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Sunday, May 10, 2009

BINGO and Say What?

Some ideas are starting to surface regarding just how costs are going to be reduced in day schools. (I will hopefully find time for an Orthonomics radical brainstorm session). The following six ideas were presented by Rabbi Saul Zucker, OU Director of Day School Services (from an article in The Forward):
  • Establishing a health plan for yeshiva school employees nationwide, via the O.U., that will be administered by a corporation that already insures tens of thousands of employees.
  • Reducing energy costs by converting schools to alternative power sources, such as solar and wind. Zucker said the O.U. had located an agent willing to do a free assessment of conversion costs for individual schools.
  • Setting up a kehilla, or community fund, via local Orthodox congregations to allow schools to broaden their fundraising base beyond the families of their students.
  • Using a professional grants consultant, to be made available via the O.U., to identify government and private sources for additional financial support and draft the grant proposals to obtain the funds.
  • Having yeshiva students, parents and faculty use and get others to use a custom Internet toolbar offered through the O.U. for their Web browser. With each click, corporate sponsors whose ads jump to the top of searches will contribute to a fund to be maintained by the O.U. and disbursed to the schools.
  • Holding bingo fundraising events to generate income.
Admittedly, I have a bit of a, uh, queasy reaction towards introducing BINGO. I imagine that introducing BINGO could be a big money maker (Rabbi Zucker says “Yes, I know there are some naysayers who think bringing up bingo is shameful and ridiculous, but there is a yeshiva school in Norfolk, Virginia, that has organized a weekly bingo night, with the help of parents, that has raised $300,000 per year for their school! The principal told me that without weekly bingo, they wouldn’t have been able to survive.”) But, I really have a dislike for bringing gambling so close into our communities, and as I type this I can feel a lump developing in my throat.

Long time readers know that I am not particularly comfortable with the so very popular Chinese Auctions to say nothing of regular BINGO, but in a brainstorming session, ideas should not be quickly dismissed. Nevertheless, bringing in new money is absolutely essentially, so I can see the utility of BINGO. Ultimately, introducing more gambling as a partial solution to our money problems will have to be on the shoulders of community Rabbonim and Gedolim.

Readers: would you be supportive of introducing BINGO as a fundraiser for your child(ren)'s school?

And, now, onto the SAY WHAT? part of my post.

At the end of the article in The Forward, the vice president of the Los Angeles Maimonides school is quoted regarding the possibility of things getting worse:

"There are people that are not only putting their kids in public schools because it’s cheaper, but they’re also home-schooling them.”

Certainly he met to say *not only home-schooling their children, but placing them in public school*, right? [Updated for clarity: Or is homeschooling possibly considered the greater of the two "evils" by some? I don't want to read too far into his comment, but it seems to me that when the choice is between public schooling and home schooling, giving home schooling a fair shake should be given acceptance as a valid option].

For a related article, see the Beliefnet blog. Thank you to a friend who introduced me to Google Alerts.


Juggling Frogs said...


We're in that category. Next year, we were due to have all 5 kids in day school, and the bill was going to be $98k (after taxes).

We decided instead to enroll the youngest in kindergarten as planned, but to take two of the elementary school kids out for homeschooling.

I know of a very small number of frum parents who homeschool, but more who send their children to public school.

ProfK said...

Bingo is not a new idea but an old one taken out of the closet. At least through the 70s and into the 80s there were yeshivas which raised funds this way, as well as just about every Catholic school. And yes, a few of the frummy yeshivas in Brooklyn had bingo nights. Parents on tuition scholarships were expected to work at those bingo nights. The target audience was not specifically members of the frum community but anyone who lived in the general area. The bingo nights were talked about as recreation rather than gambling.

The Bingo nights died out for a few reasons. One, Bingo itself was seen to be "old fashioned." Poker and card playing was considered more "in." Two, in the Metropolitan NY/NJ area there was competition arising from the casinos of Atlantic City, which offered more variety. Three, coed gambling nights began to raise a tsnius issue. Four, some people began to ask if it was proper for a yeshiva to encourage gambling.

For the OU to raise the idea of Bingo again speaks of desperation, not solid thinking about how to get more money for yeshivas. (Note: it's interesting that Rabbi Zucker raised the idea, because he attended a large yeshiva in the FR area that had such a Bingo night. "Nostalgia" speaking perhaps?)

InternationalHarvester said...

My wife said that this reminded her of "Future Problem Solvers"---one of these lists of solutions that a middle-school student might come up with.

