community, bringing money in, plus donations from outside Frumlandia. We "import" taxes (income, FICA, property), both on that outside work, and on our internal staff at our schools, food. An increasing percentage of our "GDP" is going to school expenses, which means "importing" our non-education staff, FICA for all, taxes for staff, plus books, etc. The only way to handle this growth in educational costs is to grow our Frum GDP, which means increasing our "exports," or more people working for more money outside the Frum world.

All the rest is commentary (or whining)...

shanamaidel said...

Speaking of tradeoffs and GDP-

I really really want to ask the following- At what point does the lomdus kick in?
Or do you really need the private school?

We know that a certain amount at certain points makes kids "Jewish" (Thank you AviChai, thank You NJPS)

Is private school the end all be all for making a kid Jewish, for teaching them How to be Jewish, for knowing Jewish Texts? What are the entry and exit points?

At what point would it be acceptable to do a talmud torah (for the basics) and then private school?


And FYI- You don't screen early for Special Ed- you pay for the nose for it later. You don't teach Technology to (semi-) young kids, you hold them back later in life.

That's what Urban Blight looks like. A 30+ classroom and kids who cannot read because they were not screened for basic learning issues, nor taught basic skills at home. And yes, you are going to start seeing that in the Jewish community if you do a dual track.

Beyond paying for performance- you teach a certain amount of life skills. I did my first powerpoint while I was in late Elementary. You want your kid to know what Excel is. And how to use boolean operators on the internet. Most college students in upper tier colleges can't. If they can't, they will not be able to do a huge amount of work. It scares me that occasionally, I can use LexisNexis more accurately than someone in the attached law school here, which is a top ten, because I was taught how....(granted by my parents...but you want someone to teach your kids...)

Anonymous said...

I have a question why is that the graduates of these "Cadillac" yeshivot for the most part lack basic gemorah skills when they graduate?

Anonymous said...

Dave
I actually know someone who works at a Catholic parish in NYC. The fact is that the diocese gives a subsidy of $2000 per student and tuition is around $5500 for elementary schools.
Their are virtually no priests or nuns teaching anymore and the teachers are all full time and certified with a starting salary of $40,000. I am very good at math and this does make me wonder about how yeshivot operate....

Dave said...

The Catholic schools are actually under a lot of financial pressure these days, because they no longer can depend on the clergy to provide low-cost teachers.

Lion of Zion said...

ANON:

"Their are virtually no priests or nuns teaching anymore and the teachers are all full time and certified with a starting salary of $40,000."

well right there is one reason catholic schools might be cheaper. do you have any idea what the average salary is in a suburban day school?

Anonymous said...

The assumption that there needs to be a dual income in order to pay exhorbitant tuition fees bothers me.
I don't think that getting a Day School education warrants children growing up without one parent around to raise them and to be there when the children need them.
For many families, such a model may work.
For many, it doesn't - but since Jewish Day School is a "must", the children are sent come h*** or high water and to heck what it does to the family.

rejewvenator said...

Any model that requires everyone to be in the top 5% of income is, by definition, not sustainable.

The real challenge is not a financial one, it's a challenge of courage and conviction. We are so terrified that our children will go OTD that we turn our backs on the public school option. If we had true courage and belief in our derech, we would not be so afraid. The supplementary education model, or the community schoo model, are both much more affordable. Check out my sketch of possible alternative models at Rejewvenate!

Avi said...

@Rejewvenate - Your community school model might work in some communities, but not where there are large concentrations of Orthodox families for reasons both philosophical and structural.

To varying degrees, Orthodox parents are trying to shelter their kids from popular culture and secular influences. It goes from mild in MO schools which have "no TV weeks" to extreme in chareidi schools which have "no TV allowed in the student's house." It's not just that Orthodox parents don't want their kids to associate with less religious kids because they are afraid it will water down their religiosity, but because the whole idea of sending your kid to an immersive religious school is for that experience to be immersive. You'd like to break down barriers between different strains of Judaism? That's nice. That's explicitly not what these parents want. They won't send their kids to your school - it's a non-starter.

But even in MO communities where the schools already attract some children from non-Orthodox families, suggesting creating an uber-school ignores structural realities. Where is this school going to be housed? In Teaneck, there are already a half dozen schools and they're all full. So unless you plan to undertake a massive building campaign (which would negate any cost savings) or rent out the Teaneck Armory and sell off the schools' existing real estate... again, your community school plan is a non-starter.

