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Monday, May 25, 2009

NNJKIDS: A New Kehilla Fund Is Rolled Out

I have no clue why it has taken so long for region to implement something so logical as to have a single address where community members can donate to area schools. I reported on this idea as proposed by Elliot Pasik before the inception of this blog. The advantages of a central fund (regional/city funds being my own preference) include placing money into day schools in general, rather than into a single day school that may fail (three years later I believe the cracks are r"l starting to form) and a greater ability to attract large donors interested in a cause rather than a particular school.

Fortunately there is finally a fund in Northern New Jersey. Time will tell just how successful the kehillah fund is. The goal stated is to near 100% participation in demonstration that funding schools is a communal obligation. I think the goal is a bit, uh, lofty given that at least 1/3 of students in modern orthodox schools are on some sort of tuition assistance. It would seem that those families should be directing what they can to their own schools, should they be able to give. It should be interesting to see how the fund develops. Hopefully it will thrive.

The fund as proposed is to collect funds centrally through participating Orthodox shuls, and then distributing these funds to the schools in the network based on the number of students.

But is distributing the funds per capita the best idea? I guess you could say that I was hoping for a little more supervision regarding distributing funds. I am told that in Northern New Jersey the modern Orthodox schools are bursting at the seams. So perhaps my comment is not particularly applicable to Northern New Jersey. But in other communities, there are schools with numerous empty seats, that could literally be absorbed into another school with some empty seats with little to hire additional administration, staff.

Of course the parents in these very small schools have chose these schools for good reasons. But having schools that are not filled to capacity not particularly efficient and distributing per capita does nothing to address this conjecture.

Unlike the Catholic Diocese, the Jewish community has no ability to combine smaller schools or close schools that are near death. What I do believe that the community has an ability to do via communal funds is to set up parameters regarding qualification. I hope those administering communal funds will consider setting up parameters regard transparency, enrollment, efficiency, hiring, debt load, sound financial management, etc. I think it behooves communities to invest only in schools that are a "going concern" if the talk of potential school failures isn't just hysteria.

At the end of the article are the following quotes:
"The kehillah fund will not solve the tuition crisis, but it is a good first step"
"Every dollar raised by the fund is a dollar the schools do not have to charge in tuition"
“The impact is going to be on funds available for scholarship, which will mitigate future tuition increases."


I'm a bit confused. If the funds are going to be used to increase scholarships, I don't see how tuition can be lowered across the board.
If the funds are going to be used to lower tuition at all, I don't believe you can also increase scholarships.
What am I missing? I'm sure I'm missing something.

Anyways, the fund is a good start. But like it says in the article, it will not solve the tuition crisis. I do think a communal fund administered with strict parameters could encourage the very things that will help solve mitigate the crisis.

14 comments:

Squooshball said...

"I'm a bit confused. If the funds are going to be used to increase scholarships, I don't see how tuition can be lowered across the board. If the funds are going to be used to lower tuition at all, I don't believe you can also increase scholarships."
Because most schools these days have increased tuition in order to supplement their scholarship funds.

rejewvenator said...

Two issues:

First, since most people in the Orthodox community are already paying tuition to schools, whether as parents or grandparents, how many new people and how much new money is going to flow into this fund?

Second, property taxes, which largely support public schools, are many thousands of dollars per year, how exactly is a few hundred bucks a year ($30/month) going to make a real impact in supporting our schools?

SephardiLady said...

rejewvenator-I need to link to a post where I asked exactly how many people aren't:
1) paying their own tuition, i.e. student loans
2) paying tuition for children
3) paying tuition for grandchildren
4) doing some or all of the above

I used to believe there was a tax base, but now I'm not so sure.

BTW-Great tuition post you have on your blog.

Honestly Frum said...

SL, I was going to second what squooshball said, a % of the tuition currently being paid is going to supplement scholarship, so if they can find scholarship funding from another source it would bring down tuition. Second 100% participation is even $5 a month. I think the idea is to grow the fund as largely and quickly as possible, those who can give more will and those who can only give a small amount are being encouraged too as well. At the end of the day unless you strive for 100% participation you can't hope for the 60-80% which you will most likely get.

Lion of Zion said...

SL:

"I guess you could say that I was hoping for a little more supervision regarding distributing funds."

how about schools that benefit from the fund must first agree to transparency, certain cost cutting measures, etc.

SephardiLady said...

LOZ-Exactly.

SuMMy said...

As constructed this is a bad idea.

Are they raising more money or just redistributing existing charity?!? Instead of donating to your child's school your donation will be split amongst many schools in the neighborhood including some mismanaged and/or ones you may not want to donate too. This also means that a school with "enough" money to run will now be getting additional funds.

Then add the cynical view: one day this tax will be mandatory and they'll keep raising it so you have tuition + extras from your school + this yeshiva tax.

If they took SL's ideas into account then this would be a good idea- take advantage of economies of scale, require transparency, and reward schools that are run well.

DAG said...

I think one of the problems with these communal funds is the reluctance on some people's part to have a Chelek in supporting schools with a different Haskafah. I can see people refusing to participate if the fund supports Yeshiva X because they believe Y

Avi said...

@DAG - It's not just religious hashkafa, but educational hashkafa as well. If I'm sending my kids to more of a bare bones school, why would I want my tzedaka money to be split out to support a school with a prettier campus, electronic whiteboards, and smaller class sizes?

I also don't think that a communal fund can generate any new money on its own without some other communal changes (i.e., if people give money to this instead of to other charities, or if people give money to this instead of spending money on other things). Still, despite all my reservations, I think this is a good idea and a step in the right direction. It matches what should be a communal obligation with a communal fund.

RAM said...

Will there be no performance criteria for beneficiary schools?

SephardiLady said...

RAM-Seems the answer is no. A reader pointed me to the Kehilla Fund (Chicago) website. The website claims that all schools receive equally and the speaker in the video mentions the fund's purpose is not to micromanage.

I personally believe that some micromanaging might be in order.

Anonymous said...

RAM-Seems the answer is no. A reader pointed me to the Kehilla Fund (Chicago) website. The website claims that all schools receive equally and the speaker in the video mentions the fund's purpose is not to micromanage.

I personally believe that some micromanaging might be in order.
[]

I think the problem is that once you start micromanaging, there is no end to it. Well, it usually ends in rancor and the likely termination of whatever program is being micromanaged.

Mark

SephardiLady said...

I'm just looking for a bit transparancy and making sure "we" are only funding institutions that are a going concern.

Dave said...

With all the push from the Orthodox community to get them at the State level, why not simply go to Vouchers instead?

Per-child vouchers, for a specified amount. Vouchers will only be honored for schools which publish a 990.