Health plan is a great idea, but Obama is socializing medical care anyways with a drive to bankrupt the private insurance industry, so likely no help there. Healthcare will cost more through the mandatory gov't plan, so it will no longer be a cost a person can control.

Alternative energy?!? Unless these schools are located on the flats of Oklahoma, I don't know how much "free" energy they will be able to harvest from the wind. It will take them a LONG time to recoup the costs of solar panel installation in energy savings. And with the poor maintenance at many of these schools, windmills and solar panels will likely fall into disrepair long before they pay for themselves. Plus, if they need to take out debt to buy the alternative energy, they will need money to finance the debt!

Emphasizing local community support for schools is a great idea (similar to Baltimore). Stop giving your tzedakah to far-off, neat sounding organizations when there are boring, plain-vanilla organizations at home that need the money the most. I would say to stop giving to all these shneurrers who are trying to buy an apartment for their kids in Yerushalayim.

Careful of getting gov't grants. Money always comes with strings attached. Are you willing to teach about homosexuality in schools? It is coming to that.

The internet toolbar is the most laughable idea. I think we're about 10 years too late to make money with affiliate programs!

Incidentally, $7000 is too much for many families as well. I don't see anything realistic about reducing COST. Just some more fundraising ideas. Recently, we were told in our state that due to budget shortfalls, we could (A) raise taxes or (B) legalize gambling. (C) was not an option, where (C) was reduce spending. It seems that this list falls into the same problem.

SephardiLady said...

Juggling Frogs,

Since the new school year is coming up, how would you like to start a weekly homeschooling digest on something related to homeschooling? I know that some of us are potentially headed in your direction. It would be neat to read a weekly journal.

The quote makes it sound like homeschooling was the greater of the two evils.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your reaction to the LA school VP. I would not say that homeschooling is always preferable to public school, if that is what the options come down to. I don't think that everyone is cut out for homeschooling, and for dual income couples it is very difficult (although you have pointed out that some such families do it). I think we should at least accept the fact that public schools have something to offer educationally.

Anonymous said...

(I wrote my 8:51 comment before reading your 8:47 comment)

SephardiLady said...

tesyaa-Glad to see you saw my 8:47AM comment. I will add my comment here for clarity there.

I know a number of families who are taking advantage of public schools. The children are absolutely benefitting on the general education side. I am not one who believe public school is the ultimate evil.

I do believe that nearly universal day school/yeshiva movement has strengthened the Jewish community and it saddens me just how out of reach is has become.

There currently is attrition and there will be more attrition in the future. Orthodox kids are going to go somewhere. Perhaps home/group schooling should be given a fair trial?

Commenter Abbi said...

I wouldn't say the LA principal was talking about two evils, but rather more or less radical alternatives to yeshiva day school education. Like it or not, homeschooling is still a pretty radical solution to educating one's children, and it is more radical than simply putting them in public school.

There are many families that are fine or are simply forced by economics to make radical choices. That doesn't make these choices "evil" and I don't think the principal was saying anything derogatory about homeschooling families. But they are still making a radical choice.

JS said...

These suggestions are really, really bad. It sounds like something I could have come up with in 10 seconds if I was totally clueless and read the newspaper for a few minutes.

An Internet toolbar? What is this the mid to late 90's? I can almost hear Rabbi Zucker going "The 'Internet' can make money, you say? Interesting."

Also, he's talking about MO yeshivas only here, obviously. Health plan won't save much money, it's my understanding the benefits aren't great and from friends I have who work in yeshivas it sure sounds like they pay the majority of the cost, the yeshiva picks up little.

Renewable energy? Seriously? They cost a ton (even with govt subsidies) and aren't very efficient.

And don't we have communal fundraising? Isn't this what the Federation, UJA, etc are for? Don't yeshivas already receive money from the groups?

And bingo is the most laughable. An idiot's tax. Let's raise funds from the poor and stupid who think they can make money gambling. Anyone who works hard and has half a brain is staying away from this.

I find this so frustrating. Maybe Rabbi Zucker should quit and his salary can be donated to the yeshivas - him and all the other useless administrators in the bloated Jewish organizations who couldn't come up with a good idea if their lives depended on it.

Face the facts, even a well-run yeshiva is really expensive - even more so when you add in all the extras MO families demand. MO families who don't have the cash are in no position to demand anything, let alone top-notch private school.

These schools can cut costs all they want. The fact remains people have no money to pay for it. I have yet to hear a single person say "Oh, if only tuition was $9,000 a year instead of $12,000 I could COMPLETELY afford it."

A radical new approach is needed. And it ain't gonna come from people like Rabbi Zucker.