Pooling resources across schools is definitely something our schools should be doing to cut costs. Small hardware and grocery stores form buying cooperatives, and that could probably shave a few dollars off the budgets. And I haven't figured out why schools are buying connected whiteboards in the first place. But shaving a few dollars off of supply purchasing doesn't address the bigger expenses of staff and structure.

No, we're going to be "stuck" with our current schools. The Conservative schools will be hit hardest as some of their base will reluctantly move to public school while more of the Orthodox consider day school an untouchable religious obligation. If the recession continues and tuition rises further, many Orthodox schools will fail. The MO will send their kids to public school and push for more extensive talmud torah programs. The chareidim will end up home schooling.

SephardiLady said...

The MO will send their kids to public school and push for more extensive talmud torah programs. The chareidim will end up home schooling.I think any predictions like this are premature. If you look at a current sample of the few homeschoolers that are out there, I think you will see plenty of MO. In some ways the MO are more equipped to home/groupschool than their more right wing counterparts.

Anonymous said...

The basic assumption of a low cost model is that schools "waste" money and that certain subjects cost more, but the real cost of a school is the infrastructure / salaries (which is needed regardless of the size of the school) and scholarships. At the end of the day, I think the low cost option will only be a 2-3K less than other schools. Will parents send their kids to the "chevy" school with that small price differential?

The only real solution is the charter school or public school hebrew immersion route. The quicker everybody starts pulling in the same direction, the quicker a solution can be realized. The faster we do this, quicker your kids will be surrounded by other frum kids in these types of programs. That is just the plain reality.

Avi said...

@SL - Yes, it's premature. But most MO families I know have two working parents; home schooling and group schooling isn't an option without a radical change in the family's income. (Except in cases where the wife is a teacher. Then home schooling is a natural.) In many Chareidi families, one parent is already learning or teaching. The transition is theoretically simpler, and the option to send to a public school -- even a Hebrew immersion public school with associated torah classes -- is not a real option. For the MO, it's not ideal, but it could be the least bad option.

@Anon 12:53 - I truly believe that our schools are worth paying for (otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it!). So I can't call charter schools a "solution." But when families are priced out of yeshivot and donors can't be found to prop up scholarship funds any more -- and we are rapidly approaching that day -- what choice will we have? You're probably right.

Anonymous said...

Avi -
While our children might be getting a good jewish education. You cannot convince me that the secular education is better. Having been in both yeshivas and public school, I firmly believe that compared to the average suburban public schools yeshivas are at best equal in quality - definitely not superior.

We must find a way to have the gov't defray some of our costs (i.e. charter or hebrew immersion in PS) that is the ONLY way to survive. What are all our kids missing out on by having TWO working parents that are just making ends meet?? I would prefer to send my kids to a charter/hebrew immersion with some type after school program which would allow me to be a stay at home mom and spend more time with my children.

Forget about the fact that this discussion doesn't even take into account that out of control tuition costs prohibit many of us from saving adequately for retirement and the fact that social security may not be here for us when it's our turn. Right now it's the Jewish Tuition Crisis in 30-40 years from now it will be the Jewish Retirement Crisis with none of us having enough money to retire. We'll be working the rest of our lives.

We must work together to stop the insanity now! I look forward to hearing the final decision on Englewood as well as the proposal for Hebrew Immersion in New Rochelle. I pray every day that these programs get passed.


@Anon 12:53

SephardiLady said...

Avi-If a family is spending the entire secondary breadwinner's income plus some of the primary breadwinner's income, homeschooling will make MORE money available, not less. As I sometimes remind people, it isn't always what you make, but what you spend.

In addition, homeschooling doesn't preclude all income earning potential, although certainly working outside of the home full time isn't an option. I did run an article from the Wall Street Journal on dual income homeschooling families.

Groupschooling, as opposed to homeschooling, in theory would leave time for at least some work.

Avi said...

@Anon - That 's certainly true in some cases, but at MO schools its generally not true. It certainly wasn't true in the MO schools my wife and I attended (in the DC area and Boston). I'm paying too much money to believe that the secular education in the MO school I send my kids to (in N NJ) is inferior to public schools. I prefer living in denial.

@SL - that's a fair point.

Anonymous said...

I say way to go to the bergen county parents who are actually "doing" and not talking about doing something. The poor vs. rich is a red herring that sounds good. The real people who are going to be interested in this option are the people who pay full tuition but it hurts. As has been detailed above, those making 150-250k per year pay full tuition and it hurts too. The final battle royale will be between the payers and those who work in the Jewish education system. Until the electricity is turned off, our paid jewish educators will crow how we absolutely "need" to spend and therefore charge 14 or 15k in tuition. Let the efficient school for under 10k open, and we'll see the battle begin.