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law lives in Brooklyn while I live on Staten Island. I mentioned that many Brooklyn kids come to our school, the Jewish Foundation School. She decided to call and I am angry and shocked. They will accept $5000 from her while my bill is about $9,000. They want to fill the classes and feel they can charge what they want to the locals and entice others with low tuition. Is this legal? Any lawyers know? I would like to get this rate for my kid. The school does not realize we are related!

Shoshana said...

I am so excited to know that being the mom of a homeschooling means I am still a radical so many years after graduating from college! Forgive my flip humor, but I can hardly imagine what people (Rabbis, etc.) must think goes on in our day to believe that homeschooling is such a horrendous and implausible educational solution.

Juggling Frogs- My sister told me about your blog (she's an avid knitter) and I have visited many times. Yasher koach for your difficult choice and hatzlacha raba. Feel free to email me at najova (at) earthlink (dot) net for support and to find out a lot more about the *worldwide* conspiracy (I mean network) of frum homeschoolers. :) We've been at this for 6 years with 4 kids and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

conservative scifi said...

I'm surprised an Orthodox rabbi would suggest Bingo. At my conservative synagogue, the "development" people wanted to have a casino, bingo or poker night and were told to read the responsa at the JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary) website which opposed gambling.

With regard to homeschooling, not every parent, and not every child, is cut out to successfully balance the time and effort needs of homeschooling. If you can, it is probably a very good option.
But if you don't have the temperament, or your child lacks self motivation, home schooling could easily be a disaster.

If we are going to throw out random new ideas for helping fund day schools, simpler is probably better. Simple ideas might include:

1. Videoconferencing lessons from a renowned rabbi into multiple classrooms, with a less educated aide in each room to supervise and assist in Hevruta studies. (The video could go two ways, with questions and answers). If such videoconferencing could reduce the staff by one teacher per grade, it could significantly reduce costs. The technology itself is not that expensive.

2. If we're considering homeschooling, then how about communal schooling. If a school has two first grade class with 20 kids each with (hopefully) 80 total parents, require each parent to alternate teaching the class with a professional lesson plan. The professional teacher would alternate between the two classes, and the other class would be supervised by the parent. In a 240 day school year (more than most kids have) each parent would only have to teach 3 times. This would also allow one less teacher to be hired, significantly reducing tuition costs.

3. Now for my silly idea. Get a school together and set up a "mock shtetl", where the physical plant of the school is built to look like a heder in Europe. Put it on a campus with some "fiddler on the roof" type houses around it, and advertise "authentic shtetl tours". In New York, I wouldn't be shocked if you could get 250tourists a day at $10 each (closed shabbos and holidays, of course, though those could be really big moneymakers). Over the 200 days of school, that would raise $500,000, so that the school could be signifcantly lower priced and even include lunch for the reenactors/kids.

conservative scifi said...

For idea number 2, I realize many parents might have 5 or 6 (or more kids, and would have to teach 15 or 18 days (or more) in this system. But if it saved several thousand dollars, it might be worth the leave or leave without pay.

Avi said...

SL - I don't think anyone believes that home schooling is "wrong" on an individual level. For some children/families, it can be the best possible way to educate a child al pi darko. However, when a family is forced into it because of finances -- not because it makes personal or educational sense -- then, yeah, it's not much different than being forced into public school due to finances. The outcome with home schooling might be better ...or not.

Avi said...

@JS - If tuition was $9K a year per child and rose at the annual rate of inflation, I would have absolutely no problems paying full tuition. I knew tuition would be expensive, and my wife and I chose career paths with that in mind, and we have been blessed by HKB"H along the way. The problem is that tuition is now $14 - $17K per child for elementary school, and $22 - $28K per child for high school, and tuition has been rising at three times the rate of inflation for a decade.

Anonymous said...

$300K/year from Bingo in this day and age is (apart from the important moral issues raised be earlier commenters) pretty amazing.

Having some shul Bingo experience up here in New England, I'd suggest that the financial outlook for Bingo programs will vary greatly depending on individaul state laws and demographic trends; in CT, Bingo programs are frequented by the elderly / minorties only, and the competition from nearby casinos means there's no way to make that kind of money (not net, anyway, after taking into account the cost necessary to run the program and attract patrons).

Anonymous said...

I don't think "even homeschooling" here means homeschooling is considered worse, outcome-wise. Rather, it is a more extreme action, since it requires more effort from parents. So: "some parents decide to [leave the wage labor force, where applicable and] devote a lot more time and energy to educating their kids than they had to with yeshivas, all to save on tuition" is more shocking than "some parents are opting for the free school over yeshiva because of tuition."

JS said...


Those are some pretty big "IF's." My point was that the vast majority that can't afford tuition aren't in your situation. Yes, many could "make do" if tuition were somehow "reset" back to $9000 per kid. But, most people imo who can't afford it, REALLY can't afford it, and it doesn't matter if tuition is $12K, $22K, or $9K per kid. Even asking a family to pay $45K for 5 kids is WAY more than most people can handle.

And besides, do you really believe any solution that people come up with that resets tuition to $9K is really going to also change the gigantic greater-than-inflation increases that have been traditional year in and year out?

My point is simply that private school is prohibitively expensive for most people and even if tuition were somehow lowered it doesn't address this fundamental point - it just changes the percentages of people on aid. Lowering the percentage of people on aid is just a bandaid, eventually the numbers on aid will creep up due to increased costs for the yeshiva, demands for better services by parents, demands for higher wages by teachers, an economic downturn, a donor unable/unwilling to give, etc. Similarly, having a "no frills" school and a "upscale" school just repackages the problem, it doesn't solve it.

Avi said...

@JS - You said "I have yet to hear a single person say "Oh, if only tuition was $9,000 a year instead of $12,000 I could COMPLETELY afford it." And now that I've said it, you change the argument, and say that private school is simply unacceptable at any price because there's bound to be someone who can't afford it. In that case, there's no solution that will make you happy.

Of course there were always people who struggled to pay tuition. But now, even the people who could afford tuition in the past are now being priced out, and the people who used to be big donors are lucky to simply pay full tuition. That's what makes this a communal crisis. I'm not minimizing the individual crisis and mesirat nefesh of people who struggled to pay for tuition in the past. But, yes, if we could roll back tuition to rates of 20 years ago + actual inflation, tuition would be manageable for a much wider swath of the community.

Avi said...

Back to the original post:

Joint health plans - I think this is a great idea.
Green energy - I'm skeptical because I doubt it makes economic sense or will save much money. But there's no harm in looking into it - especially since I suspect many yeshivot haven't done the easy stuff like caulking windows.
Communal funds - yeah, I thought we had that already, too, but apparently we don't. I'm not convinced that it will shake new money loose by itself, but combined with the new emphasis on donating to local education before all else it should have at least some impact.
Grants - The OU seems to think its worth funding, I'm not going to argue.
Custom Internet toolbar - No. No. No.
Bingo - If it works, I'm all for it, but while we're recycling ancient abandoned fundraisers -- that were abandoned for good reasons -- why not a bake sale?

Commenter Abbi said...

For all those who pooh pooh alternative energy- my husband is currently running a startup that is developing inverters that will significantly increase the efficiency of solar panels, even when partially shaded, allowing them to pay for themselves in a shorter time period. And I think alt energy subsidies are part of Obama's stimulus plans. It's not as crazy an idea as it sounds.

I'd say alternative energy is a much sounder investment than yet another useless wing whose only purpose is to slap someone's name on it.

JS: I agree with Avi. There will always be people who can't afford day school education. The question is how to make it affordable for the large majority of the community.

You also have to delineate between MO and kollel. Yes, most kollel families can't even afford $9000 per kid. I don't think that's true of most MO families.

JS said...

Apparently I've been misunderstood. My point wasn't that because there's always someone who can't afford to pay (no matter what the price) that we have an untenable situation with no solution.

I said "I have yet to hear a single person say 'Oh, if only tuition was $9,000 a year instead of $12,000 I could COMPLETELY afford it.'" My point was that $9000/kid is still beyond the reach of many parents - even those who make good money. If you have 5 kids, $45K (after tax) means you have to be making a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief that most MO famies are rolling in the dough, this is simply not true. Not every MO person is a doctor, lawyer, or wall street big shot.

My point focused on "COMPLETELY" meaning 2 things. 1) Many can't afford to pay it at all and 2) Even those who can pay $9000/kid can't do so comfortably. #1 is always going to be a problem to some extent. #2 is going to be a huge problem whenever the economy downturns. The issue is controlling the percentages of #1 and #2 to have a sustainable model.

When the percentages of #1 and #2 get too high, the yeshivas are in a lot of trouble. My point was that even if they could cuts costs to get tuition down to $9000/kid (impossible) I think there is still too high a percentage of parents who couldn't pay or couldn't pay comfortably. But even if you wanted to argue that $9000/kid is reasonable and could be paid by enough people, my point was that the model is just not sustainable as eventually costs will increase (rightfully or wrongfully) and tuition will increase and we'll be right back in this situation again.

Maybe it's acceptable that we have a cycle: a few years where most people can pay or we have enough scholarship money punctuated by a few years where too high a percentage can't pay and there isn't enough scholarship money. If we get through this mess, maybe that will just be the model from now on, feast and famine.

Personally, I think that's a lousy model and think something new needs to be proposed.

Dave in DC said...

I think reform looks stupid when you conflate some of these small cost-cutting measures with the larger radical changes.

Everyone wants an lean, efficient day school, and many probably don't have it. Articles like the ones at have great checklists for school efficiency, and many of R. Zucker's suggestions are already on there.

But let's not fool ourselves - efficient schools are in crisis too. These measures can shave percentage points off a budget, but not the kind of radical restructuring that make the day school model feasible in the long run.

I would love to see the OU, YU, PEJE or other org propose demonstration communities for some of these new school models. They can be new communities which found their schools this way, failing communities which are likely to lose their schools if they don't convert to these models, or saturated communities where one school may be looking to differentiate itself. I can think of a few options just off the top of my head. But isn't it time to engage in some close scrutiny of the innovative options that have already been tried and model some new ones?

thinking said...

My thoughts and a suggestion at the end.

1)The issue with a health plan is that if even one school defaults on a payment everyone loses coverage. The upside of discount in numbers is also the downside of putting the whole plan at risk. I have been looking into this for the past 10 years.

2)At the recent YU organized meeting the only significant energy savings were for new projects. Hopefully, no one is engaging in the nw projects in this economy.

3/4) Limited resources. Think of the hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of kids just in the metro NY area.

5) I work in online, all of the parents, faculty and students together would barely make enough to fund 1 kid.

6) So 200 schools in Brooklyn should all run Bingo nights???

I know, I know these are just ideas, brainstorms if you will, but this is the OU Director of Day School Services and these were the best he could come up with?

I agree with so many of the posters here that the ONLY solution is cut costs, drastically!
Schools have been around for 20-30+ years. They should have a very finite sense of exactly what their income should look like (tuition, fundraising, dinner etc.) for each school year. They should be tracking this year over year and have very little guesswork involved. You can get a recent graduate to work as a business analyst and run these reports for $35K a year. Then school budgets need to be based on the forecasted revenue. If revenue is down, as this year will be, expenses need to go down.

Why is this so complicated?

Anonymous said...

JS - I have yet to hear a single person say "Oh, if only tuition was $9,000 a year instead of $12,000 I could COMPLETELY afford it."[space]

If tuition were $9k a year, I could completely afford it (right now, at least). Unfortunately, tuition is $14-16k in elementary school, and $20+k in high school.

Now you've heard it :-)


alpidarkomama said...

That quote at the end gave me a big belly laugh. Yes, it definitely made it sound like homeschooling is a far worse evil than public school. We are a happy homeschooling family, and think it's a wonderful way of life. And we did not choose it to avoid the other educational options, but rather for its own sake. Thanks for the laugh!!! OY!

Al said...

There is a bigger question...

Is it more important to have more observant Jews, even if less knowledgeable, or is it better to have fewer Jews with more education? Because tuition as birth control is ABSOLUTELY real and is preventing Jewish births. We are essentially killing Jews by preventing their births by our insistence on universal private school.

What is the justification. Fear of the secular world and assimilation, feat of uneducated children, fear of intermarriage, these are all real concerns, but to talk intelligently, you need to talk percentages.

For example, if you shave intermarriage rates from 10% - 3%, which is what the demographic studies have shown and attributed to Day School education in the Orthodox world, but cause birthrates to drop by 20%, you've shrunk the Orthodox Jewish world... that's a communal issue that our leadership SHOULD look at, but instead they are tied into Day School education.

It's true that the secular world has problems and can entice a young person. It's also true that Yeshiva kids go off the derech and get into trouble. Most people in both situations turn out fine, but not all. Are our schools REALLY better at protecting children from similar socio-economic backgrounds?

In Post-WWII Jewry, there was a lack of knowledge and education, and a need to rebuild both population numbers and the educated class, hence the rise of high birth rates and Yeshiva/Day Schools.

In modern America, the work week is Monday-Friday, diversity is celebrated, and the Jewish employee that works late Monday-Thursday to leave early on Friday falls completely into the realm of "reasonable accommodations." For those with 6 day work weeks, working Sunday instead of Saturday is normally seen as a reasonable accommodation. That's not to suggest that there is NO discrimination, but it's not rampant. Public Schools have excused absence policies for religious holidays (required by law), Christmas/Easter break have become Winter/Spring Break, etc., America doesn't find Jews weird, 90% of American Jewry is integrated into American culture, people are used to Jews.

Challenges facing Torah Judaism in the United States are different than they were pre-WWII when the first schools were build, and post-WWII during the rise of Pax Americana and the national wealth. In the past, the great leaders were those that developed real solutions for the Jewish people to survive current situations, who will rise up for this generation.

Hebrew School in the past was an abysmal failure. That doesn't mean that Talmud Torah + Hebrew Charter school will be a failure. Today's parents are more Jewishly education than they were two generations ago, Jewish observance levels in the Orthodox world were WAY higher, and other factors that present a different world.

However, we've also created a glut of Rabbis with the Kollel system, and it appears that our schools have become focused on employing them at large salaries. More and more Jews are net economic drains on communal wealth, that's not sustainable.

Avi said...

I wonder if we don't have two crisis: in the MO world, the rise in tuition has priced out even the affluent, and the economic crisis exacerbates the problem by removing the safety net of donors. In the right wing world, the system is deliberately designed not to produce above average incomes, so the system is entirely dependent on donors, who have been severely impacted by the economic crisis.

Different approaches may be needed to address each crisis.
In the MO world, knocking tuition costs down by a significant amount would actually "right" the system, at least temporarily. In the right wing world, more radical approaches may be necessary, since tuitions are already lower and the schools are failing.

Commenter Abbi said...


I realized it's not so much the rise in the tuition as it is the rise in the number of children per family. When JS said he has yet to hear someone say they can handle $9 K a year for tuition, I thought "My parents didn't have trouble with that much per year for tuition" and I realized they didn't have problems because there were only two of us.

The problem for the schools, and why it's so "complicated" as Thinking asked, is that this generation are simply having bigger families. More kids= more tuition, as Al pointed out in his birth control analogy. So they can't afford all that tuition and they need more assistance. That means---> raise the overall tuition more and more every year to cover all those people who need assistance for all those kids. $18,000 a year in tuition is doable. $45,000 is a whole nother number.

The crux of the issue is that people in my generation expect to live the same life they grew up with- nice suburban house, vacations, meat 3-4 times a week, yeshiva day school. Only our parents did it with 3 kids max. I always joke with my friends that "4 is the new 2". I don't know anyone my age (34) who only has two kids. But that was the norm in my parents' circle growing up(suburban MO). I can't think of any one of my childhood friends who had more than 3 kids in the family.

So basically, it's the mini baby boom that's crushing the schools right now.

Dave said...

This point is well worth making.

If the average family size in the secular world was, say 5 or 6 children, the public school systems would likely be facing collapse.

Anonymous said...

Dave - If the average family size in the secular world was, say 5 or 6 children, the public school systems would likely be facing collapse.[space]

What do you mean "likely"? Definitely! NY spends something like $10k per pupil, and the average family (including previous generation extended family) pays nothing near $50-60k a year in taxes.

Al - However, we've also created a glut of Rabbis with the Kollel system, and it appears that our schools have become focused on employing them at large salaries. More and more Jews are net economic drains on communal wealth, that's not sustainable.[space]

Bingo. :-) It isn't just the schools, it's all the different organizations employing high priced folks that individually may occasionally do much good, but in the aggregate, they are destroying the society by tilting the percentage of productive external-income-earning folks to internal-consuming folks too much. This also includes too many Rabbis per shul (two generations ago, even in very large shuls, an assistant Rabbi plus 4 or 6 or 8 kollelniks was almost unheard of), and too many shuls per neighborhood, each with its own contingent of Rabbis and Kollelniks. It also includes too many subdivisions of Federation (for example, South Florida has 4 Federation organizations, each with the usual contingent of "management").


Avi said...

@Abbi - You could be right, but I'd want to see the data first. In the suburban MO community I grew up in, families were about the same size as the suburban MO community I live in now. There were some with 1 or 2, and some with 7, but most seemed then / seem now to have 3 - 5.

Mark - No question about that. We have a lot more middle managers in communal positions today than we did a few decades ago. We have a lot more communal organizations than we used to have, too. And we have a lot less lay involvement, especially among women who are more likely to be working than they were in the past. A lot of these positions are going to have to be eliminated to cut costs, and a lot of these organizations are going to have to fold due to lack of funding.

Ariella said...

Juggling Frogs: how much is elementary school tuition where you are? I know that there are high schools that charge about $20K, but I haven't heard of such tuitions for the younger grades.

SL, I really do think that those in schools systems regard homeschooling as the greater evil. Public school is still run by teacher and administrators who claim greater expertise about education than parents. But removing children from the system altogether indicates the parents will no longer be under any educational authority -- that is what they find particularly threatening. It is for that reason, as well as the general prejudice that assumes no one would take a child out of school unless that child had such problems that the school didn't want him/her -- that I think it is very difficult to enroll a child in school after the experience of homeschooling. The parent is regarded as an anarchist.

Miami Al said...

Anecdotally it appears that we think that Orthodox family sizes have grown, but there is no demographic data that supports that trend. I think that you might have a selection bias on this site.

People on this site are likely to be struggling with the financial equation, especially when the "meta" discussions like this one bring out the "professionals" (versus the frugality topics that bring out the homemakers). A modern Orthodox family with 1-2 children isn't going to be struggling with the tuition issue the way a family with 5 is, so we get more of the families of 5+ children.

Further, someone that grew up in a family of 5+ children that now has them didn't know the "American Dream" life of vacations and expensive cars, the BT/MO from a family with 2 children with 3-5 children is feeling a pinch that they didn't grow up with.

A family with an income of 120k and 1-2 children will seem much better off financially than a family with an income of $180k and 5 kids in school, and the latter is WAY more likely to come to this site and vent.

SephardiLady said...

Miami Al-I believe that the Jewish Population Survey shows an increase in the size of the Orthodox family. Last I read a study, the average Orthodox family had 4.5 children.

Plus, where are these modern Orthodox families with "only" 1-2 children? I think Commentor Abbi is right on when she mentions that 4 is the new 2. I don't have to look beyond the pickup line to see that 2 kid families are a thing of the past. Yes, even amongst the modern Orthodox, 3 is a minimum.

Take tuition + camp (assume dual income) and multiply by 3 (or 4 or 5) and you are looking at a massive number.

Dave said...

So, if we assume that Orthodox family sizes are not going to drop, we can come to an interesting conclusion.

The best practice for Orthodox families is to live in a region where there are enough Orthodox children (and interested others) to make a Hebrew Language Charter school a reasonable option, but a region with a large enough non-Orthodox school aged population to keep the average family size down enough to keep the school system afloat.

rosie said...

Chabad has many home/online schoolers and people are marrying them!
The problem with their online school is that it is not free, nor do they want to compete with day schools so therefore they do not service anyone with access to a day school. They do however, service children who are not from the Chabad community.
I wonder if there could be a partial homeschooling worked out. What if a family could give the secular studies themselves but wanted the children to just attend the limudei kodesh portion of the day? Maybe the yeshiva could charge them half.
If enough people in a community were sending to a public school, they could possibly rent a room for Jewish studies or davening since as long as it is either rented or student led it is allowed. Personally, having worked in several public schools, and some Jewish kids are in neighborhoods with inner-city type kids, I would have to vote for safety in numbers. The Jews who opt for that should go in as a group, deal with the district about religious matters as a group, and the parents of children in public school should be mega-involved. They should know what is going on. Public schools teach to a crowd that needs birth control advice at age 13.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that family size is the whole story. ProfK in her comments has said that tuition in the early 70s was around $300 (yes, 2 zeros) per child. ProfK can correct me if I'm wrong. I know that inflation has not kept pace with tuition. I recall that Frisch HS cost around $3,000 in the early 80s. Now, does everything you buy, including gas, groceries, rent, cars, etc. cost 6 times as much as 1981?

Ariella said...

rosie's suggestion is similar to what my son's. He says we should tell his yeshiva that he will only come for limudei kodesh and that we should pay half. I counter that we could instead send him to public school and pay nothing. A school is not likely to agree to half the tuition for limudei kodesh alone. Tuition at yeshivas is like a prix fixe dinner, not an a la carte selection.

SA said...

Miami Al, your comment on selection bias doesn't really make sense, since SL tends to have the same people commenting on all posts. Personally, I have three kids and I live in Israel, so I have nothing to vent about, except my own school issues which have nothing to do with tuition.

Tesyaa, my theory is that pple with more kids need more assistance, which means you have fewer people paying full price, which means you have to keep raising tuition just to cover all the assistance and the operating expenses.

Combined with inflation, the building obsession, higher teacher salaries, technological needs, the need to pile on more and more services and activities, and it's easy to see how the dollars just stack up. I doubt ProfK's $300 school would be recognizable as what is commonly known as "school" today. It probably had poorly paid teachers, a tiny facility, no activities, no lunch and was paid for by a dollar tied to the gold standard. ;)

(this is Abbi, writing from my work account)

ProfK said...

Yes, the tuition was $300 per child, full tuition, beginning in 1977. The school was the Bais Yaakov of SI, then the only all girls yeshiva in SI. A few years later in 1981 RJJ for boys charged full tuition for a pre-1A student at $400. Neither of these schools was stripped to the bare bone schools, but no, they weren't housed in palaces adorned with everything that money can buy. One thing they were, though, was very sparse in administrative staff. One principal and a secretary was pretty much it. And they were reallllly good about getting parent volunteers for a lot of areas that would have cost them extra money.

Tesyaa, you are right when you say "Now, does everything you buy, including gas, groceries, rent, cars, etc. cost 6 times as much as 1981?" But you aren't correct in this sense: a pound of hamburger in 1981 is the identical product to that pound in 2009--some yeshivas are not identical now to what they were in 1981. I'm old enough to remember the "old" buildings that used to house many of the yeshivas. Some of those old buildings have been replaced with humongous new buildings at a mega million cost. The school days were not as long back then, in some cases. Certainly the administrative/support staff is far larger today than was the case back in 1981. But even factoring these in, the cost of yeshivas has risen at a far higher rate than other "consumer" products and services that we buy.

Anonymous said...

ProfK, the analogy of the pound of hamburger is really helpful. Some changes may be due to mandates, but others are due to parents' demands. As a tuition paying parent you go by what has gone before, to a large extent. Once a building is built, you can't go back and unbuild it.

Anon819 said...

Rosie/Ariella - Rosie's suggestion addresses a time when large numbers of people start acting on the alternatives. Then, if the school is looking at zero tuition versus half tuition, they may want to take the half. They would be able to adjust their costs so that they had fewer general studies teachers (and other services that the Judaics-only contigent wouldn't be using.)

Also - in our state, online secular studies for homeschoolers is available for free, and they even give you the internet connection. I think more and more of these opportunities will start becoming available as people in general society get more interested in virtual education, and then this will become more of a real option.

Anonymous said...

Can any homeschoolers clarify a point for me? As I understand it, homeschooling parents often put their children in a "real" school for HS. I myself took calculus and AP chemistry, but I would need to devote extraordinary resources to teaching these subjects. Is there anyone out there who has homeschooled a high schooler?

Ariella said...

I don't have direct experience with homeschooling someone of high school age, but I know that many kids are homeschooled until they enter college. They take the SAT and AP exams and tend to do very well. I'm sure there is some online group somewhere that brings up the high school curriculum for homeschoolers.

SephardiLady said...

Many of the homeschoolers I have met over the years have gone into community college rather than a conventional high school.

Anon819 said...

On the other hand, my DH went to yeshiva high school and was not even offered the chance to take AP Calculus or AP Chemistry....

Shoshana said...

"Removing children from the system altogether indicates the parents will no longer be under any educational authority -- that is what they find particularly threatening... The parent is regarded as an anarchist."

Ariella- I absolutely agree with your statement and have felt this to be true since we started on this path with our first child.

Avi said...


I know I'd make a terrific teacher, but I always assumed that teaching my own kids would inevitably devolve into Homer Simpson-style strangling, and then child services would take them away from me. But I may have to give homeschooling serious consideration: to be considered an anarchist by the educational establishment... wow, that's just extremely appealing to me.

Ariella said...

So we can start a homeschooling cooperative group called the Anarchist Academy for rebels with an educational cause. ;-)

rosie said...

With regard to Dave's comment about public schools collapsing, the city of Detroit is about to close 30 public schools. If GM moves out of Detroit, the city will further deteriorate. The average family size in the city of Detroit is larger than in the suburbs. I am not sure what percentage of the tax base is homeowner and what percent is business, especially the auto industry.

Yael A said...

I don't (yet) have homeschooled high schoolers, but from what I understand those children who want the advanced courses can take them via videotaped or even live videoconference courses, work in coops (groups of homeschooling parents working together to make classes they themselves do not feel comfortable teaching), or take community college classes (and get college credit) or have tutors teach the course for you (college students, professors, moonlighting teachers).

I think that a VERY important point for everyone to remember is that you can choose to homeschool one year (or less) at a time. I, myself, homeschool my almost 8 year old and 5 year old. Do I know I will homeschool them forever? I don't know -- life sometimes throws curve balls. But I can say for sure I will homeschool NEXT year. Unless you have only one school in your area and taking your child out will forever burn bridges, you can always go back.